Billy Sed takes on Stone Roses: "You're a dime-a-dozen if you can't play four chords and make a listener tear up."
The Manchester band that set Britain afire with their self-titled 1989 debut followed a lineage from Joy Division and The Fall to Happy Mondays.
After the Roses? Oasis.
The Euro media set these young men up to take over the globe and set a new course for pop music. It never quite worked out that way, even with that Spike Island concert that further elevated them to superstar status. American radio ignored them. Because even with all the hype, the baggy clothes, the ecstasy, and the onslaught of awards and praise, one more bad contract wouldn’t allow them to put out that ever-important sophomore album to make it clear that they were the real deal.
A lot had changed by the time they won their case and signed to Geffen Records for a hefty million pounds, proving that, at the very least, the big boys had confidence, that they could grow their popularity in America and make the record so many believed they were capable of. At the end of ’94 they released that record. Called Second Coming, it featured the single “Love Spreads.” Tinged in hard rock the newer sound had the same clever rhythm section and Ian Brown's understated vocals, which, even in the beginning, felt like they took too many takes and a throat that rarely left one feeling inspired … The record proved again that John Squire was a great guitarist, especially in his neo-psychedelic, wah-wah pedal style. That was so clear on the Roses' first album. But this one felt forced … like trying to be Jimmy Page and a list of lesser white blues players who leave most listeners cold. You're a dime-a-dozen if you can't play four chords and make a listener tear up.
Now, two decades after their last release—with all the band’s crazy mythology, its broken members nearly forgotten—The Stone Roses put out two singles, the first dull and missing the mark, but the second, "Beautiful thing," hits it. It begins with the tried-and-true backwards guitar sliding into that cool, medium groove where the rhythm section always shined. And, sure, Ian's voice didn't become a British superstar voice, but it is unpretentious with a hook of a chorus while John Squire lets loose, and just in time, and with a less-is-more approach. If you were ever into the band or the “Madchester” scene, listen to this single. Had they come back with this on that sophomore slump, who knows what might have happened? There's a line in "Something's Burning," from first album—a wonderful piece of British rock ’n’ roll while Ian sang, “Don't count your chickens/’Cause they're never gonna hatch/You can't catch a monkey with shotgun and a sack.” And that says something about the business of pop music—it may have taken an awful long time to get it wrong, then right again, so turn it up and wish them well. Because second, even third chances come around so rarely.