Album Review: The Stone Roses “The Stone Roses” (1989)


If there was ever one album that came to single-handedly define a band it was this one, the self-titled debut album by Manchester quartet the Stone Roses. Released in 1989, not only would this album define the band’s sound, as well as enshrine their legacy, but it would also help to kick-start indie guitar rock in the UK and go on to influence an entire generation of bands in the process.

Coming out of the popular Madchester scene, a scene which led to the growth of a style of music which mixed together elements of psychedelic rock, alternative rock, and dance music, The Stone Roses album was based on a template of The Byrds meets rave culture, with the sound of this album an eclectic combination of 60s melodies and harmony, 80s jangly guitar and dance music. This album is arguably the best representation of Madchester as a style of music, with the individual talents of the band members and their abilities as players ensuring that the mixture of indie rock and dance worked well together. Guitarist John Squire is amazing at what he does and can change his style of playing between a more classic Hendrix rock sound to a more feel-based percussive-like playing. His jangly guitar contributes in a big way to the bands overall sound, while his use of phasing and echo helps to give a lot of the material on this album that dance-like feel. Bass player Mani has groove to burn, with his R&B and soul influences helping give the material a dance feel and an overall groove that holds everything together, while drummer Reni has an amazing feel for rhythm and timing to the point that at times his precision-like playing even sounds like a dance sample. Quite simply it is these three guys which make singer Ian Brown’s job so much easier, so much that he only really needs to serve the needs of the song without stretching too much vocally, with his backing band doing enough as it is in helping create what is almost a sonic-sphere of melody, harmony, and rhythm.

The Stone Roses is one of those albums where it is quite hard to find a dud song, and as an album, it is pretty much perfect from track one all the way through. Album opener “I Wanna Be Adored” is an enchanting atmospheric psychedelic number highlighted by a Middle Eastern styled pentatonic riff by John Squire. This is followed by “She Bangs the Drums” an indie anthem like no other, and “Waterfall” with that instantly recognizable guitar riff that chimes along throughout the song. If I was going to be picky, a couple of tracks in the middle of the album such as anti-monarchy folk pastiche “Elizabeth My Dear” and a backwards recording of Waterfall “Don’t Stop” don’t add anything to the album and could have been overlooked for something else, but what they do, do is set up nicely the run home in what surely represents one of the greatest run of songs to end an album ever.

The ending sequence starts with “Made of Stone”, a guitar-heavy psychedelic indie swirl which features an electrifying solo from Squire and moves on to “Shoot You Down”, a slower number with a prominent bass line, bright guitar flourishes, and some of the most amazing harmony singing that sucks you in completely whilst giving a new definition to the phrase music to my ears. This then leads into the final two tracks, the jangle guitar-infused “This is the One” and the epic finale “I Am the Resurrection”. “I Am the Resurrection” is the bands masterpiece and probably their most definitive musical statement, while as a track it is a perfect example of what the Madchester sound is all about stylistically. At eight minutes in length, the song starts as a straightforward indie rock song before at around the four-minute mark transforming into a dance-rock track complete with a dance drum beat and funky bass riff. The rhythm section combines brilliantly with Squires infectious guitar licks to create one of the more original songs on the album and one of the best ever album outro’s in rock history. In marking a point where indie rock meets acid house, “I Am the Resurrection” is nothing short of being a truly brilliant ending to a fantastic album.

This album to me represents the perfect album. It is one of those albums which stand out from the really good albums and one which deserves a place under the category of amazing albums. This is also seen in how it seems not a year goes by where this album does not appear in a list of the greatest albums of all time in a music magazine or on a music web page. Its eclectic mix of indie rock, psychedelia, Beatles harmonies and dance music works so well together, while the songs themselves just ooze melody and rhythm. The band got it so spot on with this first release that they really needn’t have made another album, as it is this album and its melodically rhythmic nature which has come to define The Stone Roses and their sound. The Stone Roses is the perfect album for summer and is a great album to chill out to with a beer in the sun. I couldn’t recommend it any more strongly, especially for those into indie rock, acid house, and classic 60s guitar rock. It will not disappoint, and I am pretty sure that after several listens you will become hooked just like me and millions of others have been.
– Sam

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