The Stone Roses
REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray
ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 12/13/2006
An ominous trance opens this album, slowly gaining in momentum until a bass drum kicks in, followed later by a nimble bass and some light electric guitar and then, finally, the detached emotion of Ian Brown. Summoning the sexiness of Robert Smith without the whining, Brown sings "I don't have to sell my soul / He's already in me," before crooning the title, "I wanna be adored."
But Brown doesn't want to be adored. He will be adored. You just don't know it yet, but one listen to the Stone Roses should convince you, at least in part.
The beauty of that opening track, "I Wanna Be Adored," is how it takes its time building in momentum and emotion and ends long before you're ready for it to. The band keeps a dark mysterious beat, with Brown's voice blending perfectly into the bass and the quiet acoustic strums. One of the year's great singles, it's a song you can listen to over and over, a powerful slice of trance-rock that owes as much to psychedelia as to Depeche Mode.
In a sense, the Stone Roses are Manchester, England's answer to Depeche Mode and the Cure, infusing their retro '60s rock with the dance and electronic elements of those two bands. "She Bangs the Drums" is a good example here, taking the downtrodden spirit of the Cure's Disintegration and giving it a sunny pop charm straight from the Moody Blues. It's a very peppy song with a dark undercurrent, 90 degrees this way of "I Wanna Be Adored" but almost as addictive.
For its surface charms -- and this band sounds great -- The Stone Roses succumbs to the same fate that plagued a lot of '80s records. While it plays out well, about half the record is forgettable filler, led by electronic drums and dance beats and never as addictive as it thinks it should be. Sure, a song like "Elephant Stone" may sound good while it plays, but you'll forget it a few minutes later, that latter-day Genesis drumbeat allowing the song a shrug, nothing more.
But what makes this record better than those aforementioned '80s records is its dark current, the club trance that runs through each song, a bit like Disintegration. Even the sunniest pop songs here ("Waterfall," for example) are not as bright as one would expect, given their fluffiness, instead given a muted, bass-heavy production. This makes for an interesting listen, if not a compelling one, for about half the disc - you feel like you're back in 1966. "Made of Stone" is another standout in this vein.
In fact, a bit of the Beatles' Revolver is evident here, as shown on the instrumental break during "Waterfall" and the whole of "Don't Stop," which starts off with some backward guitar straight out of Lennon's "Rain" and a galloping beat recalling "Strawberry Fields Forever." It's quite a trip, actually, the third best song here after "I Wanna Be Adored" and "I Am The Resurrection."
That latter track is a true tour-de-force, an eight-minute tune that can and does go everywhere. Beginning with a loud, insistent drum beat straight out of Detroit, the bass and Brown quickly come in with their cool arrogance. The entire package is an update of that psychedelic '60s oldies sound by bands like the Byrds (gone electric), but when the song proper ends after four minutes, the band comes in with a jam that's immediately grabbing. It's hard to explain, sort of a dance/rock hybrid with some great guitar riffs over the top, made worse by the maddening, unexplainable pause for a 5-second silence right in the middle. It's maddening because it shows just how quickly this band can grab you by the ears, and you're angry they stopped playing.
And if that wasn't bad enough, the disc closed with the nine-minute funk workout "Fool's Gold," which rides the same beat, tone and insanely catchy sound until its sudden end. You wouldn't think a song with little to offer would justify that length, but the Stone Roses make it work, as you find yourself caught up in the time warp.
This disc has achieved somewhat of a classic status since its release, a hype I won't buy in to because of tracks like "Shoot You Down," "Bye Bye Bad Man" and "Song For My Sugar Spun Sister," which favor pop over atmosphere and aren't as powerful as the rest. But by and large, The Stone Roses is required listening, something you may not visit often but will enjoy whenever you do. And if you haven't heard "I Wanna Be Adored" or "I Am The Resurrection," by all means pick this up soon. You'll be glad you did.