The Hang of Music: (I Am The) Resurrection of the 60s

Sad times guys. I’ve been trying, this week, as hard as I can, to get people together for a new Audiovised review. I twisted arms, and I cajoled, and I planned and plotted.

No dice. It fell through. And I can’t do it next week, as I am separated from my friends in favour of my family. So you’re gonna have to forgive me if I leave the list above as  “051 – [EXPUNGED]” for a little while. I still have a plan, and the space will be filled, but more time travel is required before then.

All is not lost though, because I have more music for you in the meantime. This week, it’s The Stone Roses’ eponymous first album. Please enjoy her not stopping banging the drums.

Wow, psychedelia. I haven’t had any of this for a while. I mean I’m pretty sure I haven’t gotten any to review since… My very first review, of The Beatles’ “White Album”.

… I tell a lie – there was Alice Cooper’s rather paltry attempt a while back, but the less said about that the better. I knew I might come up against some proper stuff again at some point, but I really wasn’t expecting it from mid 80s proto-Britpop. But there it is, staring me in the face as I look at the album.

I first realised what I was listening to “Waterfall”, track 3. The guitar is a little clearer than psychedelic stuff usually is, as are the drums, but the fading vocals and low pace are all there. Then, as the track ended, it started playing in reverse. Yeah: the track after, “Don’t Stop”, is the same song, but with the instruments literally played backwards, and with at least some new vocals. If you don’t believe me, go listen. I know what I saw.

OK, as my criticism of Alice Cooper went, this is not psychedelia in the truest sense. It’s missing a few, very key features. Like, for example, the whole album not being psychedelia. That’s kind of a big problem.

I know, I know; it’s kind of wrong of me to set up the whole “psychedlia” thing and then not build on it. And of course this album isn’t really psychedelic; it’s a bunch of late 80s britpop artists – where did you think I was going with this review? But the fact is that, for a few tracks, they did a perfect impression of LITERALLY ANYTHING ELSE.

Don’t at all take from this that the rest of the album is, in some way, normal and boring. Well, maybe it’s more normal. But it’s not more boring.

The pace of a lot of the songs is very much of the time. I may be jumping to very wrong conclusions here, but the slow, building and melancholy songs make me think a little of the grunge movement spearheaded by Nirvana just a few years later. Probably even contemporary.

If there were a theme to this album, it would be this: (ahem) “WE! ARE! AWESOME! GOD, do we know it!” In fact, most of the long, protracted and vague titles could be summarised as “Lead Singer Syndrome: The Movie”.

There’s even a whole “messiah” thing going around, what with “I Wanna Be Adored”, “I Am The Resurrection”, and the next album being called “Second Coming”. That grandiosity may be ironic, it may be a facet of arrogant idiot frontmen, or who knows: it may even be a parody of bands and singers of the time. Maybe it’s even anothe Beatles connection – “Bigger than Jesus” indeed.

And looking at the lyrics to try and test these theories, I see that… they didn’t really care about their lyrics did they? Check these out, for starters:

I don’t have to sell my soul/He’s already in me
I don’t need to sell my soul/He’s already in me

I wanna be adored/I wanna be adored

I don’t have to sell my soul/He’s already in me
I don’t need to sell my soul/He’s already in me
I wanna be adored/I wanna be adored

Adored

I wanna be adored/You adore me
You adore me/You adore me
I wanna
I wanna
I wanna be adored

Wanna
I wanna
I wanna be adored

CAN YOU GUESS WHAT THIS SONG’S CALLED? GUESS!”

Seriously, did someone break the lyrics? They seem to be stuck in a loop. I kinda get the feeling that it may be a case of they just didn’t care. Yet again. I really feel like they spent all the creative effort on the actually-pretty-interesting song titles, and repeated one line throughout the lyrics of the song.

“Shoot You Down” is a kind of threatening song; so much is as it should be. But it also asks a lot of questions of the narrator’s relation with the subject “you” in the song. Why do they have it coming? Why does the narrator want do it so much? What even is “it”? Is “it” even the shooting? In my headcanon, I reckon it ties into “Elizabeth, My Dear” – the Stone Roses’ own personal scarborough fair rip-off. In the grand old tradition established by Ewan MacColl, Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel. Real original, guys!*

Some elements of this remind me of the softness and wistfullness of the Levellers album I reviewed a while back. The same sort of gentle pace and care, with a total lack of aggression. Well, with the exception of Levellers’ “The Fear”. Whereas The Stone Roses – the album, I mean – doesn’t have that one track.

I also feel that there’s an easy Pulp connection to make – which is a good thing in my book. The same sort of working class background, both showing great care in their song construction and synth use, and with a broadly gentle approach to the nature of their songs. Half of the songs on here are paced so slow that you can pretty much use the drums to time your heart-rate.

Take your time… You’re not wasting anyone’s record space but your own.

In my mind, I always used to conflate The Stone Roses with Oasis. (And to a lesser extent, Guns ‘n’ Roses, though that was mainly the name.) If this had been a fair comparison, then this album would’ve been doomed by being painted with the same brush as those pompous, idiotic wankers. No offense. Where they got the gall to claim to be the successors to The Beatles I don’t know.

But that claim being as weird and ridiculous as it seems, had the The Stone Roses said it of themselves, I would have been more inclined to believe them. OK, they lack the cult fame, the star power and the longevity, but it was nearly a year ago that I reviewed The White Album, and I haven’t really heard such knowingly psychedelic, progressive, yet still poppy and accessible weirdness since then.**

So a lot of this sounds like other good things, and it has some really good little riffs and progressions. Good stuff. But the problem is that all of the good stuff is actually a little over-used, I’d say.

That’s something I could live with, really, if it weren’t for the fact that it’s also a bit lacking in, well, personality. They’re so cool and louche, they end up being hardly there. They’re so laid back they’re almost falling over. And while style is all well and good, and they showed some substance, what they showed was not nearly enough.

* Hey, wait; they’re all folk bands. Where’d Stone Roses get the idea to imitate folk bands?

** I never thought I’d be making a positive comparison to the Beatles. But then again, pre-Ferris Bueller, a lot of my response to the Beatles was fueled by this trope.

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Posted on July 1, 2012, in Music, The Hang of Music and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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