I’ve always had an interesting relationship with the Stone Roses. Not that there was any snuggle time with Messrs. Brown and Squire; no, this was purely based on sonic love and lust.
The band’s 1989 debut is looked at – rightfully so – as their one-off masterpiece. Due to a much publicized court battle with their UK record label, the Roses didn’t release another record for five years, by which time their initial draw had passed with the entire genre of Britpop pouncing on that one album influence.
Second Coming, released in December of 1994, has been looked at as one of the biggest disappointments of any legendary outfit. It’s the true definition of a sophomore slump; that follow-up to a stellar debut which just doesn’t serve the prior justice. Think the Strokes, the Killers, Weezer (itself worthy of a whole other post) and Portishead. For some reason though, I gravitated toward Second Coming.
From the four and a half minute spacey lead-in to the album kick off “Breaking Into Heaven” to the super catchy “Ten Storey Love Song” to the Beatle-esque “Your Star Will Shine” to the menacing closer “Love Spreads,” it stirred something within me. Were there clunkers? Oh yeah. But driving around with Second Coming on repeat at the time was a great joy I fondly recall to this day.
The Stone Roses never broke big in the States – like most quality Brit acts who cause a mad sensation in their home country – and didn’t make it out of the mid-90s alive. The legend remained intact, while the bandmembers had varying degrees of success in and out of music. Frontman Ian Brown was the most high-profile in music, releasing a string of solo albums, which is where our paths crossed again.
By 2009, I had amassed an amount of Brown’s solo efforts as unimpressive as his consistency at putting out great songs. That summer, I found myself on the other side of the world in Shanghai, China, with the purpose to catch the longest solar eclipse of the millennia which happened to be falling on my birthday and had the longest view time in Communist stronghold. Having gone by myself, I had planned to meet up with people I connected with on various eclipse message boards.
The first one I met in person was from the UK, and after a few brief moments of expected awkwardness with Rich, we hit it off spectacularly. We had a similar, dark and dry sense of humor, pop culture references and, most importantly, a love for Britpop and all of its associations.
As it was mid-July, and we were among the hottest days in the hottest month, by mid-afternoon it was always time to seek refuge where there would surely be some cold beverages on hand. On our second day hanging out, and melting in the sun, we gravitated toward a basement bar whose name currently escapes me. But what I recall clear as day was descending the steps into the air-conditioned lower level depths, were the strains of this song rising up toward us:
And talk about a perfect combination of the Stone Roses and Britpop; the track was a combination of a Noel Gallagher song from 1998 called “Teotihuacan,” which, when melded with Brown’s vocals, creates a stunning alliance. Not surprisingly, with a track like that to lead in, the rest of the afternoon was filled with the likes of Elastica, Blur, the Verve, Suede and Manic Street Preachers.
It felt like kismet then when exactly two months later I received an advance copy of Brown’s latest solo outing, My Way. Though critically panned, I fucking loved it. The opening track, “Stellify,” was originally written for Rihanna, but Brown wisely kept it for himself. “Own Brain” (an anagram of Brown’s name as he points out), “Just Like You,” “So High,” and even the left-field cover of Zager and Evans’ “In the Year 2525” I dug.
Cut to 2011, I’m over in Iceland waiting for that year’s Airwaves to kickoff – my first of many more – and out comes the news the Stone Roses are reuniting. Since the country carries mainly UK channels, I tuned in, and all the major news stations carried the press conference live. Like, if it were in the States, it would be on CNN and Fox News with the armchair pundits debating the merits of the reconvening afterward. Simply put, it was exciting shit.
Yet in the States, there was nary a mention of the proceedings in the mainstream media, even in major music oriented news sites like Rolling Stone and MTV. WTF? No wonder the Roses never broke there – they never got the chance!
Anyway, I snapped up tickets for the shows in Manchester the following summer, though I ultimately couldn’t go due to stretching myself entirely too thin financially with random travel. And when they headlined two weekends of Coachella in 2013, I just couldn’t bring myself to suffer the hipster laden indignities that have come with attending that shitshow.
Yesterday, the Roses released their first new music in 21 years, the single “All for One.” Reaction has been mixed though mostly positive. Is it groundbreaking like the aforementioned brilliance of the 1989 debut? No, but it ain’t a bad listen. Next month, the band plays Madison Square Garden. You can bet I’ll be there.
It’s long overdue.