Manchester at the end of the 80s was caught between two schools of musical thought. Still in thrall to the legacy left behind by both Factory records and the recently-departed Smiths it was also in the grip of early club culture.The odiously-named Madchester scene was just on the horizon. No band summed up this schism as well as the Roses.
Originally a punk-loving, bandana and leather trouser-sporting bunch of rowdy locals with a following and a Martin Hannett-produced flop to their names, they finally re-emerged with Johnny Marr's chiming Byrd-isms married to new bassist Mani's loping funk on "Sally Cinnamon". Guitarist John Squire now felt confident enough to let his influences shine and Ian Brown had progressed from raw shouts to Mancunian cool. The sound was sorted. Now for some top, banging album action.
John Leckie, producer for XTC, George Harrison and Simple Minds, was brought in as producer and finally the band released the prequel to the debut album, "Elephant Stone", a psychedelic raver which (along with "Fool's Gold") was included in the re-issued two-disc version of the album. When it did arrive it wasn't to the universal acclaim that it now garners as 'best debut album of all time'. Instead it was a quieter word-of mouth process that, within the year had put the band on top of the new Manchester scene and led to Spike Island and all its attendant problems.
On first listen, The Stone Roses is a strangely old-fashioned album. Brown's multi-tracked vocals (he was never a strong singer) mix pleasantly with Squire's chiming Rickenbacker to produce a very mellow, 60s West Coast vibe. But if you get insisde the heart of songs like "I Wanna Be Adored" and "I Am The Resurrection" there's that unmistakeable swagger and defiance that was to prove such a template for Oasis a few years later.
It's also this strange friction between old and new that makes this album so durable. Certainly it was Squire who took the band into essentially 'freak-out' territory, especially on the wah-wah'n'drum work out at the end of "I Am The Resurrection", and it was he who sank the follow-up with his adoration of Jimmy Page. But as an accurate picture of how working class hedonism fused dance and rock in the dying days of the 80s, this album is unbeatable. --Chris Jones
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