The Stone Roses’ eponymous debut album is one of the greatest albums of all time. There’s little debate about that.
It’s also arguably the greatest debut album of all time.
Whichever way you look at it, the thing is about as close to perfection as we’ve come across with any record we’ve ever listened to.
And so we’re paying tribute to it here. Song by song, reviewed for the sheer delight of it all.
The Stone Roses’ Debut Album
A bit about the band before going full steam ahead. The album launched in 1989, but the band had been around since the early 1980s.
They’d previously recorded a debut in 1985 with Martin Hannett (notorious madman and legend in one—he worked on Joy Division’s albums), but refused to release it due to its mediocrity.
Four years later they were back with a new sound, bouncing fabulously into the Madchester scene with their baggy flares, long hair, Reni hats, and autonomy.
It proved to be an iconic album. There are 11 tracks, all now anthems in their own right and quite outstanding in quality to this day.
The album is based around the Paris student riots of 1968, with guitarist John Squire providing the Jackson Pollock-inspired artwork for the album cover.
Whilst most bands write (and wrote) love songs, The Stone Roses wrote about narcissism, political revolution, and drugs, all through an anti-capitalism viewpoint.
I Wanna Be Adored
A brooding opener with a subtle build-up that unleashes itself into a legendary anthem.
The song, unsurprisingly, became the band’s way to open pretty much every gig they did from 1989 onward.
It’s a magnificent track, with guitarist John Squire’s beautiful guitar work being complemented by Ian Brown’s hushed vocals.
She Bangs the Drums
The band hits its pop stride here with arguably its most accessible song. It’s sun drenched and laden with catchy lyrics, with a driving quality that really lifts your spirits.
She Bangs the Drums is the band at its most accessible and poppy.
Live, the track became more punky/rocky and drummer Reni was able to go ballistic on it. As you can see at the famous Blackpool 1989 gig.
Waterfall is one of the band’s absolute masterpieces, a glorious and sweeping account of one young woman looking to escape it all.
The band works perfectly together here, with Squire’s stunning and minimalistic guitar work, but Ian Brown and Reni working remarkably well together as a singing duo.
Waterfall reversed! And what a track it is, a subtle gem that has a long build-up before delivering masterful lyrics and a chanting, shanty of a finish.
Bye Bye Badman
The most political song on the album, harking to the Parisian student riots of 1968.
Soak me to my skin,
Will you drown me in your sweet submission,
Ends and I begin,
Choke me, smoke the air,
In this citrus-sucking sunshine, I don’t care,
You’re not all there.
Famously, the band didn’t play it during their golden years. But did during their reunion, so the first time it was played in public was around 2012!
Elizabeth My Dear
Along with being anti-Tory, the band was also anti-monarchy. And this acoustic number makes Ian Brown’s views very clear on the matter.
It often wasn’t played live in the band’s sets, up until their reunion at any rate.
We were at the second day of the Heaton Park gig in 2012 and Brown had a proper anti-monarchy rant before the song. It was fabulous!
The stunned silence following it with whistling from some of the crowd showed the Brits really aren’t at all ready to break out of certain anachronisms.
Song For My (Sugar Spun Sister)
One of the band’s great underrated tracks, it’s a really gorgeous and multi-layered number brimming with clever lyrics.
From the 2:10 mark, it really hits moments of genius as the lyrics loop around the backing harmonies:
She wakes up with the sun,
She asked me what is all the fuss,
As she gave me more than she thought she should,
She wakes up with the sun,
I think what have I done,
As I gave her more than I thought I would.
We’ve come across some people online who use this song as an example for why The Stone Roses aren’t a very good band.
We counter by saying that just proves they have terrible taste in music.
Made of Stone
The lyrics of Made of Stone feel timeless, like they can apply to any capitalistic situation and will do the more climate change wreaks havoc.
It’s an anti-capitalistic song, it feels, with anthemic lyrics and a brain melting guitar solo from John Squire again.
Flat out in the top five Stone Roses song, it’s an absolute masterpiece.
Shoot You Down
Shoot You Down is the album’s chillout track, with elements of Jimi Hendrix, blues, jazz, and a bit of Hey Joe thrown in (at least with the subject matter).
It’s a fantastic number. Complex, mesmerising, and hushed in its refined sense of accomplishments.
Squire and Reni are on top form throughout it, with the lyrics hinting at something truly sinister not too far away.
This is the One
Arguably the band’s biggest anthem, it often rocks the city of Manchester during football matches and the like.
It’s a thunderous number, with spine-chilling backing vocals after its build-up. If the album had closed with this, you’d still think that was possibly the best thing any band could have ended an album with.
Except The Stone Roses had another trick up their sleeve.
I Am the Resurrection
Famous for closing most of the band’s gigs, this number begins as a simple drum beat and manifests into an almighty slug at everything.
The instrumental section is thrilling and features an incredible solo from Squire, which then gives way to what feels like a call to arms.
Chimes, chanting, and thunderous drums—it’s very much like a religious experience. Or at least a spiritual one.
A magnificent close to a stunning album.