A Mani Splendid Thing

Two-disc set celebrating Manchesters baggy-trousered dance-rock primates

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The most invigorating British band since The Smiths and the most complete pop unit since The Beatles, The Stone Roses were contenders who should have been kings. Landing at a critical chink in time?the late ’80s: guitars edging back into vogue, the twin headflush of acid house and Ecstasy?they perfectly embodied the blurring of the tribes, spearheading (alongside the grubbier Happy Mondays) the Madchester charge that eventually exploded with the Oasis phenomenon. In the era of U2/Simple Minds pomp-rock, the Roses cut through the crap and reconnected on a human level. To the dour indie ’80s, when underachievement was hip, they brought back crisp-clean guitars and funky bass runs, cited The Beatles and Hendrix as touchstones and weren’t afraid to aim as high. A shame they blew it.

These two discs capture the supernova moment. Disc one features six promos (“Waterfall”; “Fool’s Gold”; “I Wanna Be Adored”; “Standing Here”; “One Love”; “She Bangs The Drums”), which are, oddly enough, the least impressive things here. Pasted together from identical clips?lots in super-slo-mo?Ian Brown, John Squire, Gary “Mani” Mounfield and Alan “Reni” Wren all look undersold. The hour-long footage of August 1989’s near-legendary Blackpool Empress Ballroom gig is far more revealing. It proves the Roses were irresistible, a band riding the blinding flash of an intense career arc. The classic iconography’s all there?bucket hats, bowl fringes, flares, Brown doing the blank-eyed slung monkey?as prototype for all Manchester’s (and Britpop’s) subsequent attitude and occasional brilliance. The interlocking of Mani’s bubbling bass and Squire’s precise, fluid guitar with Reni’s polyrhythmic beat confirms what a monumental clap of thunder “I Am The Resurrection” was, dissolving into mantric loops of noise, Squire as coolly detached as Marr ever was, a redundant Brown pounding drumsticks on the floor.

Disc Two collects various TV appearances. Most notoriously, their live debut on BBC2’s The Late Show?a power cut stopping dead “Made Of Stone” 45 seconds in. While presenter Tracey MacLeod awkwardly attempts to fill in, an affronted Brown rants “Amateurs! Amateurs!” over her left shoulder. A Top Of The Pops “Fool’s Gold” is straightforward enough, but “Waterfall” (from Granada’s Other Side Of Midnight) is thrilling, as is a tightly filmed “Elephant Stone” for obscure music channel Music Box, the band oozing darkly exotic cool. Two clips from BBC2’s SNUB TV (“I Wanna Be Adored” and “Sugar Spun Sister”) capture them in full swagger live at the Ha


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