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 tunes of 2002: #17 Doves “Caught by the river”

<< 18    |    #16 >>

In the handful of years directly following my and Victoria’s big move to Ottawa, we lived a very frugal life. This was more out of necessity than aesthetic, given my student debt, Victoria’s concentration on finishing her master’s degree, and our measly collective earnings. Still, we often returned to Toronto to visit friends and family, but had to do so by spending the least amount of money possible, and in the periods where we didn’t have our own wheels, this meant long hours aboard the Greyhound bus fleet.

I particularly remember one such trip, an overnighter on the Friday of the August long weekend. And, well, the main reason I remember that it was that particular weekend is that we arrived just as the subway was opening on the Saturday morning and we had to wrestle our way into the subway station amongst the drunken crowds still partying after the opening night of Caribana. It wasn’t a fun experience to say the least, but perhaps I am digressing a bit too much here.

Right.

So I’ve never really been able to sleep on planes or trains, and especially not buses, no matter how tired I’ve been. I’m a pretty tall guy with spectacularly bad posture and can never get comfortable enough to catch proper rem sleep in those seats. However, I hadn’t actually come to that conclusion about myself in those days and still made every valiant effort. That particular evening, I had a new album by a new band in my discman and it went down so well through my earphones on the first spin, I repeated it. And I continued to do so for the entire five (plus) hour trip. As you might’ve guess by now, unlike Victoria beside me, I never properly fell asleep that night, just faded in and out, while the Doves and their sophomore album, “The last broadcast”, guided me through the surreal, not-quite subconscious journey, brightening an otherwise worthless night’s sleep.

This album drew me in and enveloped me for most of the following months. I was in love. I identified them with the dream pop and Madchester bands of the early 90s that I knew and loved. Their sound kept some of the dance aesthetic of their earlier incarnation as Sub Sub but it’s really the layers in the music that define who the Doves are. The music of “The last broadcast” is almost tactile, like running into a massive cobweb that wisps around you and grabs onto you, even as you try to break through it and break it down. It’s great music for driving at night and for listening to with ear phones. Believe me, I’ve tried both multiple times.

The track of our focus today, “Caught by the river”, always reminds me of R.E.M.’s “Find the river”. Perhaps because of the word “river” in the song title or perhaps because it is the finale track of another standout album. Both tracks are the perfect way to close out their respective album.

“You and I
Were so full of love and hope
Would you give it all up now?
Would you give in just to spite them all?”

The undulating strumming of the rhythm guitar emulate the feeling of being cast overboard and caught up in the crashing and splashing waves of a tumbling river. It’s a river in which the water is just fine, the chiming guitars and Goodwin’s soothing vocals ensure just that. And then, the eddies created by all the reverb and effects  just swallow you up whole and let you drift off into eternity. Ohhhhh yessssss.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2002 list, click here.

 

Best tunes of 1992: #19 New Fast Automatic Daffodils “Stockholm”

<< #20    |    #18 >>

Near the very end of 1994, a bunch of my high school friends and I converged upon the city of Waterloo, Ontario, where our friend Tim was attending university. He was renting half of a house with a couple of friends he had met at school and they had planned for a New Year’s Eve party from which seemingly no one would be turned away. Some of my friends arrived for just the one night but I was amongst a handful that made a whole weekend out of it. We arrived a few days in advance and spent a few days warming up the apartment and our livers, visiting local watering hole, Phil’s Grandson’s Place, playing video games, listening to tunes, and having a lot of laughs. The New Year’s Eve party was epic and one from which I took many days to recover. But that’s a tale for another day.

One of Tim’s two roommates at that time was Mark, whom I’ve since met and with whom I’ve become quite good friends over the years. However, I didn’t meet him that weekend. (He didn’t make it back from St. Catharines in time, due to a miscommunication with the other roommate, Terry.) Instead, I met his CD collection and his stereo, with both of whom I immediately became enamoured. The day after arriving at the house, I made sure to find an establishment from which to purchase some blank cassette tapes so that I could bring home some pieces of Mark’s collection.

One of the albums I recorded from the grand selection on Mark’s CD shelves was “Body exit mind”, the second album by Manchester’s New Fast Automatic Daffodils. I had heard the second single from the album, “Stockholm”, many times over on Toronto’s alt-rock radio station, EDGE 102.1, and had recorded the music video to one of my by now multiple video cassettes filled with music videos, but had never seen any of the band’s music out in the shops. The high quality recording I was able to make of the album spent lots of time in my tape deck in the early weeks and months of 1995, with this particular track getting the multiple rewind and re-play treatment.

For a band so short-lived, the New FADs had a sound that was all their own and produced a hell of track here that made an indelible impression upon me. Not quite Madchester baggy and not quite shoegaze or noise rock, “Stockholm” was all of these. That jangly guitar hook does a freaky dance with a bongo drum and frontman Andy Spearpoint produces an iconic introductory lyric in that drawling sing speak he does. “Lately, lately, I find I rush.” And then he belts out, as much as one could call what he does belting: “Can’t piece together the sun in the sky or the spots on my face.” I don’t know what any of it means but the groove and the noise gets to me every time. It just feels so powerful. And when the gritty guitars chime in at the midway point, you just have to turn it up and close your eyes.

I’ve since thanked Mark many times over for the use of his CDs and stereo and he can only shake his head at the memory of missing that legendary bash.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1992 list, click here.