The Stone Roses: Made of Stone

The Stone Roses: Made of Stone


Reviewed by: David Graham

Resurrections don’t come much more hotly anticipated than that of the recently reformed Stone Roses, a truly seminal band who imploded just as they were peaking, their legions of fans remaining diehard to this day despite their slim discography and brevity of reign. They were literally the soundtrack for a generation, birthed from the Thatcher-era apathy depicted in Meadows’ own This Is England, glimpsed in home movie form here. This documentary focuses on the fans (Meadows included) as much as their idols, holding a mirror up to each in their middle age and attempting to bottle how much this band means to its members as well as its followers, but it’s let down by its lack of focus.

The Stone Roses came blazing out of working class Manchester in the mid-Eighties, riding on unfettered bravado and marrying punk attitude to classic Sixties folk-pop. Spearheading the Madchester movement that unified rave, indie and everything in-between, its four members briefly looked set to conquer the world before record label disputes sent them into a downward spiral towards self-destruction. The clamour for a reunion has built for nearly 20 years, during which individual members have made it clear they had no interest in such a venture, but the seemingly impossible has come to pass, much to the delight of their devotees new and old. But if the band is going to make good on its resuscitated plans for world domination they’ll have to show each other that they’ve grown up as well as grown old.

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Meadows’ intimate, unforced footage allows four distinct characters to emerge almost immediately – Reni, the life-giving joker behind the drums; Mani, the eternal lad on the bass; John, the tortured artist on guitar and Ian, the brassy loner out in front. Within the group, a tangled web of bonds becomes apparent: as school-pals, Ian and John obviously have the most history but also seem the most potentially volatile, while Mani enjoys an easy-going rhythm section brotherhood with Reni but they also seem the most likely to be professionally dissatisfied, ready to walk away at any given moment.

The director captures this friction brilliantly, but perhaps spends too much time gazing in awe at the opposite end of the spectrum: a sizeable chunk of the run-time is devoted to unbroken live renditions showcasing the Roses at their best, when everything is going right. Some of these long performances highlight how magical it is when a band that starts awkwardly imperceptibly finds its groove, but even fans may wish for a little more illumination.

The selection of songs shows an insider’s fervour however, with the lyrics often complimenting the narrative in a way that shows just how well-written and universal their work truly is. Viewers might not come away feeling they know the band any better, but even detractors will be hard pushed to deny the power of their music.

The variety of footage adds to the film’s sporadic energy, from revealing and amusing Eighties camcorder shots of Ian and John as pseudo-Mods sporting cringe-worthy hairdos to period interviews that show how the brashly swaggering band were both zeitgeist-surfers and curiously out-of-time. There’s also a sprinkling of pleasing B&W video diary footage of the recent tour, but too often Meadows falls back on indulgent interviews with mad-fer-it fans, milking the buildup to the moment of return. He succeeds in communicating how heartfelt the fan-love is, but he overestimates the worth of their contributions, painting an occasionally unflattering portrait of their lager lout-ish brio.

There’s more than enough here to keep fans happy, and the uninitiated will get a good sense of what all the fuss is about, but by choosing a commendably unconventional path Meadows has maintained a disappointing distance from his subject. This may have been their intention as well as the director’s – their mystique was always central to their appeal – but he doesn’t really scratch the surface of what makes them tick, and the incessant fan banter feels like padding after a while. It’s an enjoyable snapshot of a welcome reunion, but it’s neither as thrilling a concert film as something like Stop Making Sense or as insightful an examination of its subject as Pixies doc Loud Quiet Loud.

Reviewed on: 13 Jun 2013
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The Stone Roses: Made of Stone packshot
Rock-doc on Manchester indie rock pioneers The Stone Roses.
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Director: Shane Meadows

Starring: Ian Brown, Mani, John Squire, Alan Wren

Year: 2013

Runtime: 97 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK


Karlovy 2013

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