I am still baffled by how little The Stone Roses are known in the U.S. Their eponymous, first album — released in 1989 — is one of the great musical releases of all time. It’s the high-water mark of the Madchester scene in the UK that combined the sounds of classic rock, psychedelia, dream pop, and shoegaze into one cohesive, wavy trip through the unsettled mind of Manchester’s youth at time some call the “second summer of love.”
My last essay was about my experience with cancer, the body- and mind-altering effects of chemotherapy, and the sonic dissonance that helped me overcome it. I didn’t get into ‘The Stone Roses’ in that essay, but it was one of the albums I discovered during those days.
I remember mindlessly surfing through the Manhattan subway to meet a friend for a canoli while listening to this album. It fuses a lot of musical sounds that fascinate me, from the acidic tone of the guitar riffs found in early The Who recordings, to jammy interludes reminiscent of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird,’ water-splashing drums promising the innocence of childhood, a dirge-y bass tone that wasn’t as aggressive or dark as Motorhead, and the voice of Ian Brown, which was as angry as it was affectionate.
The album is like the bridge between the classic rock of the UK that died in the 60s and 70s (Rolling Stones, Beatles, Led Zeppelin, Pink Floyd), and the new era of britpop that emerged in the 90s with bands like Oasis, Blur, and The Verve. But Stone Roses has a distinct flavor that you can’t really liken as being in the same category as any of the megastars that came before or after them.
I think the main reason why that album was so big for me in those days has to do with the feeling it gives you. For me, music is about feel before you even get to the lyrics. And Stone Roses feels like you’re being wrapped in a warm, fuzzy blanket that tingles and vibrates every now and then, giving you comfort when you’re weary, a massage when you’re sore, and a piece of candy when you’re bored.
Something about that combination really struck gold for me in the chemo days, when I was looking for some respite in a unique way to get out of my own body and head—and that album filled that gap. It melded with my consciousness, and took me away to some shiny fairyland, helping me forget about the pseudo-hellish reality I was facing at the time.
It also got me thinking about getting back to college. I was gonna miss the next semester, but instead mustered the strength to power through it. The school made me write an essay arguing why I’d be able to come back, and it was the desire for intellectual stimulation and jovial camaraderie with my friends that motivated me.
Albums like ‘Stone Roses’ expanded my idea of what music could do with its lush, wall-of-noise sounds that permeates other shoegaze groups. The dense foliage in their sound was equal parts sensual and relaxing, and it pushed my idea of what art could do. What you choose to write, compose, film, paint, or draw can be an unapologetic representation of who you are with optional bells and whistles that capture a particular mood you’re trying to evoke. And that album did that to perfection.
It also just… made me feel good. And my college experience was great—throughout my treatment, I was craving that friendship and love from those closes to me, and ‘Stone Roses’ ignited my dreamy mind, reminding me that a brighter future was on the horizon. And look, there were no guarantees that I was going to survive or that there would be a new dawn that would take all the pain away, but that album gave me hope.
There is something very underrated about hope, and it’s ability to fuel you when your physical, emotional, and spiritual resources are depleted. And for me, music like this is what keeps the light flickering during those moments of darkness and pain.
I’ve been listening to this gem almost every month for the last 10 years, and there is something truly timeless about it. It doesn’t wear out, and it doesn’t lose its grit nor its shine as the tides change. It is one of those albums that becomes a part of you, and reminds you of everything you experienced when you first put it on.
There is an unwavering, endless, and inexhaustible amount of hope in this world, and for me, ‘Stone Roses’ is an album that helps me tap into that place without asking questions.
PS: If you were to only listen to one song from this album, check out ‘I Am the Resurrection.’ It’s an 8+ minute epic of two halves—the first is a rockin’ youth folk tale about a troubled love, and the second half is as close to perfect as you can get with a jam session that loses the chains of conventional songwriting found in the first half, and breaks into an epic session of riffage and soloing that tugs at your heart strings in a way that is as tender as it is profound without losing its edge.