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.