Best albums of 1989: #1 The Stone Roses “The Stone Roses”

So we’ve reached the end of this series and here were at the number one position on my Best Albums of 1989 list. There have already been comments and I’m sure there have been more than a few raised eyebrows at seeing some pretty iconic albums placed lower on this list, like “Doolittle” at number four and “Disintegration” at number three. I did forewarn you at the outset that the year was pretty stacked and I myself had a hard time looking at some of my favourite albums placed lower than number one. But such is the case for 1989 and the fallacy of ranking things in lists is that there should be only be one number one. For me (and a couple of you have already guessed this), that number one is The Stone Roses’ self-titled debut.

The band had originally formed in 1983, six years before this album’s release, but the personnel didn’t stabilize to the lineup we know of Mani, Reni, John Squire, and Ian Brown until a year or two later. Many of this debut’s songs are reworkings of tracks that had been written long before its release and had been demoed in a variety of ways. When it was released by indie label Silvertone Records, it didn’t immediately take the world by storm. Indeed, even the band themselves weren’t super happy with the production on it. However, the press liked it, especially the NME. Single upon single upon single were released and word of mouth spread based on their live shows. And eventually sales increased and they started rocketing up the charts.

“The Stone Roses” is now seen as the album that kickstarted Madchester and ‘Baggy’ culture, alongside The Happy Mondays, and laid the foundations for 90s Britpop. Indeed, the blend of 60s psychedelic guitar rock with a highly danceable rhythm section were highly influential on what would happen in British music for the next decade and onwards, though North American culture would largely ignore them until much later. Unfortunately, this debut, which many argue is the greatest debut ever, would be their only output for half a decade due to record label battles and a host of other problems. Their sophomore album, “Second coming”, would finally be released but was initially seen as disappointment to many and the band would disintegrate within two years of its release.

I heard many of the songs on “The Stone Roses” on the radio and CityLimits and on friends’ stereos long before I ever heard the full album. I distinctly remember hearing it for the first time and thinking it must’ve been a best of compilation because I already knew and loved most of it. An astounding seven singles were released from “The Stone Roses”, which is more than half of its tracks. There is just so much fun and awesomeness on this album that I could’ve chosen any three songs at random to share with you and I would’ve been happy with the picks.

I hope you enjoyed this series as much I did, even if you might’ve disagreed with the rankings. Let me know what your own top albums would’ve been in the comments section below and we can continue the discussion as we play this album one more time.


”I wanna be adored”: This is the track that greets the listener upon putting on the album, an easy introduction that merely foreshadows the crazy ecstasy that’s to come. The album version starts very slowly with hints of Mani’s bass strings being fiddled with, Reni’s cymbal crashes, and John Squire’s guitar scrapings being heard far off in the distance, as if the song is being conjured by a trio of mad scientists who are not really sure of the consequences of their actions. Eventually the bass line that holds the whole song together takes shape and grows in volume, that drum beat for which the Roses are famous kicks in, and so does Squire’s wailing guitars. When Ian Brown adds his hushed, mellowed out vocals to the Petri dish, it’s merely a delicate glaze. The words are hardly deep, I think I counted fifteen different words in the whole song, used in different configurations, but the intonation and the repetition is the key. It makes the song easier to sing or shout along with on the dance floor if the words are easy to remember. I mean, who doesn’t wanna be adored?

”She bangs the drums”: A hiss-to-the-hiss-to-the-hiss tappety-tapping on the closed high hat, a rumbling mumbling bassline, all like the foreboding of the explosive shimmering guitar riff that’s sure to come. Ah. There it is. Yeah. The second single off the record jumps out at you, a high energy dance jam that plays just as well as a singalong number. That bass line continues to climb up and down your spine and Squire does his best Marr impression, jangling down the road like a jester troubadour. But he doesn’t stop there, throwing in some wicked backwards effects and wankering away while Brown sings those words with a crazed grin pasted to his face. How do I know he’s smiling? Just listen to him. And while you’re at it, just take a look at yourself in the mirror as you’re singing along. See? You’re smiling too. How can you not? This song is pure joy. Just like so much of this record. Amazing.

”I am the resurrection”: The final song on the original track listing of the album is an eight minute long, acid house dance club anthem, perhaps one the best examples of its kind, the fusing of 60s psychedelic rock and the early days of rave culture, images of kids in baggy clothing tripping on ecstasy. Reni and his ever-present bucket hat puts on a drumming clinic, keeping perfect time for the duration, but the intro is all his, that cadence he sets puts you in the mood to jump on the dance floor right away. Mani steps in next with his flitting bass line that, while not quite as game-changing as it is on “Fools gold” (the band’s other anthem), is nonetheless integral to the song’s soul. Finally, Ian Brown’s mellow, laissez-faire tones fit in perfectly with the sound. Of course, the track really only digs in after he stops singing about halfway through and John Squire and his guitar noodling takes over, leading the rest of the group into a four and a half minute long freak out jam.


Here are the previous albums in this list:

10. The Jesus And Mary Chain “Automatic”
9. Galaxie 500 “On fire”
8. The Beautiful South  “Welcome to The Beautiful South”
7. The Grapes of Wrath “Now and again”
6. New Model Army “Thunder and consolation”
5. The Wonder Stuff “Hup”
4. Pixies “Doolittle”
3. The Cure “Disintegration”
2. Nine Inch Nails “Pretty hate machine”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Best albums of 1989: #2 Nine Inch Nails “Pretty hate machine”

I don’t remember the exact date. It was probably in the spring of 1990, roughly six or seven months after the album’s release. However, I remember exactly what I was doing and what led to my very first listen to Nine Inch Nails’ debut album, “Pretty hate machine”.

Before I get to that story, though, I just want to clarify a fact that I’ve not been completely clear on to date. I’ve referred to a friend in a few previous posts that I’ve not yet named, the one who got me into my favourite band of the early to mid 1990s, The Wonder Stuff (who incidentally appeared at number five on this list). Elliott, though, was actually more than a friend. He was a ‘foster brother’ who lived with our family for a few years during my teen years. When he moved in, he was into aggressive thrash metal so The Wonder Stuff’s “Eight legged groove machine” was a weird piece in his collection. Gradually, his tastes started to widen and together we really got into ‘alternative’ music together and it was with him that I stayed up to watch and record videos off MuchMusic’s CityLimits on Friday nights.

It was also Elliott that handed me a cassette tape copy of “Pretty hate machine” at exactly the right moment. I’m not sure what had put me in a mood that day but I was deep in the profundity of teen depression and angst and had decided to go out for a night time walk. “Pretty hate machine” was offered and strongly suggested over whatever it was I was planning on slipping into my Sony Sports Walkman and for that I will always be eternally grateful to Elliott. The solitary knock that critics (including Trent Reznor himself) have been able to hang on the album is that it is dark and angry, almost to the point of silliness, but it fit my mood perfectly that night.

Trent Reznor wrote most of the songs and recorded demos of them during his downtime while working at a recording studio. He then recorded the whole album himself, rather than hiring musicians, using synthesizers and a number of samples. (Indeed, he remained the only official member of Nine Inch Nails for many years, only adding Atticus Ross in 2016.) “Pretty hate machine” fused the synth rock of bands like Depeche Mode with the aggressive inhumanity of Industrial rock. It was my own gateway to other Industrial bands like Ministry and Nitzer Ebb and probably was for a host of other people. It sold very well for an independent release and was eventually certified triple platinum.

“Pretty hate machine” is to this day my very favourite Nine Inch Nails release, every song on it is a classic for me. It was difficult choosing just three picks to share with you but I have managed. Enjoy the throwback rage out today.


”Down in it”: “I was up above it. I was up above it. Now I’m down in it.” We’re never quite sure what ‘it’ was that Reznor was above and down in but we were right there with him. I was anyways. This was the first official single released by the band and was apparently the first song Reznor ever wrote. This might explain the simplistic lyrics and the adaptation and cooption of childhood nursery rhymes within. The song itself is quite dark though, explosive and rat-a-tat percussion and hiss boom rah rah samples, like a crowd roaring while Reznor alternates between rapping and rhyming and snarling. It’s all like a boiling pot of water or maybe even molten lava (if you want to delve into hyperbole) just at the edge, all threatening to break over the top into violence and disastrous mess.

”Something I can never have”: I loved this epic six minute ballad long before it was used to infamy on the “Natural Born Killers” soundtrack. The different levels of synth washes sounding like some abandoned, disused industrial plant, suddenly sprung into action and from somewhere deep within, lilts a lonely haunting piano riff, that varies and dances in on the wind and grows louder and quieter by chance and mood. “In this place it seems like such a shame, though it all looks different now, I know it’s still the same. Everywhere I look you’re all I see, just a fading f*cking reminder of who I used to be.” I definitely latched onto this song and its lyrics back in my self-deprecating and moping days as a teen and this particular lyric, with its uncompromising and unapologetic f-bomb, always got me going and singing along. Even now, with my backwards facing lense, I find this a beautiful and haunting track about the anger and longing of lost love.

”Head like a hole”: Looking at that still from the video below, I am reminded of my university friends Leigh and Aliya, who had that very image up on their shared residence bedroom wall, a poster purchased from an Imaginus fair. I watched that music video so many times, back in the day, constantly rewinding and replaying the video cassette tape I had it recorded on. Simply based on the fact that “Head like a hole” was track one on “Pretty hate machine” and I listened to the album in full as my introduction to Trent Reznor and Nine Inch Nails, this song was my first exposure to and still my favourite track by this artist. The rage, the samples, the beat, the screaming. This was where my flirtation with industrial music began. I still remember this being played, at my request, at a CFNY video dance party at my high school and some teen girl, whose name I can’t recall, being incredulous that this was the type of music to which I would listen. I didn’t care at all at the time. I was too busy dancing my ass off.


Check back next Monday for album #1. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. The Jesus And Mary Chain “Automatic”
9. Galaxie 500 “On fire”
8. The Beautiful South  “Welcome to The Beautiful South”
7. The Grapes of Wrath “Now and again”
6. New Model Army “Thunder and consolation”
5. The Wonder Stuff “Hup”
4. Pixies “Doolittle”
3. The Cure “Disintegration”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.

Best albums of 1989: #3 The Cure “Disintegration”

For those that only have a cursory knowledge of The Cure, “Disintegration” is likely where they get the impression of the band as dark and dreary, which, not coincidentally, was my own first impression of them.

I distinctly remember an afternoon a few years earlier, a friend of mine from my street excitedly telling me how he was going to see a concert that evening with his older sister. A band that I had never heard of, yes, The Cure, and he rhymed off a litany of songs that, surely, I had heard. And I felt so bad that I hadn’t, that I eventually fibbed when he came to a song or two of which I absolutely must have heard. I finally listened to some of those songs a few years later when I borrowed a couple of CDs off my friend John (or was it Tim): “Staring at the sea”, the early singles collection, and this one, “Disintegration”.

After all the success of their singles in the 1980s and the increased sales of their previous album, “Kiss me kiss me kiss me”, frontman Robert Smith became disenchanted with the idea of his group becoming a successful pop rock band. This and the realization that he was shortly to be turning 30 years old pushed our friend Robert into depression and heavily into psychedelics. He then set out to make a record that reflected his mindset at the time and returned to the dark, goth rock sound The Cure had explored on some of their early records.

Of course, when their labels heard the album, expecting more of the new wave inspired pop they were used to selling, they pushed to delay the album’s release date. Their worries turned out to be needless because “Disintegration” would go on to be the band’s biggest selling record ever. Not only that but it is considered by many to be Smith’s best work, the album finding itself on many lists (yeah, not just this one).

As dark and atmospheric and grandiose as most of “Disintegration” is, the album is not without its singles, and many of these charted quite high. And its from these that I offer my three picks for you, mostly because these are some of my early favourites from the album, indeed, some my earliest favourites ever from the band.


”Fascination street”: That haunting and foreboding bass line, ringing and echoing guitars, sounding very much like the squealing of bats or other creatures of the night, it’s all very dark. The intro carries on well over two minutes, setting a mood to wallow in, before Smith even starts in singing about a night out in New Orleans. “So let’s cut the conversation and get out for a bit, because I feel it all fading and paling, and I’m begging to drag you down with me, to kick the last nail in.” An odd choice for a single but that’s what it was. Elektra, The Cure’s American label, refused the band’s first choice for the album’s first single, which was “Lullaby”, as was it everywhere else in the world besides North America, and went with “Fascination Street” instead. It hit number one on Billboard’s newly established Modern Rock charts and set up “Disintegration” for its unexpected and wild ride on the charts.

”Pictures of you”: Even at seven and a half minutes, this track is not the longest on the album but is quite long for a single. This was the final one to be released off “Disintegration” and it is apparently either about the aftermath of a fire and finding photos or based on an essay by some mystery author whose name is similar to that of Smith’s wife, both tales have been woven by the frontman. The song is a meandering piece that shimmers and wavers in that lovely space that occurs behind your eyelids as you sit in your dimly lit teenaged room, crying over your lost first love. “Remembering you running soft through the night. You were bigger and brighter and whiter than snow and screamed at the make-believe, screamed at the sky and you finally found all your courage to let it all go.” Such beauty in pain.

”Lovesong”: Written by Robert Smith as a gift for his fiancée at the time and now wife, Mary Poole, it is likely the most emotional piece on the album and has been used as a wedding song by more than a few of my friends. When Robert Smith sings, “Whenever I’m alone with you, you make me feel like I am whole again”, you feel as he feels, even with such simple words. It is about as upbeat as “Disintegration” gets and the closest thing to an obvious single but yet doesn’t feel out of place given its big sound. It also has one of my favourite bass lines ever, which wasn’t even ruined for me by younger brother who played it over and over and over after someone had taught it to him.


Check back next Monday for album #2. In the meantime, here are the previous albums in this list:

10. The Jesus And Mary Chain “Automatic”
9. Galaxie 500 “On fire”
8. The Beautiful South  “Welcome to The Beautiful South”
7. The Grapes of Wrath “Now and again”
6. New Model Army “Thunder and consolation”
5. The Wonder Stuff “Hup”
4. Pixies “Doolittle”

You can also check out my Best Albums page here if you’re interested in my other favourite albums lists.