Last night I dared to Tweet an opinion* on Madchester ‘legends’ The Stone Roses, returning champions of baggy, whose presence in 2012 is about as welcomed to these ears as a Vengaboys comeback, or sirens sounding the real-life return of those Iron Sky Nazis.
Now, naturally one person’s opinion is just that. But from the responses I received – complete strangers suggesting that perhaps I shouldn’t be in the industry I am; angry Mancunians mouthing off in a manner that’d displease their mothers; the expected smattering of death threats – it’s evident that this opinion isn’t shared by all. But why so worked up, Roses fans? Do Radiohead fans take to Twitter every time somebody implies that Thom and co haven’t quite cut the mustard since the turn of the century?
Some reasons behind my position on the Roses.
The Roses’ debut came out in 1989. I was nine, and wouldn’t really form much in the way of a musical identity until I reached senior school in 1991. And as that coincided with the breakthrough of Nirvana, it was bands of their ilk that first made an impression – not because my tastes were developed enough to fully appreciate grunge, but because peers (and more pertinently their older siblings) were into that music, so their liking of it rubbed off on me. If I was two or three years older, I’ve no doubt that the Roses’ music might’ve appealed through a similar path. When the band did release a follow-up, Kurt Cobain was dead and his music permanently burned upon my heart. I had also discovered loads of great new bands via NME, so a poorly received second album from the Roses was never going to make my growing collection.
In the pre-internet days, regional identity in music could be paramount in an act’s commercial impact. The explosion of interest in Manchester outfits, in the wake of the Roses’ success, would later be mirrored by chequebook-waving A&R sorts descending on Seattle post-Nevermind. Being from the south, much of this hullabaloo simply didn’t connect at the time; and once I’d begun working my way back to so-called ‘seminal’ LPs of the time (yes, I do own the first Roses album), the likes of Some Friendly and Pills ‘n’ Thrills… sounded, well, tired frankly. Listening in my mid-teens, this music didn’t sound as if it was meant to last, that it had a very limited shelf life. I couldn’t feel its resonance, and while I knew it’d attracted legions of admirers, I soon resigned myself to never being one of them.
I’ve never done drugs. If I had, and been at one of several Manchester indie clubs I frequented while at university while I Am the Resurrection boomed from the PA, chances are I’d have been caught up in the moment with a crowd of partisan pill-heads. Perhaps something would have lingered; perhaps a new appreciation of the Roses would have manifested itself. But the closest I got to the pills Ryder and pals spoke of was a few pain-killers after too many 2-4-1 lagers on a Saturday night at Liverpool’s Krazyhouse.
Most – and I stress most, not all – of the Roses fans I’ve had the pleasure of being friendly with over the years have had tastes in music that rarely aligned with mine (though I attended a few shows with one Roses-loving chap, seeing Radiohead and the Foo Fighters together, and more besides). Those closest to me, even now, don’t have much room in their record collections for the band. If those whose opinions I have grown to respect had said: “Seriously, Mike, listen again… and again… until it clicks,” I just might have done so. Though I’m not sure my feelings would have changed.
Ian Brown’s solo career has never courted my affections. The Seahorses were utterly abysmal. Mani is perhaps the only ex-Roses member to have impressed me, with Primal Scream’s Vanishing Point and XTRMNTR both well-liked/much-played LPs. Again, these are just my opinions – but had Brown’s output clicked with me, I’m sure I’d have backtracked and listened to the Roses’ material with fresh ears. But if I have to hear F.E.A.R. one more time in my life I might well strangle the nearest lad in a Man U top. It’s alright, Mancs, he’s probably not from your ‘hood.
The whole comeback thing
Comebacks are, 99% of the time, crap. Just a couple of shows into the Roses’ return and the reception has been rapturous. (Even if that reception has largely been laid out by long-standing fans.) But how long until the cracks show? Relations between the four faltered spectacularly last time out; and while everyone’s smiling right now, old tensions can easily simmer towards the surface. Those who never saw the band first time around, and who’ve been swayed towards their cause in a way I never was: I wish you a marvellous time watching your heroes. I hope that they’re everything you’ve wanted them to be since you first fell for their eponymous debut. But I never saw Pixies before their split, caught them on the comeback trail and they were awful. That said, Pulp were amazing last summer. So… I guess time will tell. On a comeback note: yes, I would love to see Refused. But they’re a band who I missed before they split, and one that became an instant love the first time The Shape of Punk To Come was spun. Not gonna happen, though.
I just don’t like their music
That’s the root of everything, really. Believe me, I’ve tried – like I said, I have the debut, and a load of their singles too (albeit from when they were reissued a few years back, and only because somebody sent them to me). But… no. We’ll just have to agree to disagree, Roses fans. It’s okay, I don’t mind if you hate hip hop, or loathe metal. Perhaps we’ve common ground elsewhere. I quite like the odd spot of DIY. Yeah? Great, let’s have that pint…
(*I suppose I could have been a little less Sweary Mary. But, y’know, it’s fun to write fuck on social media platforms. FUCK.)