Nick Hasted: Incandescent debut reminds us of Roses' unfulfilled promise

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The Independent Online

At the end of 1994 I was hunched round the radio with a group of friends as Radio 1's Steve Lamacq played "Love Spreads", the first new Stone Roses song in four years. The only other record we anticipated as feverishly came the following Christmas when the remnants of the Beatles released their first new single since 1970. For a brief period, the Roses mattered that much.

Throughout the 1980s, British pop kept trying to push forward musically as it had since the then-dismissed 1960s. In 1989 the heavily Beatlesque, self-titled first Stone Roses LP legitimised plundering the past. As kings of the ecstasy-fuelled "Madchester" scene, they were also hot-wired into the present.

November 1989's epic single "Fool's Gold", perfectly balancing psychedelia and shuffling rave-funk, then brazenly announced the future. Regularly reissued, it was a challenge that subsequent rock bands couldn't meet.

Neither could the Roses. "Love Spreads" was a sludgy, Led Zeppelin-raiding fiasco repeated by 1994's belated album Second Coming, sunk by heavy drug-taking and in-fighting.

Britpop had already reduced its heady manifesto to a timid replication of the 1960s. Oasis singer Liam Gallagher's loping gait and bravado shamelessly mimicked Roses singer Ian Brown.

The band petered out in November 1996. The guitarist and main songwriter John Squire now works as an artist. Brown is an indie elder statesman. They remain bitterly hostile towards each other and any prospect of a reunion. Their legacy – of 20 years of British pop content to wallow in the past, personally blown potential and a brief flash of glorious musical achievement – remains intact.

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