Updated: Nov 3
Before britpop took over alternative radio in the early '90s, The Stone Roses seemingly set the stage for the genre, mapping out its sound as a mixture of jangle-pop, indie rock and post-punk. Where The Stone Roses took it to the next level, though, was their incorporation of rave music, psychedelia, acid house, funk, and even a touch of English mod-revival. The Stone Roses' debut, released after six years of the band's existence, was a complete musical anomaly composed of a sea of seemingly disparate styles coming together to create one of the finest alternative albums of all time. The album propelled the Madchester scene to new heights while at the same time igniting a decade's worth of britpop.
By and large, the record was a harmonious blend of post-Smiths jangle-pop, with earworms like She Bangs the Drums and Waterfall, but the songs had considerably more depth than what most listeners would expect from contemporary jangle-pop. Waterfall begins as a swaying, jangly indie rock track, but the second half introduces the rave mentality of Madchester before effortlessly transitioning the ideas of the song into Don't Stop. Other Madchester giants like Primal Scream (who although are Scottish, are considered part of the scene) focused their music more on the acid house side of the genre, resulting in mostly of rave-like songs (nothing wrong with that), but The Stone Roses took a much more diverse musical approach, incorporating a variety of ideas into their songs, aside from just the rave style. Of course, Fools Gold however takes a different, more direct route with 10 minutes of psychedelic magic.
The highlight of the record, however, is I Am the Resurrection, which we ranked as the tenth-best indie rock song of all time. Here, The Stone Roses began the track using the late '80s jangly, indie rock framework before morphing it into the crowd-belting rock anthem of a generation, then letting the Madchester rave sound take over for the last 15 minutes of the record (at least on the American release with Fools Gold as the closing track). I Am the Resurrection is an absolutely perfect indie rock song that experiments with a longer-form jam style, which for some reason, has since almost completely vanished from indie rock.
The opening track, I Wanna Be Adored, touches on some pre-grunge elements of American rock music, maybe even channeling a subtle vocal style akin to Bleach-era Nirvana or the Pixies (at least when they're not screaming). I'm sure many listeners may disagree with that, but give it a close listen, and it's quite evident. With that said, none of my research suggests those bands were a direct influence on The Stone Roses, which they likely were not. Nevertheless, the similarity is there upon close listening.
Aside from the hits, the deeper cuts on the record are equally strong. The short, haunting Elizabeth My Dear was a brilliant addition by the band, and Bye Bye Badman might be perhaps the most underrated song on the LP. The guitar work of John Squire on Bye Bye Badman is pure, English roots-rock, echoing the guitar style of Mark Knopfler of Dire Straits. (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister comes off as another beautiful, bright precursor to britpop—catchy, memorable, danceable, and as smooth as can be.
The britpop giants of the '90s owe a lot to The Stone Roses, and they acknowledge that. The Gallagher brothers of Oasis claimed The Stone Roses were the first band they saw live and state that it helped shape their artistic style. The record, as well as The Stone Roses themselves, have also been cited as influential by The Verve, Blur, Kasabian, Arctic Monkeys, and Kaiser Chiefs. In listening to any of those bands, the influence is present and quite obvious.
The debut by The Stone Roses was an ahead-of-its-time masterpiece, drawing from all sorts of British counterculture such as Baggy and Mod, as well as the musical giants of the '60s like The Kinks and The Rolling Stones. Along with the early British rock influences, the '80s British indie giants like The Smiths and The Jesus and Mary Chain certainly had their impact on the record felt as well. Few albums have aged as gracefully as this one, and even fewer can confidently call themselves "perfect albums."