The Stone Roses, The Stone Roses
The comedown soundtrack for a generation soaring at a blissful, cruising speed
Despite their links to rave culture, the Stone Roses 'music was precisely the opposite of futuristic. After all, the Manchester janglers were merely putting a contemporary touch on the swirly, psychedelic rock of two decades earlier — something they shared in common with myriad guitar bands in the '80s. But they could still sing "Hits me where the sun don't shine/ The past was yours, but the future's mine/ You're all out of time" without a trace of irony. This was, after all, 1989, the so-called Second Summer of Love, in which acid house and Ecstasy combined to plant a jubilant yellow smiley face across a British youth culture breaking out of the shadow of Thatcherite gloom. The Stone Roses 'sweetly nostalgic melodies combined with the rhythmic impulse of the day to create the comedown soundtrack for a generation soaring at a blissful cruising speed.
Despite the Stone Roses 'central role in the "baggy" revolution that fused acid house with guitar rock, it's hard to hear much raving in their self-titled debut. In truth, they were pop classicists: The Phil Spector-like touches recall a sunnier, distortion-free Jesus and Mary Chain, while "Shoot You Down" taps the Velvet Underground's Sunday-morning haze. "Waterfall" might as well be the Byrds with breakbeats, and "Elizabeth My Dear" cribs its melody from "Scarborough Fair," of all things. (Not until Kings of Convenience would another set of indie pinups give Simon and Garfunkel so much hipster cred.)
I can't be the only one who persisted in mis-hearing their biggest hit as "I wanna be a door" — what else could they possibly have meant by crafting music that felt oftentimes like the portal to another world? If any temporal mode fit the Stone Roses, it was the present, enhanced: hence the raga-like repetitions, the cilia-teasing attention to detail in feathered acoustic guitars and sparkling, incessant tambourines. The vocals hover so close you can feel the hairs on your neck sticking up; gently harmonized and panned, they imbue the same delirious sense of presence that comes from lying splayed out in the grass, eyes closed, on the hottest day of the summer, as automated sprinklers go through their lazy motions around you.