Sunday, June 14, 2015

MY TOP 15: THE STONE ROSES

"Eh, who?"

I wouldn't be too surprised if you had that reaction. I had the same when I stumbled upon the band's name on some discussion online raving about how awesome they were. And how influential they were, despite leaving behind just two albums.

I was blown away. It sounded like what Oasis aspired to become. If you're a fan of Britpop / stripped-down alternative rock, you will love the Roses. Let me take you through my favourite 15. They're a Manchester-based band: Two albums coming in 1989 and 1994. Although they're reunited now, the jury's out as to whether there's another album in the offing.

I usually do 20, but since we're dealing with just 2 albums here, I pruned the list down to 15, and yes, even that was tough - there's very little filler in the discography.

15. How Do You Sleep At Night?: This is a little deviant from most TSR songs in the sense, it’s sounds less swagger and more pleading, if you know what I mean. That said, it’s got some signature elements: Brown’s lazy delivery, nice layered instrumentation with a terrific rhythm section.



14. Love Spreads: Another great track, average in comparison to the rest of the album (ah, the travesty!). Imminently enjoyable, cheeky lyrics and as always, amazing basswork. Country-style guitaring!



13. Driving South: Strongest opening to any TSR song, with a magnificent riff Blackmore would have been proud of. But just as you’re expecting an Ian Gillan scream, you’re greeted by Ian Brown’s Oasis-inspiring swagger. Listen to this for the guitaring.



12. She Bangs The Drums: Frenetic pace, with an imminently memorable chorus (Especially the ‘How Could It Come To Pass’ line). It’s apparently about thinking about a loved one, resulting in your heart / chest beating. Nice, quick paced song.



11. Good Times: Great all-round song. Terrific singing – probably the loudest Brown’s ever  ventured - with loud brash guitaring backed by lovely basswork and drumming.



10. I Am The Resurrection: The Roses were more prog than any pop-rock band out there. Sample this, where the chorus comes in after all verses, and then segueing into a long, awesome instrumental section, which occupies over half the song. All the previous songs in the album were relatively short – maxing out at around 5 minutes. Ah well, they were anything but conventional. Oh, and it’s anti-religion (with some quite stinging lyrics, really)



09. Made Of Stone: It’s made very apparent on this track that The Roses have always had an element of dance music in their songs. It’s hard to resist grooving to this track, even though it’s about French student riots (apparently). Also featuring what might be their first extended instrumental section, with a little solo, some effects and a great bassline. It's also the title of their upcoming documentary.



08. Shoot You Down: Probably the sweetest ever song to tell someone that he’s gonna be punched up. The lazy singing, the jangly guitars… It all just works. Classic Roses this.



07. Something’s Burning: If you’re looking for something immediate, you’ve come to the wrong place. Just put on your headphones and indulge yourself in this. Yes, indulge. It seems hedonistic listening to a track like this. In a modern age where everything needs to be efficient and to-the-point, this is anything but. Close your eyes, it’s easy to get distracted by something else. But once you do, you’ll be rewarded. 8 minutes of glorious, dark rave-meets-poprock.



06. Fools’ Gold: Busy drums, gloriously lazy bass, funky guitar, and quiet menacing vocals greet you within a minute of this 9 minute gem. Apparently an anti-war propaganda song. This is totally unlike anything else on the album – it meanders about, taking the listener on a psychedelic journey. Without being instrumental geniuses, the band manages to perform one great instrumental section purely through soundscapes. Fabulous ending to one of the greatest and most influential albums of all time.



Big guns now!

05. I Wanna Be Adored: Probably the Roses’ most famous track? Why not? First song of the first album and anthemic lines, sung with lots of reverb over fine guitar licks. You won’t get too much by way of lyrics here, but as far as an entry point into TSR goes, it's ideal. And yeah, that reverb!



04. Tears: Sure, there’s a lot to like about this song. It’s got some of the signature TSR elements – those vocals with reverb, clangy guitars, terrific drumming, efficient and solid basswork… But what will blow you away is a fantastic guitar solo by John Squire. For me, easily the best performed in the two albums. From 3:25 the song takes a different character, the highlight of which is that sweet, sweet solo, which will make you wonder if you’ve missed out on any other great guitar playing in the previous songs. The song is apparently about Squire coming off drugs for his wife.



03. This Is The One: This just feels epic. Lovely start, a little bassline, in comes the arpeggio, those drums again, and Ian Brown’s echo-ey vocals. Classic Manchester ‘plan’ pronunciation. We’re in the middle of something special. It feels like something The Who would have done, as it picks up. About leaving the past behind and looking forward to a better ahead. This is the song I’d be waiting for at a concert, to jump up and down singing. It’s also played before every Manchester United game – here’s Brown singing it at Old Trafford. Not too many TSR songs are feel-good, and this is upliftingly against the grain.



02. Sally Cinnamon: A worthy contender to the genius that was to come. The 1987 demo had just a dash of that British swagger that would come to define the Stones. Lazy basslines give way to frenetic drumming and jangly guitars in pop-rock at its purest and finest. Not to mention that innocent ‘ah!’ before ‘Sally Cinnamon’. The lyrics are about a man pickpocketing a woman’s jacket and finding a letter from her apparently lesbian lover! I love the fact that this gem doesn't feature in either album - enough justification to listen to not just the 'discography' but also the hidden singles! Keep that in mind before torrenting ;)



01. Breaking Into Heaven: 1994. The reclusive, mysterious Stones had one magnificent album behind them, and came back luxuriously, five years later with another belter. It started extravagantly, with a 11.5 minute track. Now, that length is something that’s usually the preserve of prog-metal and art-rock, not Britpop precursors. But psychedelia meets rave meets pop-rock in this most incredible track which has everything: Instrumentals, hummable anthemic sections, Rush whimsy (think 2112 water flowing), wall-of-sound soundscapes… And like some modern day Pink Floyd, they take their sweet time getting to the point… Only well after the 4-minute point does the song actually kick in to life. When it does, at 4:36, with that sweet guitaring and basswork, it’s orgasmically satisfying. It ends with one of my favourite lyrics of all time:

“You don't have to wait to die,
You can have it all,
Any time you want it.”,

followed by a lovely guitar solo. Magnificent. And all of it seems better because of that meandering start. Shave that 4:35 at the beginning off, and you have a weaker song.


There you go! \m/