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Resequence: The Stone Roses

Blasphemy, you might think, messing with an almost universally acknowledged classic. But it’s been messed with before several times: for the original 1989 US release, the 1991 UK re-release and subsequent reissues, No one could have less reverence for the The Stone Roses than the Silvertone label did, so at least this time it’s being done with love and not for financial gain.

The Stone Roses marked one of the great turning points in UK indie music, and it was entirely appropriate that it should be a Manchester band that initiated it. Five years earlier, Morrissey had sung “Manchester, so much to answer for” and in 1989, the atmosphere of the indie scene was still dominated by guitar music made in the gloomy, doomed-romantic shadow of The Smiths and the even longer, darker shadow of Joy Division. There were other influential bands of course, but if “indie music” meant anything to mainstream audiences then, the image they had was most likely one largely forged in Manchester: dour, unhappy and with perhaps a hint of barbed strangeness courtesy of another Manchester band, The Fall. The Stone Roses were at the spearhead of a movement that brought sunshine, air and color back into the scene, thankfully shorn of the twee-ness and amateurism that but were easy options for hundreds of bands but that only a very few could transform into genius.

The Stone Roses had grown within that scene, and their earlier work up to and including staple “Sally Cinnamon” is still imbued with the spirit of cold and rainy Manchester. So why mess with The Stone Roses at all? Firstly, to emphasize that sense of the sunshine after the rain, a landscape washed clean and vibrating with heightened color. “I Wanna be Adored” is a great song – a great opening song even – but despite its messianic leanings it belongs sonically to old, dark Manchester; not to worry, it will work later. Secondly, to remove “Don’t Stop.” I’m sure the band were excited when they realized that, played backwards, the tapes of “Waterfall” sounded pretty cool. But it also sounds almost exactly like “Waterfall” and sequencing one after the other has always seemed strange. With its fine, functional lyrics – Ian Brown is sometimes an inspired, even great lyricist, but when he’s not, what he comes up may sound right and work perfectly but lack depth. “Don’t Stop” would be an excellent B-side, but probably not to “Waterfall.”

For good measure let’s remove “Elizabeth My Dear,” too; however much one might agree with its anti-monarchical sentiments, a minute-long complaint about the Queen that borrows the tune of “Scarborough Fair” feels like the definition of dispensable. There’s a temptation too – which most of the reissues of the album have succumbed to – to add non-album single “Fool’s Gold.” It’s undoubtedly one of the great songs of their career, but this isn’t The Best of the Stone Roses and so it has no place on the version of the album envisioned here. Instead, The Stone Roses is refigured here as a kind of journey, from ebullient if never-quite-naïve optimism through a kind of maturing and awakening/unfolding of power. That sounds pretentious because it is; but the album sounds great, because it also is.

New Track list

1. “Elephant Stone” (7” version)

With the dark and seductive “I Wanna Be Adored” repurposed elsewhere, what better way to kick off the album than with the band’s first release to be graced with guitarist John Squire’s signature Jackson Pollock-inspired artwork? While undeniably lightweight, from the squalling guitar intro onwards, all of the hallmarks of the band’s ebullient prime are here. There’s inventive wah-wah guitar that owes little to either post-Smiths melancholy strumming or “angular” post-punk-ism, Reni’s funk/disco-influenced drumming that brought dance music to indie kids who weren’t quite ready to embrace techno, Mani’s bass that was completely unlike the standard Dee Dee Ramone/Kim Deal thunking, and Ian Brown’s reedy but perfectly judged vocals. The lyrics are appealingly opaque, but sound meaningful, and the theoretically unhappy but strangely blissful chorus “Seems like there’s a hole in my dreams” is irresistible.

2. “Waterfall”

As bright and wistfully positive as “Elephant Stone” but far more considered, this would also have made an excellent opening track; “As the miles they disappear/ See land begin to clear” is a good metaphor for the way the band pulls away from the morose industrial decay of Manchester’s past. Musically, it shares the same ingredients as our opener, but it’s a far more dynamic piece of music, its gradually accelerating groove mirroring its theme of escape.

3. “Song for my (Sugar Spun Sister)”

Pure pop brilliance, this is another track whose sweetness is sharpened by a hint of melancholy, entwined both in its infectious melody and evocative, ‘60s-influenced lyrics.

4. “Bye Bye Badman”

The most explicitly summer-themed song on the album gives the cover image its title. This is the flip side to the idyllic summer escape of “Waterfall.” Inspired by the 1968 student riots in Paris, the song’s sultry guitar melodies add sweetness to scathing anti-establishment lyrics that underline one of the album’s themes; this is the voice of a new generation.

5. “She Bangs the Drums”

Side One (well why not?) ends as it began, with effervescent guitar pop, an atmosphere of vibrant expectation and a hint – “The past was yours but the future’s mine” – of the messiah-complex that will be explored more fully on side two.

6. “I Wanna be Adored”

Bass-led, darkly atmospheric indie rock rather than sunshine pop, this has a grandeur reminiscent of Echo and the Bunnymen and a feeling of hushed expectation, the darkness before the dawn

7. “Made of Stone”

As the final notes of “I Wanna be Adored” shudder into silence, the intro of “Made of Stone” is already implied. Continuing with the previous track’s more weighty, portentous feel but picking up the ‘60s influence from side one, this track, with its landscape of cold streets and burning cars is the aftermath to the summer of rebellion in “Bye Bye Badman.” If “Adored” embodies the power of self-belief, this extends that theme further, with the cheerful optimism of “Waterfall” and “She Bangs the Drums” giving way to a colder and forbidding positivity, strengthened by one of the band’s most memorable melodies.

8. “Shoot You Down”

From here on, the album follows the structure of the original 1989 release, with a languid funky menace providing a more laidback version of the dismissive arrogance of the previous two songs.

9. “This is the One”

Another paean to ambition and the most stadium-friendly track on the album, this has something of the brooding quality of “I Wanna be Adored” and, as always leads perfectly into…

10. “I Am the Resurrection”

There was never any doubt that The Stone Roses had to climax with the band’s most anthemic song. It’s apotheosis of the less-than-humble stance of “I Wanna be Adored” but even more, this is confirmation that despite the appropriation of ‘60s melodic ideas and ‘70s funk influences, this album isn’t a continuation, it’s a new start. With its extended coda – one of the few instances of a band jamming that doesn’t become dull – this is ideally played at a festival as the sun goes down on a warm summer evening. But it sounds just as good at home.

Listen to Will’s version of The Stone Roses here:

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