So the SERIOUS rumours started late on Thursday night that legendary baggy/Brit Pop-Before-Brit Pop-Was-Brit Pop Manchester band The Stone Roses were reuniting. These rumours were greeted with both elation and suspicion – after all, the band have spent, oh, the last 15 years actively hating on each other and shooting down any suggestions to reunite faster than you can say “I Don’t Wanna Be Adored.”
Plus they made it through a solid five-plus years of reunifications around ‘em – Pulp, Blur, Pixies, Pavement et al – without biting. And in fact, biting back.
Press Conference ahoy
But now, as of today, they’ve confirmed that yes, they’re back together, yes they’re playing two live gigs in Manchester next June, yes there will be a bigger tour after that and YES they’re working on new material. What the fook? We can only imagine the money on the table for a couple of gigs, sure. But to properly reunite and plan new music? How much money on the table are we talking about?
Maybe that’s too cynical. And I’ll come back to that point in a minute. Although the guys in this press conference hardly look “excited” (but then, they never were).
For those of us Anglophiles, Anglos or otherwise obsessed with the actually-good music of the 90s, the Stone Roses were gods. In 1989 they created a near-perfect self-titled debut album, representing an equally perfect moment in UK musical history. Ian Brown was the blueprint for Liam Gallagher – the King Monkey – who didn’t give a toss, swayed and strutted. He had swagger. Mani and Reni were the perfect sidemen, Reni had the stoner, beach-hat that started a fashion fad and Mani had the liver and the floppy fringe. And John Squire? An amazing, self-taught guitarist whose style (described in the Guardian perfectly once as “plangent”) pretty much defined the band’s signature sound. It was glorious. “I am the Resurrection”, “I Wanna Be Adored” “Elephant Stone” “Waterfall”…were all genius. Gush gush gush.
A perfect album?
I remember the first moment I heard the Stone Roses album. It was playing over the speakers of a big record store and I had just completed an important test at school. I was rendered slightly breathless by its sound and asked the clerk what it was. I was delighted when the name that escaped his mouth lined up with what I’d been reading about in my coveted NME mags. I bought the – *cough* – cassette that very day. It was 1989. Listened to it again today. It still holds.
But the Stone Roses were a bunch of gobshites who eventually and detrimentally started to believe their own hype . Festival appearances (see: Spike Island) were awful, the band released a shitty second album (The Second Coming), Reni left, and the rest of them disappeared up their own heavy drink- and drug-taking arseholes. In 1995 I saw them in a tincan warehouse where they played an actually good set – though they had an additional guitarist and a drummer and it didn’t feel RIGHT. Though I was thankful to have seen them “back in the day”, the Stone Roses are Ian-John-Reni-Mani, forever and ever amen).
The band disbanded in 1996 and for 15 years shunned any notion of ever getting back together.
But I still maintained a reverence for their unique sound. When Squire’s new project The Seahorses (nicknamed “The Shirehorses” ‘cos they were actually rubbish) came to Toronto, I found myself miraculously talking about art – he’s also a painter – with John Squire on the street. It was… a moment for me. A big one. But it wasn’t the Stone Roses.
So here we are in 2011…
…and I have no idea what to make of the reunion. Yeah, it could be about the money. In fact, let’s be realistic – I work with enough bands to know that right now, any extraordinary efforts in the music industry have to be about the money. There is no money generally to be had in the music industry…most bands are the 99%, as it were, not the Rhiannas. Reunion shows are ways for bands in their 40s to feed their families. There is no shame in wanting to make a living. I have ceased to be cynical after seeing The Pixies play a rather-quite-amazing show last year. They don’t have to like each other but they do have to give good show. And they did. And sounded amazing. Even Pavement surprised me.
And if the Roses’ announcement was strictly about the money, then why wouldn’t they just do a Police-style one-off tour? It was obvious then Sting and Stuart Copeland wanted to eat each others’ entrails, but they muddled through a tour and charged a fortune. So I’m certain there’s a BIT more motivating the Roses here. Call me naive. It could also be the guys ’round the table going “mate, if we get back together, we have ta do it proper-like, with new music and stuff…”
My guess: the band are likely no longer drug-addicted, total dicks. Maybe they’re just partial dicks and it’s that halving of egos that will allow them to bypass the kids stuff and make something exciting happen. They’re older, a bit wiser (still gobby) and have been punting around between their various low-to-middling support gigs (Mani’s efforts in Primal Scream notwithstanding) long enough to probably want to see if it’s even possible to recapture – or recreate – some form of magic. It might not be. But if it is?
Older musicians also sometimes mean better musicians. They’ve had time with their arts and crafts and time to get whims out of their systems. Take a look at Sebadoh, for example (okay, am biased, but..) Here’s a band who are better live NOW than they were back THEN. They work hard. And are now talking about making new music. They’re energized.
Now, it’s entirely possible that the Roses reunion will be an abject failure. There’s also a very, very real possibility that any new music might suck. Pint glass half-empty, mate.
And what about the argument that music of a time – of a moment, something as perfect as their debut – should be left there? Leave us to our memories and let the new generation discover a band the way they were meant to be discovered? Or the counter-argument: that a new generation will NEVER discover the band unless there’s a reunion like this? Or the argument that so many rehashes are just too boring? Or the counter argument that…yunno…it’s music, wonderful music! and we shouldn’t let our own personal memories or feelings of ownership prevent more possibly good music entering the universe. Or, or, or…
At this stage I have nothing that would indicate that The Third Coming will be any good.
But, and if we’re talking about filling up pints here, what if…WHAT IF IT IS GOOD AND WE GET TO SEE THE STONE ROSES AGAIN?
I’m willing to risk it. Why not?
Are you? \m/
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