VINE VOICETOP 1000 REVIEWERon 24 July 2009
Silvertone records have a lot to answer for. It's possible you could argue that The Stone Roses debut album is now an art project in itself, a exploration of the different mediums, formats, and content that something as relatively simple as a 11 song record could become. There's already been a multitude of releases : with differing bonus songs (a combination of "Elephant Stone", "Fools Gold", and others), as well as a remix album, a concert video/DVD, a compilation of B-sides, a demos CD - the unimpressive 'Garage Flower' from 1996 - as well as a tenth anniversary box set (with the same, recycled extra songs), reissued singles, a 7" box set, a best of, and a second best of.
Geffen meanwhile, owners of the superior - yes, superior - "Second Coming" have released half a compilation ; the back half of the second Best Of above.
"The Stone Roses" is a grand record. It captures a snapshot of a band at a unique fraction of their history, marking the bridge between independent guitar music, the harder edge of traditional rock, and on the cusp of Acid House. Think of the 6 minute freakout finale of "I Am The Resurrection", and you cannot help but connect the dots between that and the rising/falling experimentalism of a bonkers rave track covered by a guitar act, replete with breakdowns, shifting tempos, and lots of melodic stabs desined for a Friday Night. The album is, deservedly, at the head of the list of great debut albums of all time. As debuts go, possibly only "Never Mind The Bollocks", "Appetite For Destruction" and "Dubnobasswithmyheadman" can compare. Possibly. It's a glorious 49 minutes oif four musicians at the height of creativity and ambition : few can match the potency of that exact chemistry.
"The Second Coming" is better ; in terms of denser, more rewarding songs that I hear new depths and textures to with every listen and a warmer, more able songwriting, but that is a completely different review. "The Stone Roses", as an 11 track record, is by itself, a complete and rewarding experience without a wasted second or a dull filler song. Only say something when you have something to say.
This then, the Super Deluxe Mega 20th Anniversary Edition is possibly the most lavish, and decadent release a single album will ever have. Considering the list price is probably more money than a member of the band made the week the record came out, it's practically obscene. I'd far rather spend my money on a new record by a member of the band and a live show than this improbable combination of items.
What this is is a lavish, deluxe, near pornographic exploration of one moment in time. A moment that nobody understood the significance or importance of, made in restricted finances by a struggling and largely ignored band that were so desperate for a deal they signed the first thing they were offered. Well, it's better that than nothing?
This deluxe version does not make the record any better. If you don't already own it, you probably should give up having much interest in music. By an absolute standard it is one the best debuts there is. If it were all hype, nobody would be proclaiming the Roses greatness now, but shuffling quietly the old vinyl LP to the back room to be played when everyone's out. Yes, I'm looking at you there, The Charlatans.
Spread over 3CD's, 3 vinyl discs, a DVD, and a pointless lemon-shaped USB stick, as well as a book and a set of 12"x12" art prints comes this frankly indulgent, overblown, and pointless release. If you have £80 you must spend, sure, it will make a wonderful coffeetable release to sit as part fo a collection. But the release adds nothing to the Roses immense legacy.
The CD's contain, respectively, the fabulous debut album, and a set of additional tracks - including 15 previously unreleased demos. (How these differ from the "Garage Flower" demos I don't know). A lot of these songs have been circulating on bootleg LP's since the late Eighties, so in all probability a large portion of this disc is remastered versions of those cheaply and quickly-made but passionate recordings.
There's also the "Live In Blackpool" DVD. Quite why this isn't on an audio CD as well I don't know - presumably licencing rights. Nonetheless, the live DVD is a competent example of The Roses in concert - not their best show by any means, but certainly the best recording that exists of their initial era. (Geffen, why haven't you released a Roses 1995 concert album yet? We know you have it!)
The rest of the set is packaging. Vinyl discs, USB sticks, and fancy bits of paper. If the label cared half as much as they pretended to, they wouldn't've ruthlessly exploited - and devalued the body of work. (After all, "Fools Gold" was reissued in remixed form three times in 1992, 1995 and 1999). It's a great record, and the music is beyond words, but this package is merely a decadent, excessive, and fetishistic maximisation of a slender harvest that shows the large imagination of a marketing man and not really much of a musical experience. The Stone Roses has become a work of art to be appreciated in a gallery and this is not the record that changed your life.
Buying this will not make the music sound better.