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Why the Stone Roses documentary is can't-miss cinema

Why the Stone Roses documentary is can't-miss cinema
Photo By Ian Tilton

In the late '80s and early '90s, the Stone Roses flirted with the chance to become the biggest rock band in the world. But of course, things didn't quite work out that way. A new documentary called Made Of Stone revisits the madcap history of these influential lads from Manchester, and captures the brilliance and chaos of their 2012 reunion tour that brought them to Coachella.

The film, directed by longtime fan Shane Meadows (This Is England), gets its local debut this Thursday at the Riverview Theater. It'll likely be as close as local fans will get to seeing the Stone Roses, which makes it all the more essential.

The Stone Roses evolved out of a dingy mid-'80s U.K. scene that was in desperate need of some colorful personalities. Vintage footage of the band interspersed in the film highlights singer Ian Brown's neon-drenched smocks, drummer Reni's instantly recognizable bucket hat, John Squire's swelling, spiraling guitars, and his Jackson Pollock-indebted cover art that graces much of their work and instruments.

Here's the cover of the single that gave the film its name:

Why the Stone Roses documentary is can't-miss cinema

The creative partnership between Squire and Brown produced hits straight from the start. So much so, that despite its strength as an early single, the band were confident enough to leave the resplendent gem "Sally Cinnamon" of their renowned 1989 self-titled debut, and boldly forged ahead with taking the UK music world by storm. And as the Stone Roses' appeal grew, so did their cocky belief in their talents, which made as many headlines as their music. It'd be easy to argue that the Roses gave Oasis's constantly quarreling Noel and Liam Gallagher a template to follow while they were breaking big.

The swirling conceits of "I Wanna Be Adored" and "I Am the Resurrection" served as defiant underdog anthems that swept up disenfranchised music fans and made us all feel like we were part of something far more grand. The Stone Roses seemed to be the perfect band for those times, but their brilliance flashed so brightly that it was ultimately never destined to last.

Due to record label issues and infighting, it took five years to release a follow-up for the shaggy Mancunian quartet's landmark debut. Some of their magic definitely dried up by then, and after a disappointing Second Coming, the group dissolved rather miserably in 1996. Much like Dig!, the 2004 film that explores the fortunes and misfortunes of the Dandy Warhols and frenemy tourmates the Brian Jonestown Massacre, Made of Stone shows that talent isn't enough to keep a band from coming apart at the seams.

 

At Coachella last year, the reunited Stone Roses played to a rapidly diminishing crowd despite their headlining status. Event organizers even switched their place on the bill with Blur the following weekend. And it just seemed rather sad that modern fans weren't moved enough by the band to stick around and witness a bit of musical history. Naturally, there was never a scheduled Minnesota date either.

But in the U.K., the Stone Roses reunion tour was greeted with a furor akin to a resurrection and subsequent second coming, and their string of highly-anticipated shows sold out instantly.

Made of Stone captures the electricity of those shows, culminating in the celebratory homecoming gigs at Manchester's Heaton Park, which drew 220,000 fans over the course of three nights. No matter what the band looks or sounds like at this point, the rabid response that their jubilant songs deserve is on full display.

At those moments, the reunion makes perfect sense. "She Bangs the Drums," "Waterfall," and "Fools Gold" still have the power and potency to shake the souls of an audience, whether you were lucky enough to be there in person or you're jealously watching on the big screen. Either way, the Stone Roses as personalities and musicians merit this type of celebration.

Made of Stone just might be as close as we come to witnessing the Stone Roses' musical brilliance firsthand. Personally, I'll always be more interested in the creative, audacious early days of the band. Despite how magnificent "Love Spreads" and "Ten Storey Love Song" are, part of me wishes that Second Coming would never have been released, with the Roses lone artistic statement being their flawless debut.

But while watching Made of Stone, you can't help but feel the excitement of the current fans who have waited a lifetime for the opportunity to finally see the Roses play live. Would it have been best to leave those rapturous emotions locked tidily away in the past? You be the judge.


The Stone Roses: Made of Stone. $10, 9 p.m., Thursday, November 7 at Riverview Theater. Tickets here. 


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