George Starostin's Reviews



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Morgan Coe <> (30.11.2002)

Just thought I'd point out a semi-trivial detail about the first Stone Roses album: "Don't Stop" is just the rhythm track to "Waterfall" run backwards, with new vocals and effects recorded over it. The easiest way to tell is by comparing the basslines, or listening to how that pause you mention in "Waterfall" lines up with the similar pause when he says "don't [pause] stop..."

Regan Tyndall <> (24.03.2004)

Hi George, I just wrote to you regarding Sunshine Superman, and now I have more to say (yes, I'm one of the "Stone Roses are the greatest band of all time" types... you've been warned.)

I consider myself a bit of an authority here (well, I had beers with John Squire and published articles on Ian Brown, so there) so forgive me if get a bit overbearing.  I'm going to comment on your comments:

"there's still not a single song on here that just, like, totally woos me over."

Fair enough, it's your opinion.  I don't think anyone else agrees with you, though.

"kind of like what Cheap Trick were doing..."

Interesting, but be aware that drawing an analogy between The Stone Roses and Cheap Trick is like comparing Marvin Gaye to Michael Bolton...   By the way, you misquoted "I Wanna be Adored" - it's simply, "I don't have to sell my soul"

"Okay, for the prosecution now. This album is LONG and SAMEY. I don't want to say that all the songs sound the same, that would be a gross exaggeration. At the very least, there's a clear distinction between the "poppier" and the "dancier" stuff. But even that distinction is somewhat blurred by very similar production techniques."

If the LP seems long, it's because you've got the North American (1990 and after) version, which includes Elephant Stone and Fools Gold, two songs not on the original album.  Elephant Stone was recorded a whole year before the first LP came out; Fools Gold was one of double-sided single that came out in November 1989 (and was never intended to be on a album -- how cool is that?).  So, these two songs add about 13 minutes to the running time of your mp3s.

"A gross exaggeration" is putting it mildly!!  You're right that the production is somewhat monotone (the Roses themselves have always complained about this) but the songs??!  Let's see, we've got funky brooding rock (Adored), pure guitar pop (She Bangs The Drums; Waterfall; Made of Stone), arty psychedelia (Don't Stop), funky shuffle (Shoot You Down), acoustic one-off (Elizabeth my Dear), power-builders (This is the One, I Am the Resurrection), and you didn't even mention the UNBELIEVABLE outro to I Am The Resurrection, probably the most inspired instrumental and virtuostic 5 minutes of music ever recorded (bow down Jimi Hendrix Experience...and this is their first album!).  Now if we include Fools Gold, we've also got a Funkadelic meets the Beatles dance-floor tune....   In fact, yours is the first review I've ever read that didn't comment on the album's eclecticism.

"Not to mention how long the songs go on - many of them drag on for four or five minutes based on just one or two melodic ideas."

George, are we listening to the same album??  First of all, all the songs (excepting the Resurrection instrumental outro) are LESS than five minutes long.  (Okay, okay, Don't Stop is 5:17 but it's not even really a song.)  Four tracks clock in at 3 and something or less.

As for your melodic ideas comment....  What the f***???  Again, it's precisely the opposite response from all other reviews, which recognize the incredible songwriting achievement here.  Hear the instrumental middle-section of She Bangs The Drums, and you sense the Roses spinning off counter-melodies casually and disposing of them.  What about the three sections of the sublime Waterfall?  This album has been noted in publications as one of the few that matches the Beatles best in sheer melodies.  One writer described it as "an embarrassment of tuneful riches."

"How good is that for a 'revolutionary' album?" 

Well, you're the one who said it was revolutionary, not The Stone Roses...  You should review the music, not the hype (incidentally, the "hype" surrounding the Stone Roses in Britain occurred well after fans had discovered the band.  The press were the last to embrace them.  The Roses themselves hated the whole "Madchester" scene and distanced themselves from it; meanwhile, hordes of imitators walked in and reaped the commercial benefits.)

"I don't get the point of 'Elizabeth My Dear', which, for no apparent reason, crosses the instrumental/vocal melody of 'Scarborough Fair' with the lyrical bravado of 'Her Majesty.' "  

Does a 59 second melody need a "point?"  The point is an anti-monarchy statement, with a tune and some humour.  That melody of 'Scarborough Fair' is an uncopywrited traditional melody (hence, perfect for a monarchical statement... in case you missed "the point") from centuries past... not Paul Simon's.

"Certain songs, like '(Song For My) Sugar Spun Sister', are a hookless waste of tape."

Okay you admit you're nitpicking, but so am I!  Again, are we hearing the same tune??  If this song doesn't qualify as an immediate, catchy as SARS hook, then what the hell does???  You can sing along with this song after hearing two minutes of it.

You're probably right that the lyric "I Am the Resurrection" is going over the top, but that was part of the appeal of this band in their time.  This in an independent album, which in late 80s UK meant dull, depressing, dark and unambitious music that was self-consciously too cool to say much of anything.  Along came the Roses and ambition was "cool" again.

You may (just "may," mind) have a point about the album not having too many moods... Early Stone Roses tends to be either (a) pure bliss and joy, or (b) veangeful spite (i.e.: I Am The Resurection, Shoot You Down, etc.).  In any case, this LP is not nearly as "pop" as you describe it, and it always makes you feel good no matter your mood.

[Special author note: A few counterobjections, if I may:

(a) I was never comparing the music of the Stone Roses to that of Cheap Trick. The analogy was of a global, 'socio-musical' character rather than anything else. I thought it was obvious. Was I mistaken?

(b) I've very rarely seen this album praised for its eclecticism, of all things. (Granted, I've read far more "informal" reviews of it than "formal" ones. Your description, making distinctions between "pure guitar pop" and "power-builders" or between "funky shuffle" and "funky brooding rock", actually strikes me as a 'save-face' attempt - I could make a point about Back In Black being diverse, as it includes "fast ass-kicking rock'n'roll" ('Shoot To Thrill'), "slow dark power-builders" ('Hell's Bells'), "brooding heavy balladry" ('Let Me Put My Love Into You'), "anthemic power chord-based epics" ('Rock'n'Roll Ain't Noise Polution'), "retro Seventies' party rock" ('You Shook Me All Night Long'), etc.

(c) I do like the album quite a bit, and where my negative remarks had more to do with the hype than the actual music, I did specifically state that.

(d) Whatever excuses one might make for 'I Am The Resurrection' serving its purpose at the right time in the right place, unfortunately, do not make it any less embarrassing, from the ideological point of view, today.]


Tony Souza <> (05.03.2003)

I guess it's one of the unwritten rules that everybody must hate this record because it's not like their debut (just like there's the rule that everybody must hate R.E.M.'s Monster), but I don't care -- I've listened to both and I like this one far better. That's just a matter of taste -- their debut was very good but I just like the more rocking sound of this one. You do have to get past the jungle rhythms in the first part of "Breaking into Heaven" , but once you do you will be rewarded with a fine, driving rock song. "Driving South" is another excellent song that showcases not just Squire, but also the bass playing of Mani who shines throughout the album. It's not a perfect album by a long shot though,as I think it's a bit overlong and Brown's thin voice sometimes doesn't match the power of the music.

Regan Tyndall <> (24.03.2004)

I don't have much to say about your Second Coming review (I'm glad you assessed it close in quality to the first one), other than this:  

"fans wrinkled their noses in disgust"

Well, this is a case of you believing too much wonky UK press. The UK press hammered the Roses in 94-95 for taking too long to make the album, and then for not giving advance copies of it, or any interviews, to the press when they finally released it. Instead, the Roses gave the album and an interview to The Big Issue magazine which is sold by street vendors to make money for the homeless. "Love Spreads" went straight to number 2 in the charts (their biggest ever hit; it was also #1 on KROQ in Los Angeles). The album came out and sold a lot more than the first one, charting 15 places higher, shifting tens of thousands in the first weeks. They sold 48,000 tickets for the UK tour in 24 hours. Ian Brown told the story of one reviewer slagging Second Coming off in the press, and then telling him six months later that it was his album of the year.

By the way, did you know that about 2 years ago, there was a huge UK nation-wide polling about music of fans, record-buyers, DJs, Journalists et al., and the result was The Stone Roses voted the #1 album of all time (yes, they beat the Beatles and Bob Dylan). And this was an independent album released with little or no fanfare, which barely cracked the top 20 of the charts.... In the USA, the UK-phobic Rolling Stone magazine listed it one the "200 Essential albums" of all time,and wisely ignored everything by Blur and Oasis.

And let's not forget that pretty much every UK artist/band of the 90s claimed direct inspiration from them. Some of these include: Oasis, Blur, The Verve, Garbage (well, Shirley Mansun was obsessed with them), Orbital, The Chemical Brothers, Kula Shaker, Texas, The Charlatans (the most blatant Roses imitators), The Bluetones, Embrace, James Lavelle / UNKLE, Liam from the Prodigy, Blur, Ocean Colour Scene.... I could go on. One guy from Soundgarden and Sheryl Crow are also huge fans.

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