The Very Best of the Stone Roses ; Outpost Transmission
A funny, seemingly magical thing happened to the northern English canal port city of Manchester as the early 1990s crept up on pop music: It became Madchester. Fueled by good ecstasy and sporting casual baggy clothes, the town's bored youth upended Britain's striated, London-centered music paradigm by partying to both innovative rock and dance music. New releases by two of the scene's driving forces -- indie gods the Stone Roses and techno nutters 808 State -- give some insight into the Madchester era and its influence.
The Very Best of the Stone Roses comprises choice cuts from that defunct group's two albums and various singles, and posits them as the scene's serious drug-groove rockers, opposite their party-hearty brethren in Madchester's more (in)famous Happy Mondays. Led by growling lead singer Ian Brown and masterful guitarist Jon Squire, the Roses were psychedelic to the bone, from early chiming jams like "Sally Cinnamon" through to the more Zeppelinesque "Love Spreads." But you can pinpoint the era's true open-minded spirit in two 1989 tunes: the soaring, guitar-powered chant "I Wanna Be Adored" and the coolly funky "Fool's Gold." Only the fellow Mancunians of Oasis could truly take over after the Roses crashed and burned in the mid-'90s.
808 State hasn't stopped since it transfixed Madchester's rockers and ravers in 1990 with gorgeously crafted techno tunes like "Pacific State" and "Cubik." Outpost Transmission, the band's ninth album, finds producer Graham Massey and his trio extending Madchester's broad-minded legacy, as they leap effortlessly from the synth-pop tweak of "606" to the down-tempo vocal balladry of "Lemonsoul" and on to frenzied rhythmic experiments like "Doctors & Nurses." 808's disciplined digital sound may have grounded the heady notions of the Stone Roses during Madchester, but it certainly hasn't drained them of their spontaneity all these years later.
It's still in the cards as to whether this war generation can follow up the cynical '80s electro-pop revival with a rekindling of Madchester's naive alchemy. But albums like these may constitute a decent blueprint.
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