Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Most Halfway Decent Album Of All Time

So, this year happens to be the 20th anniversary of the debut album by Manchester band The Stone Roses, and the UK music media are falling all over themselves. Polls are coming out voting it "the greatest album of all time", and I realize I have never heard a note of it. Don't ask me why; I guess I had better things to do in 1989. I know they were often grouped with Happy Mondays as exemplars of the "baggy" scene, and I've always thought Happy Mondays were utter crap. Also, it wouldn't be the first time the British have made an icon of a phenomenally unimpressive rock band (Manic Street Preachers, anyone?), so no, I never once sought out this alleged cultural touchstone until now. But you know, I'm a curious sort, so one day, with some record store credit burning in my pocket, I decided to check it out.

What's it sound like? Well, to these ears, kind of like a slightly watered-down Brian Jonestown Massacre. (Yes, I know the Roses probably came first.) Or maybe an '80s New Zealand band with a huge studio budget. Catchy tunes, driving beats, lots of reverb, a hazy psychedelic tinge, some neat guitar bits, and breathy, somewhat colorless vocals. It did live up to the "sounding like you're coming on to ecstasy" hype, frankly. It's quite pleasant. I can play it all day at work and it rolls over my ears in an agreeable way without sticking out too much.

I like the song that runs the previous song backwards with new lyrics that sound like a phonetic interpretation of the original reversed vocals. And I like the fact that the song entitled "I Am The Resurrection" turns out to be about some jerk who has wronged the singer in some way, but the singer is too cool (and probably high) to engage said jerk on his level, instead rejoicing in his own ability to rise above such pettiness and "resurrect" himself. It's so gleefully over-the-top egomaniacal in a benignly enlightened way that I have to smile at the presumption of it.

My copy has one bonus track called "Fools Gold" that sounds different from the album: a long, plodding percussion-heavy attempt at a funky jam that goes nowhere and takes forever to get there. But the album itself is nice. Greatest of all time? Hardly. But it's nice.


Ian Schultz said...

Glad to know somebody besides me think it's good to a degree but isn't "the greatest album ever" and as you said "it's nice" but for me it's it's nice but it's an album I don't need anymore so I gave it my sister last time she came cause he likes it and didn't have it.

Manic Street Preachers became horrible but their first album is ace, really rocking glam punk album, now they play dad's rock sadly.

J Neo Marvin said...

Never heard that first album, just some later ones, can't remember which. (MSP, that is.) As I recall, their early stuff gets compared to Guns & Roses a lot, which isn't the sort of thing that would make me run across the street for it. But I trust your incredibly finicky taste; I don't think you've recommended anything bad to me yet.

I always thought they were one of those bands who are loved more for their interesting backstory (self-destructive genius songwriter who vanishes without a trace) than their actual music.

Most Americans have probably never heard of the Stone Roses at all, except as "that band who influenced Oasis", if at all. I'm sure if I had been an 18-year-old kid in Manchester peaking on E in 1989, they would be the most crucial thing in my life. I'm not though, so they just sound like they were a pretty good band playing fun pop music with trippy overtones.

J Neo Marvin said...

"Dad's rock". I know what you mean by the term, but when I think of your dad, I think of ska, Laibach and Culturcide!

Substance McGravitas said...

I never really liked it. I don't hate it, and I remember a tune or two, but I didn't see what was remarkable about it.

Ian Schultz said...

Early Manics...

The Stone Roses just wanted to The Jesus & Mary Chain but toke the wrong drugs (and has since admitted to wanting to be JAMC, well the guitarist at least)

glennaldo_sf said...

'Best album ever'??!!! Lol Neo, I think we both know that that particular accolade goes to the Content Providers Freedom Fried - the guitar playing in that is simply earth-shattering. :-)

Seriously though, us guitarists can find a lot here to draw inspiration from as John Squire has got a very nice style - his later projects further prove this. However, if you're not into six-string solos, I can see the failure to be impressed. Greatest album of all time? ... nah! A pleasant album worth listening to from time to time with some interesting things going on on the guitar is more what I would consider it.
Cheers from Qatar,

J Neo Marvin said...

Glenn! Good to see your commentary. Stop by again any time.

Yeah, Freedom Fried's all right. Some decent lead guitar on several of the songs. ;-)