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[2020-05-27] Stone Roses

Playlist Primer: The Stone Roses

05/27/2020 12:00 PM

Sometimes it takes years for an album to get its due. Hailing from Manchester, UK, The Stone Roses released their eponymous debut in 1989, a record that greatly influenced the successful Britpop scene of the mid-1990s with acts like Oasis, Suede, and Pulp. But perhaps it was a little too ahead of its time; the album wasn't an immediate success, but over the years, its importance grew, slowly blooming into a British indie rock classic.

The Stone Roses kicks off with "I Wanna Be Adored," an indie anthem to many critics. It begins with a 40-second sound collage – a bold and unconventional move for a pop album – followed by a classic bassline and eventually some gorgeous pentatonic guitar riffing. (Pentatonic refers to a five-note scale, equivalent to a major scale with the 4th and 7th notes omitted.) With its laid-back tempo, the song features a simple structure of only two sections: a four-bar G-D-G-D-Em chord progression followed by an eight-bar bridge shifting repeatedly between D and C. The whole is greater than the sum of those parts!

Things speed up a bit with the album's second track, "She Bangs the Drums." It's more of a conventional pop flavor, with its memorable bass intro accompanied by a disco-esque hi-hat groove and an even catchier harmonic chorus. A traditional I-IV-V pop song with some tasty guitar licks shining through in the bridge section, it's easy to see how this became their first Top 40 hit in the UK.

The mood mellows again with the album's fourth cut, "Waterfall." Opening with several seconds of guitar drone, the vocals make their entrance early with the main rhythm guitar riff, without drums, so they really stand out. Interestingly, John Squire plays a D5 riff with a capo on the fourth fret, so the chord you hear is actually an F#5. The energy picks up again when the drums come in around the 32-second mark, a swinging beat emphasized on the hi-hat in a brisk tempo that gives the song momentum, but light enough not to overstep the song's ethereal atmosphere.

Out of any of the band's releases, The Stone Roses – produced by engineer John Leckie, who also worked with renowned acts Pink Floyd and Radiohead – received the most critical acclaim by far. The Observer Music Monthly deemed it the best British album of all time – stunning praise in the land that brought us The Beatles and David Bowie. This proves that a band can sometimes hit the jackpot on the very first try, even if critical success comes later.

Leila Abdul-Rauf is a multi-instrumentalist and composer based in Oakland, CA. Leila is guitarist and vocalist for metal bands Vastum, Hammers of Misfortune, and ethereal post-punk band Terebellum. She also composes and produces ambient music under her own name, with electronic trio Ionophore and synth-folk duo Fyrhtu. Leila has toured internationally and is a private guitar and voice teacher in her spare time.

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