Does this mean we can do away with those mediocre tribute acts? The return of The Stone Roses at the overcast Heaton Park didn’t evoke all that much nostalgia, as one might have expected, but rather induced sheer euphoria from the moment Mani eased himself into the slow burning bass line of I Wanna Be Adored. It was less of a “resurrection” and more as though they had awoken from a coma; they wanted to make up for lost time.
If you wanted to critique this reunion as you would a normal gig then you might complain that they packed most of their major hits into the back half of the show. But you’d miss the point – this isn’t a normal gig. The band valued each song tremendously and indiscriminately, every one being a fragment of a hindered but superb 13 years together. Almost everyone knew every word; they’ve had 16 years to memorise them after all.
The Stone Roses’ crowd so adored the band that few of Ian Brown’s lyrics slipped by unchanted. One could expect this of the crescendos of This is the One or Made of Stone, but the Roses even transformed elegant album tracks such as Shoot You Down and (Song for My) Sugar Spun Sister into demi-anthems.
The single potential weakness was always Ian Brown’s voice. It has deteriorated, although it’s just never been particularly strong live anyway. In fairness, however, Brown remained mostly in tune even when singing the lilting choruses of Ten Story Love Song (perhaps with a somewhat gruffer intonation). But then again, who cares? Brown the singer comes second to Brown the performer, as vindicated by his freestyle rapping amidst the bluesy rotations of Love Spreads.
Curiously, he spoke little between songs, although he did have time to make some acute observations: “Looking out, I can see we still got the best looking girls… innit.” Eloquent as ever – best you stay a man of few words, Mr Brown. Conversely, the one-minute Elizabeth My Dear was preceded by some pleasingly scathing words about the monarch: “This song’s dedicated to those parasites down the road … Celebrating 60 years of tyranny!” I guess this was Madchester’s turn for a jubilee.
Ian Brown is just one of the talented egos in The Stone Roses. John Squire, though solemn and silent in his “stage presence,” was nevertheless impeccable as his guitar solos layered on top of Mani and Reni’s circular rhythms, in songs such as She Bangs The Drums, similar to how his Pollock-inspired artwork complimented the original LPs and singles – the very aesthetic that infused the impressive lighting and graphics and as such illuminated the local acres of Heaton Park.
Fools Gold also showcased the record-perfect precision with which The Stone Roses play – I’m sure they didn’t used to be this tight. The song, at 10 minutes long, is hypnotic and enveloping, especially when offset by the fans’ flares lighting the sunset sky, a moment that helped transcend the night into the domain of the truly remarkable.
A fitting coda for The Stone Roses was psychedelic symphony I Am the Resurrection, John Squire once again affirming he is the greatest British guitarist from the 80s. Indeed, it was a fitting coda for those who rushed to beat the traffic. But after the hugs and bows, fireworks followed. Even a casual fan (never mind a blind devotee) couldn’t help but feel a pang of sentimentality as a mature Stone Roses delivered on the success that couldn’t sustain itself in the mid-90s.
They have Tony Nicklinson on a technicality. At present, the difference between a lawful suicide and a killing is who delivers that final, irreversible push from the land of malady to no man’s land. A doctor would have to give Tony Nicklinson his final push to commit a rational consensual suicide; but that’s illegal. He hasn’t the physical capacity to end it himself because of his condition, except via starvation – a long process perhaps more painful than death or the locked-in syndrome brought about by a stroke that is his daily torturer.
Any empathetic person can understand why Tony wants to end his life, or at least have the option rather than endure a future “[condemned] to a ‘life’ of increasing misery.” He cannot walk or talk, but he can cry. To communicate, a computer or assistant patiently compiles each letter in a frustrating process involving an alphabet board and an eyelid twitch. This is his only form of expression. (Although, Twitter has allowed Tony to communicate with over 40,000 people.) His body works like a burnt-out engine; there are no automatic movements – bar some facial muscles – but sometimes manual cranking will produce results. For example, an assistant must tap the back of Tony’s tongue with a spoon to induce a swallow. The present incarnation of Tony distressingly contrasts with the Tony before the debilitating stroke he suffered in 2005. He was a husband, father of two, a travelling civil engineer with a sharp humour and enjoyed rugby among other sports. This already reads like the first draft of an especially flattering obituary.
Nevertheless, the stalwart mind of Tony Nicklinson continues to be just that. He has recently attempted to redefine UK law through a High Court case, a confrontation with the authorities that displays his admirably non-ideological approach. He does not look to change the law but instead looks to reinterpret its current standing by evoking “the common law defence of necessity.” This would allow a doctor to help shorten his life while keeping that doctor a free man. Although such a reinterpretation seems valid, it would trespass the forbidden territory of euthanasia.
The crux of the argument espoused by the opposition to legalising euthanasia, i.e. the “Not Dead Yet” campaign, is that the act of suicide is private and as such should involve no other individuals. Their logic concludes that assisted suicide and killing are synonymous if that final push is delivered by anyone other than the person who will die. Their logic excludes one major component: choice.
Among the defenders of the present law is a columnist for The Independent, Christina Patterson, who said: “And if the law that makes you sad makes most people safer then maybe your sadness … is the price we all have to pay.” Just how preventing assisted suicide makes other people “safer” remains curiously unexplained and a non sequitur. It feeds into the “slippery slope” school of thought that once the authorities legalise something controversial, e.g. abortion, it will be used as a quick fix for difficult moral conundrums.
Who says this has to be the case? Although I abhor the death penalty, when used (not in Britain), it is mostly used with extreme caution and as an ultimate punishment. Give western mankind its credit: when the educated among us do deal with death, we understand that there is no counter-remedy. Euthanasia, too, would only be used only with absolute seriousness.
Kelvin Fitzpatrick, a disability rights campaigner, uses similar non sequiturs. He says that allowing euthanasia for the seriously infirm could lead to a covert decision concluding that society will consider the disabled a burden or that, in some way, a disabled life is worth less. Not so! We are not all like Martin Amis, who recently recommended euthanasia as a solution to mass ageing problems brought about by the baby boom generation. Oh dear.
I digress. Those against euthanasia reform still talk as though legalising the practice is essentially allowing clinical killings. They factor out “choice” as instrumental in the death. Legalisation would not allow the specialists of our NHS a mandate to kill, but would instead insist that an outside body is necessary to remedy the cruellest existences – helping cure maladies is a doctor’s job, after all.
Hitherto, as no doctor would give morphine to ease a headache, no doctor would allow euthanasia where one can see hope. Likewise, as a patient can reject medication, a patient would be able to reject the ultimate remedy to dire circumstances. (Involuntary euthanasia is essentially murder if there is chance of recovery – unless a particular situation is preempted.)
While watching Terry Pratchett’s documentary on euthanasia last year, I found the process made my head faint and my skin clammy as I was rocked by recorded and artificial death. But despite many people’s aversion to the mechanics behind euthanasia (or their more understandable dislike of death in general), one should be accepting of another’s right to choose and think for themselves; half of which Tony Nicklinson does more soundly than those, such as Christina Patterson, who show a cold piety towards the dated laws prohibiting acts of compassionate assisted suicide. Likewise, the irony of Kelvin Fitzpatrick’s position is that he claims to stand for disability rights – where is Tony Nicklinson’s right to death? Perhaps the neuroscientist Sam Harris is correct in saying that the staunch but sincere opposition to euthanasia just cannot comprehend that sometimes living can be worse than death.
Jack White sings: “I’m the man with the name, hip eponymous poor boy…”
Indeed, it is true – from this rare moment of self-reflection during the innocent but telling album track Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy -
that the conquering theme of Jack White’s latest album is, as ever, that particular brand of relationship angst that turns him into a “poor boy”. This time, however, the troubles come not through the children’s book imagery of the mythical “unfurled” White Stripes; instead, a more mature and serious Jack derives them from his recent divorce from Karen Elson, a musical separation from Meg White, and his eternal blues.
His latest album, Blunderbuss
, named after an 18th century “elephant” gun, contains all of Jack’s famed cognitive dissonance and relationship angst. Although five years on from The White Stripes’ final album, his signature blues have matured and his guitar is more restrained. The paradox of his first solo effort, however, is that only now he is on his own is his sound at its fullest. He employs any instrument needed to make the recorded track match the sound in his head, from the steel pedal slide guitar on the Neil Young-like title track to the ragtag piano that opens I Guess I Should to Sleep
. It seems that moving his musical empire to Nashville has liberated him.
From the near-profound single Love Interruption
, Jack’s caustic guitar tones (see 2003 song Ball and Biscuit
for that) have largely been substituted for violent lyrics: “I want Love to … stick a knife inside of me and twist it all around.” Likewise, during opener Missing Pieces
White sings of ex-spouses literally leaving relationships with his limbs: “I looked down and my legs were long gone.” Has Jack gone from disillusionment with love to outright masochism? Or maybe the ever-present women in his songs are more villainous than ever. Either way, these macabre metaphors mean Jack must not be faking his blues – they seem all too vivid to have been conjured up.
Likewise, in Hypocritical Kiss
, you could be convinced that Jack White is arguing with himself: “And who the hell’s impressed by you? I want a name for people that I know who are fallin’ for this.” It’s almost too self-deprecating to bear. The theatre of Jack White’s own internal argument is made overly dramatic by the Vaudville piano, which, unfortunately, overrides other instrumentation. Similarly, Jack’s angry monologue in the song may help you forget about his playful and spontaneous side.
However, the album’s carefree moment is the cover, I’m Shakin’
. It allows Jack White to flex his musical muscles: the scaled riff, the gospel howls, the solo squeals and muffled vocal that candidly shout: “I’m Noivuss.” (The song will make you want to emulate the famous Pulp Fiction / John Travolta and Uma Thurman dance.) It’s a rare moment of early 60s fun equalled only by the other single, the garage-rock Sixteen Saltines
- the brash four chord riff is bound to draw out anyone’s inner air guitar (the one that probably hasn’t been used since The White Stripes’ days).
Throughout most of Blunderbuss
, Jack has jauntiness in his vocal delivery. The playful, near-freestyle approach is notable in songs such as Freedom at 21
and Weep Themselves to Sleep
, both of which contrast fantastically the dark themes he sings of. In Freedom at 21
, Jack White delivers embittered lyrics such as, “Smile on her face, she does what she damn-well please,” and uses every weapon of his vocal arsenal to deliver them.
Although the new album will justly be considered by critics and audiences alike as an evolution rather than a revolution of Jack’s folky sounds of Americana, Jack does become somewhat progressive in the final two songs of the album, especially within the many acts of Take Me with You When You G
o. I wonder if this counts as prog-country?
Nevertheless, Jack White, whether in a progressive or nostalgic mood, is always impressively authentic. Even the dud songs will surprise you on further listens. Blunderbuss
reaffirms White’s urge to seem both genuine and melancholy in spite of his mainstream appeal, something he once again accomplishes with idiosyncratic and eccentric charisma.Favourite tracks: Sixteen Saltines, Love Interruption, I’m Shakin’, Hip (Eponymous) Poor Boy.Least favourite tracks: Hypocritical Kiss, Trash Tongue Talker.8.5/10First published on The Student Review - www.thestudentreview.co.uk