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Coachella preview: The Stone Roses and Blur

by Ryo Miyauchi

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The Stone Roses (Friday)

Genre: Alternative Rock

Choice Track: “I Wanna Be Adored” (1989)

 

If you looked at the lineup when it was first announced and asked yourself, “Who are The Stone Roses?” you are not alone. In order to answer the burning question big enough to spawn a Tumblr meme, there are many facets to discuss, with most centered around the late ‘80s and early ‘90s U.K. culture.

The Stone Roses and its 1989 self-titled debut album are ultimately the glorious stamp of a previous era, a moment where psychedelia was a renewed interest. The then-popular acid movement thrived on ecstasy and house music, a period famously noted as the “Second Summer of Love.” One of the prominent music scenes of the era was Madchester, which mixed psychedelic rock with acid house spaz. On the rock side of the scene, two names stuck out in Madchester: Happy Mondays and The Stone Roses. While Happy Mondays goofed around with colorful pastures of the party scene, The Stone Roses appeared to stand as something bigger than playboys of psychedelia.

The Stone Roses’ singles sound huge and somewhat like an out-of-body experience. Rock songs of the band ring sweet and fuzzy as frontman Ian Brown floats along like a spiritual guide. But the songs don’t sound like they were made by old hippies. The men of The Stone Roses are cool rock star junkies on another level.

The trends followed by U.K. bands in the early ‘90s carried traces of The Stone Roses. Indie-adored Shoegaze is a descendent of the dazed psychedelia of the band. The rise of Brit-pop grew from the free spirit of Madchester. There’s even firsthand proof that young Liam Gallagher was influenced to start a rock band after a Stone Roses show, which later became Oasis. Gallagher’s arrogant persona also gets a nod from how Brown carries himself.

Of course, The Stone Roses wouldn’t be in the Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival lineup (especially as a headliner) if it wasn’t an incredible band. The riffs of singles such as “Waterfall” and “She Bangs the Drums” instantly bleed perfectly for the huge venue that is the desert of Coachella. And the highlight “I Wanna Be Adored” is explosive as an anthem.

I often hear taking LSD is an experience where you hear colors and see sounds. If that’s true, Stone Roses’ songs are no different. Whether you know The Stone Roses or not, it’s going to be a trip of a lifetime on Friday night at Coachella.

 

Blur (Friday)

Genre: Alternative Rock

Choice Track: “Parklife” (1994)

 

Maybe before you even asked yourself “Who are the Stone Roses,” you first asked, “Who is Blur?” Well, that is a more difficult question to answer, mostly because of Blur’s constantly changing sound. Oh, and how it succeeded at every step.

Blur was basically the face of ‘90s Brit-pop, rivaled only by Oasis, a spectacle pushed by the mainstream in the ‘90s by NME magazine. Pushing its Madchester-influenced debut aside, Blur’s game-changing string of albums starting from “Modern Life is Rubbish” redefined its name and British pop music in the process. Following with the witty “Parklife” and pompous “The Great Escape,” Blur wrote an unofficial trilogy chronicling British trials and tribulations.

But then, the latter half of the ‘90s displayed a change in gear. Guitarist Graham Coxon converted the rest of the band into American alternative rock, resulting in the buzzy switch-up “Blur.” You may have heard the “woo-hoo” song from the album, aka “Song 2.” The band caught a drag (Coxon fed up with fame and frontman Damon Albarn’s emotional breakup being big ones), but  managed to turn tragedy into triumph in the woozy bummer “13.” The record contains the band’s highest of highs (“Tender”) and the lowest of lows (“No Distance Left to Run”).

Later, the band split-up, and Coxon officially left the band during the production of Blur’s final freakout “Think Tank.” Albarn focused more on his side-project Gorillaz, a name that would eventually overshadow his main act, at least here in the U.S. With the main forces in separate worlds, Blur seemed to be done. However, in 2009 it announced a two-day reunion show at Hyde Park in London.

Since then, Blur poked its creative head out to tease us all, the most recent effort being its return-to-basics anthem “Under the Westway.” For the 21st anniversary of its debut, Blur has been playing festivals to coincide with its box set reissue.

And now, Coachella 2013.

Tackle the band from any era you’d like. My choice track, “Parklife,” is for you to get acquainted with Blur’s ‘90s British snarl and witty satirical humor along with Albarn’s sweet hook and Coxon’s signature jittery riff. But there’s also more brass in “The Great Escape” for listeners’ pop nerve. More fuzz and adrenaline in “Blur.” More noodling in “13.” More world and electronic jams in “Think Tank.” My advice is that you deck out on “Midlife: Beginner’s Guide to Blur,” a best-of compilation full of big singles and not-so-known album cuts.

Or, if you’d like, listen to “Parklive,” the recent live album of its performance after the London Olympics and get yourself ready with the hits and audience cues. These guys are headliners for a reason. It doesn’t hurt to dig in and enjoy.

 

All albums of The Stone Roses and Blur mentioned are available on Spotify.

 

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