So, as it turns out, the future wasn’t really theirs. From the time that the Stone Roses debut was released twenty years ago to their real swansong at Spike Island was exactly a year. It wasn’t the complete end of the story, of course, but the manner in which the band limped along for the next seven years before their disastrous final turn at Reading Festival is one of music’s great betrayals of a legacy. So it is to this debut that we have constantly turned over the years and here it is again, offered up to be added to our collections for another time.
That you should have this record already is, of course, a given. The question then is do you need it again? It’s one that those behind the reissue are fully aware of, tempting us in with all sorts of extras and goodies. You can pick up, if you choose, a bonus disc of B sides and the like (notable only for -Elephant Stone’ and the majestic pairing of -Fool’s Gold’ and -What The World Is Waiting For’) and another of demos that are without exception fairly awful, even in their re-mastered state. There’s also a DVD of their celebratory but out of tune Blackpool gig of the same year and a USB stick with videos and the like. For a band who took inspiration from the twin people’s movements of punk and acid house that’s an awful lot of consumerism.
Amidst all of this, though, lies one of the most perfect records to emerge in the last, well, twenty years. These tracks have become so ubiquitous over the years but to hear them together, in their original running order, is still astonishing. There has been a degree of tidying up done in the re-mastering process and the record does sound more sparkling than ever, especially the backing vocals and John Squire’s beautiful guitar work. Compare and contrast with the plodding demos and the key role of producer John Leckie becomes clearer than ever.
For an album that, to be honest, is hardly radical in its musical approach (that step would briefly come with -Fool’s Gold’), The Stone Roses packs a euphoric punch, the perfect mix of arrogance, youth and the sense of a band who really were what the world was waiting for. Looking past the indie dance floor staples, there are even a few forgotten gems. -Waterfall’ could be pinpointed as the moment when the baggy sound of Madchester (two phrases that we haven’t used for a while) came into being, -Bye Bye Badman’ and the short and definitely not sweet -Elizabeth My Dear’ reveal an often overlooked political edge and -(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister’ is a jangly pop song of the highest order. Even their overused backward tracking trick is pretty effective on the -Waterfall’ reversing -Don’t Stop’. And if -This Is The One’ isn’t their finest moment, what is?
Little was anyone to realise that, once the bongos and guitar riff of -I Am The Resurrection’ had faded into silence, that would effectively be it for the Stone Roses on record (is a similar treatment planned for The Second Coming in 2014? Unlikely we’d say). Likewise, this is one reunion that could only have one outcome and should be resisted at all costs. You need this album and, if you don’t have it on vinyl, cassette or whatever already, you may as well start here. This was the one.