Skip to content

Breaking into Heaven: the unlikely resurrection of The Stone Roses

October 19, 2011

My article for the Huffington Post on the return of the greatest band ever:

This is the one, the resurrection, what the world is waiting for. After years of rumour and denial, it has finally been confirmed: The Stone Roses have reformed, with two live shows in Manchester, a world tour and a new album in the works.

This being one of the most unlikely but eagerly anticipated reunions of all time, there are plenty of reasons why it shouldn’t work.

A seemingly work-shy band, the Roses produced just two albums in their 13-year career. With a singer who cannot sing and a guitarist who apparently prefers painting – neither of whom had spoken to each another for the past 15 years – plus a brilliant but enigmatic drummer who seemingly disappeared off the face of the earth in early 1995, theirs is hardly the perfect recipe for reunion success.

But the second coming of The Stone Roses will be something truly special.

The reformation was officially announced at a press conference in a Soho hotel on Tuesday. Frontman Ian Brown was in typically assured form, declaring “our plan is to take on the world”.

But it was the affable bassist Mani who best summed up the Roses’ appeal: “something magical happens when us four are in the room together, you can’t put your finger on it. It’s just beautiful to capture it again. I’ve missed it.”

The band have already been working on new material in secret rehearsals over the summer. Crucially, this promise of a new album justifies the reunion as a realisation of artistic potential and not just a money-spinning nostalgia trip.

In recent years Blur and Pulp have proved that 90s bands can pull off high-profile reunions with class and critical acclaim. Both were great acts but neither cultivated the same mystique as the Manc legends, nor did they keep fans waiting as long as the Roses.

Never before has there been a band with such a case of unfinished business. The Roses could have been their generation’s Beatles had they managed to keep it together and put out enough records. Instead, drugs, contract disputes and the souring of personal relationships took hold.

With the world at their feet, the band “George Best-ed it,” as Brown puts it. The great tragedy of the band’s career is that they only released two proper albums and a clutch of stand-alone singles and b-sides. Now they finally have the chance to put that right.

Any concern that a reunion might tarnish the band’s legacy is redundant, for there is no way the upcoming shows could be worse than their last gig. With two of the classic line-up having already quit, singer Brown finally called time on the remnants of his once-great group after a disastrous headline performance at Reading Festival in 1996. It was a horrible way to bow out, with a woefully off-key Brown backed by cheesy session musicians labouring through the most painful of swan songs.

Having already pissed on their own legacy and with nothing left to lose, the Roses can now go out there and remind the world of their genius. The band has always enjoyed a fairly cult-like status, especially compared to their disproportionately more popular but less talented successors Oasis.

But the brief highlights of their career were stunning. Channelling Jimi Hendrix and the Byrds with a uniquely Manc swagger, their classic eponymous debut is widely recognised as one of the best ever and was named the greatest British album of all time by both the Guardian and the NME.

Although hampered by lousy sound, their performance before almost 30,000 fans at Spike Island in 1990 was hailed as the Woodstock of the ecstasy generation. This would be one of their triumphant last acts before disappearing into the wilderness.

A five-year wait followed, before the Roses finally returned with the criminally underrated and immodestly titled “Second Coming.” Refusing to rehash a winning formula, they bravely ditched the crystalline pop of their debut in favour of a darker, heavier sound.

A diverse if slightly overlong record, “Second Coming” flows from hard rock to blues, funk, acoustic folk and even big-beat dance. The epic opener “Breaking into Heaven” and the first single “Love Spreads” (hailed by Primal Scream’s Bobby Gillespie as “the greatest comeback record of all time”) are up there with the very best of Led Zeppelin, while the tender “Ten Storey Love Song” gloriously revisited the classic Roses sound.

Initially considered a disappointing, anticlimactic follow-up, crushed by a tremendous weight of expectation, in hindsight the album is a “flawed masterpiece”, as guitarist and principal songwriter John Squire once described it.

Yet the making of the record left fatal scars on the band, with both Reni and then Squire quitting shortly after its release. Brown’s fall-out with former best mate Squire was so bitter that the pair did not speak again until they were reunited by tragedy at the funeral of Mani’s mother earlier this year.

Although the band may now be pushing 50, the prospect of hearing a new record or seeing them onstage again is mouth watering. If anyone has the ability to pull off a reunion it is the Roses.

Squire is a virtuoso guitarist, and although Brown’s vocals provide the weak link of the group he somehow makes up for it with his shamanic onstage presence. Such is Brown’s influence that a 16-year-old Liam Gallagher realised exactly what he wanted to do immediately after attending an early Roses gig in Manchester.

Mani is a very accomplished bassist, while Reni is one of the most gifted drummers these shores have ever produced (after the Roses’ first ever gig in 1984 he was labelled the best drummer since Keith Moon by none other than Pete Townsend).

Together they comprised the tightest rhythm section in rock since John Bonham and John Paul Jones. The pair took Brown and Squire’s brilliant songs and injected them with a sense of funk and groove, something that has since been sorely missing from most British indie rock.

If the band can recover just one tenth of their once infinite potential, that alone would justify the reunion and put them streets ahead of contemporary pretenders like Kasabian. The world can only be a brighter place with The Stone Roses in it.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: