From Ripples, due March 1 on Virgin EMI. Single out now on Black Koi.
In June, 2017 Ian Brown teased an audience at what is to date, the Stone Roses’ last show. As things at Hampden Park in Glasgow came to a close, Brown reportedly said, “Don’t be sad it’s over, be happy that it happened.”
Nobody from the band has commented on if the band has broken up again, let alone why, but by looking at the first video from Brown’s new album we can venture a guess: “I don’t need ’em.”
Cruising around on a low-rider bike to a clavichord-driven jam, Ian Brown stops by the riverside to occasionally noodle out the various bits of the song. First a three-note guitar solo, then the heavily Mani-like bass line, and finally a quick shot of Ian behind the kit. It all ends in dramatic fashion as Brown tosses a guitar into the river, perhaps a not-too-subtle message for John Squire?
All things considered, it’s a cool song. But I can’t help wondering how it would sound with the backing of his bandmates. It seems tailor made for Squire’s wah funk guitar work, and maybe somewhere in the vaults is a version of just that? Given the unpredictability of the Roses, we may never know. Or we might? Who knows?
In the meantime, go for a ride with the Monkey King and let’s hope the rest of the album is this cool.
Well, the NME has done it again. Whether through constant haranguing via the publication of rumors, amazing sources with inside information, or dumb luck and wishful thinking, the voice of British music news has seemingly brought about another reunion. And this is no ordinary reunion, but one of the least likely and most wanted among anglophiles: The Stone Roses.
After 17 years, the band that launched Madchester will play two confirmed dates in June, 2012 and then a reported “world tour” to follow. Additional dates have not been announced and this is where I get worried: June is a long ways away and the Roses have never been the most reliable band. Not to be a buzz kill on your ecstasy-fueled rave, but a lot can happen in eight months…or worse, nothing at all.
The Stone Roses’ fame begins in earnest in the summer of 1989 when their debut album spread its druggy-pop sensibilities around the world, from one hip record store to another until little baggy jean communities popped up like pimples on a fresh face. Despite their legend, the Roses were never a HUGE band on the scale of U2 or Depeche Mode, but their influence was felt and it was deep. The release of their nearly ten minute dance-rock classic “Fool’s Gold” (originally the b-side to “What the World Was Waiting For”) established the band among the hip as THE BAND of the moment, especially in the UK where they were a big commercial success.
Whether tempted by dollar signs or friendlier confines, the Stone Roses decided it was time to leave their label Silvertone and fulfill their promise to rule the world. Little did they, or anyone else, know that they’d be tied down in court for four years unable to release new material until they’d extracted themselves from a five-year contract.
Never one humbled by their fame, The Stone Roses finally returned with their second album, The Second Coming. While aging better than initial reviews would have you believe, it was less than rapturous and the band finally broke down in 1996 when guitarist John Squire left the band barely a year after drummer Reni had already called it quits. It was a whimpering end to a spectacular band.
For nearly two decades the band’s image grew beyond its actual history and a band with two albums and a handful of singles was now revered as “the last great British band.” Nobody—not Oasis, not The Libertines, not The Arctic Monkeys—could touch their legacy. It was such that John Squire scrawled the following words on a piece of his art in 2009:
“I have no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses.”
Which leads us to this week. Rumors of their reunion have come and gone for years. It seemed ridiculous to even consider given the public acrimony between Squire and singer Ian Brown. But time heals and here we are. And make no mistake, I am excited. Enough that I have already declared that I will break my top price ceiling of $50 to see any artist live. I will do what I must to see any US dates. But I am worried. The Stone Roses were never a great live band. Ian Brown’s not a strong vocalist and Squire’s guitar playing hasn’t been heard in years. Reni himself said that drummers should hang up their sticks when they hit 35—this was AT the press conference announcing their reunion!
But let’s not dwell on all that. One of the pillars of musical upbringing has reunited to shower us in their house music-inspired pop. Let’s rave on and hope that the wheels don’t come off until we’ve had a chance to dirty up our baggies and sway in our bucket hats one more time.
That summer was my own personal season in Hell. I’d just finished my freshman year of college and found myself back in my hometown not for another summer hurrah, but working third-shift at a soap factory while my friends were playing lifeguard at the local pools or hustling ice cream to suburban moms. To top it off my girlfriend had just dumped me…again.
The first time could be forgiven since we’d never broached the subject of exclusivity. I guess that was because I assumed she was as enamored with me as I was with her and simply couldn’t contemplate another person in the mix. I was wrong.
I first found out about it at a bonfire party out by the gravel pits on the outskirts of town. Someone had a boombox that was blaring “Life is a Highway” while the Coors Light and wine coolers took hold. Some people tried to feign horror that such a song would even get air-time but the truth was that song and so many others like it were the life blood of the radio dials. It was awful, yes, but it also held a supreme position on the soundtrack of that summer despite not even being a new song. It was inescapable.
It seems silly now, ludicrous even, but at the time I swear it was not only plausible…it almost worked.
In December 1991 I flew to the UK to meet up with Jake, who was on foreign study in Aberdeen, Scotland. It was my first solo foray out of the country and the realization of a lifelong Anglophile dream. The foundation of my friendship with Jake was based on our mutual love for The Beatles, and by extension, British musical culture. Our obsession for the Fabs morphed into an obsession with The Smiths and eventually Madchester bands like The Stone Roses and The Happy Mondays. High on our list of tour stops was Manchester, the home to so many of our heroes.
Because of my cheekbones, people think I’m a crackhead. When the Roses first came out, the early reviews used to call me simian. I had to look that up at the time. Then they used to call me androgenous. Then somewhere down the line, through all the Madchester thing, it became, “He’s a crackhead.” I’ve never even tried crack, I’ve never taken heroin. I didn’t start smoking weed until I was 22.
So there you have it, straight from the monkey’s mouth. Ian Brown is a square…with crackhead cheekbones.
In an interview with the BBCIan Brown claims that his former Stone Roses bandmate John Squire sent him a new song to consider recording for his new solo album:
Brown admitted he actually liked the track, but his son advised him not to use it: “Kid said, ‘Look dad, was he looking out for you back then? Are you sure you wanna do that?'”Brown might not be the biggest fan of Squire, after their rift, but he admitted the guitarist and songwriter still has talent.”I could have fitted on the first three minutes of the tune, it was pretty good,” he said. “He definitely did it with me in mind because it had electronic, hip-hop drums on it and I thought, ‘Whoever’s done that must have heard me solo stuff’. He’s still got it, it’s good.”
This sounds fishy to me. Squire has made it abundantly clear lately that he’s focused on his art now, and has “no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group the Stone Roses.” But who knows? All we know for sure is that there’s no way in hell that Ian Brown’s latest solo album is going to come anywhere close to being in the same league as the work he and Squire made together. Oh, and Ian Brown’s kid needs to learn to shut the fuck up.
We were parked at the Meijer gas station on Plainfield Avenue outside of Grand Rapids. Jake was gassing up the black 1976 Datsun 280Z his mother had finally let us take out and I was in the passenger seat listening to classic rock radio station WLAV’s resident hipster Steve Aldridge do the lead-in to his weekly “alternative” music slot, Clam Bake. We’d read all about them in British weekly music rags and had seen a handful of pictures, which was almost enough to sell me on the spot. They were snotty faces and shaggy hair and flared jeans and bucket hats. Aldridge paid them the proper amount of respect as the “next big thing” out of Britain and then cued up the first Stone Roses song I ever heard, “Made of Stone.”
The Stone Roses were an odd band from the beginning. Ian Brown doesn’t exactly have range, or even pitch, and his live recordings are proof of that. But on record—and without the aid of digital pitch correcting tools, thank you very much!—he exudes a sort of foreboding and danger within that somewhat fey whisper of his. When he sings “I don’t have to sell my soul, he’s already in me,” you believe it. There is something menacing about this skinny Mancunian with a slightly simian look and a Christ complex. He’s the street hustler who is underfed and over drugged with a knife in his backpack. It doesn’t take much to imagine him as the scooter boy he claimed to be in interviews and if you’ve been to the rougher parts on Manchester, England you know how raw the inhabitants can be. Their sissies will kick your ass.
We knew from reading the articles that they were obsessed with the Beatles and that guitarist John Squire was a disciple of The Smiths’ Johnny Marr, which made for two references you simply could not beat with us then. You can hear the strains of the Fabs in the backing vocals and Marr’s hand in the 12-string guitars throughout but the Roses were more than the mere sum of their collective influences. The inspirations weave and blend like the paint on their album covers, which could just as easily be dismissed as Jackson Pollack knock-offs just as some would dismiss any band who hews a little too close to their musical heroes. But the Roses took those clear references and created a new sound, and that was extremely exciting for two Anglophile Midwestern boys whose favorite bands were in the past. The Stone Roses were different…and they were ours.
In a run up to the August re-release of their debut album, the Stone Roses will release five singles once a week starting July 6 in Britain. According to the NME, the re-issues will kick off with “Elephant Stone” and be followed by “Made Of Stone” out on July 13, “She Bangs The Drums” (20), “Fools Gold” (27) and “One Love” (August 3).
Each release will come backed with untitled, previously-unreleased recordings by the Manchester legends.
That sounds to me like each will have the standard backwards track that was often included on Roses singles, but here’s hoping for a little more than that.
Two special editions of The Stone Roses’ 1989 debut album, a “collector’s” and “legacy” edition, are set for release on August 10.
The NME has a great little interview with Stone Roses vocalist Ian Brown and producer John Leckie on the remastering of the band’s debut album, which will be re-issued in August 2009. Check out the two of them talking about the original recording sessions (way back in 1988!) and their efforts to remaster the album to its originally intended sonic depth. They also discuss some b-side gems in consideration, including a 33 minute backwards-tracked bit of madness!