So it’s over. The dust has settled, the sing alongs are over, and the scores are in. Whether it was just a really good gig or one the greatest of all time can be left to music historians. What is clear is that the fans loved it, bellowing every last syllable and riff – and rumour has it Ian Brown actually almost hit the right note on occasion (obvious lies).
Reading won’t be treated to the final leg of the reunion, that honour has been bestowed upon the pop loving V Festival. Seeing as we’re not the bitter sort, we’ve decided to dedicate this week’s Top Ten to the songs that made the Roses great.
One of the essential elements that made the Roses so important to so many people was their ability sound both dreamy and optimistic while dealing with genuine despair. “Mersey Paradise” skips and shimmers along innocuously as Ian Brown contemplates homicide (“I’ll Push Her Under While She Drowns, And Couldn’t Breathe And Claws For Air”) and his own seemingly terminal depression. The uplift comes from Brown’s demented escapism, his dream of drifting freely in the cool river (suicide or simply escaping Manchester and his woes?).
Or is it all a giant piss take on Liverpool, and a satire on the kind of sunshine indie that idealises the river and the sea? Could be.
Every guitarist wants to have his Hendrix moment where he stampedes the listener with the power of his riffs and the soul of his playing, and for John Squire it appeared that moment would never come. He was always slave to the whole: the glorious layered sound that stressed no single element – creating rich grooves and amorphous moods. Well that all changed in 1994 when, in between Brown’s relatively slick verse and chorus, Squire was allowed to show off the kind of meaty chops that would that would earn even Jimmy Page’s respect.
“When Your Heart Is Black Broken, And You Need A Helping Hand”. Brown had written many brazen radio friendly anthems in his time, but never had he so transparently attempted to pen a defining pop sentiment. “Ten Storey Love Song” is undoubtedly The Roses least subtly effort, but that doesn’t diminish its effect or take away just how damn engaging the track is. In a way, through its simplistic and wide-eyed charm, it captures something of stupidity and hopefulness of young love, free of cynicism and skeptical second-guessing.
Back in 1987 “Sally Cinnamon” felt far less contrived than “Ten Storey Love Song”. The track is equally fawning in its devotion but there is something in the tunelessness of Brown’s wail, the thunderous unpolished assault of the rhythm section, and the great shattered glass effect that gives this little ditty far more urgency than it has any right to posses. “Sally Cinnamon” is raw, loveably so, the imagery (rain clouds) and grating rhymes have a slapped together feeling that helps lend the track a surprisingly earnest and in the moment air.
The young Ian Brown didn’t seem to have much luck with the ladies. “Shoot You Down” is perhaps the Roses most seductive track. It melts like a sundrenched 70s anthem with an exceptionally smooth flow that mixes 60s and 70s guitar sounds into the Roses’ typically layered indie sound. Lyrically, it’s more levelheaded than “Mersey Paradise”, there is no morbid quality despite what the title might imply. Misogyny is alluded to, but by the end of the track it’s clear that Brown has simply come to terms with his loathed ex-lover.
Instead the track has the wonderful feeling of reflection, at one time it would have been a remorseful lament, but Brown appears to have moved beyond his feelings of hate as he croons.