film review: The Stone Roses: Made of Stone

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film review: The Stone Roses: Made of Stone

Music documentaries seem to enjoying a resurgance in recent years. Just in the last year or so we’ve seen Reincarnated, The Frames: In The Deep Shade, Neil Young Journeys, Sound City, Searching for Sugar Man, and of course LCD Soundsystem’s Shut Up and Play the Hits (review)

Unfortunately, not all music docs are created equally. In fact, I’d be tempted to say that more than a few music docs leave much to be desired. I suppose it’s a difficulty with the genre. We’re basically watching group biographies here and the best biographies are generally of the warts and all type. Problem is, when it comes to a music doc the only audience you can rely on seeing it are the fans, so the pressure’s on to produce something that going to appeal to them. So you get something that plays up the good, glosses over the bad and has a whole lot of music in it.

There’s a few music docs recently that have got around that – Searching for Sugar Man and Anvil: The Story of Anvil bypassed it by being films that were specifically about artists who don’t really have a following, at least not in the target audience. For the average band, you’re not going to get that freedom.

So we’re left with a film like The Stone Roses: Made of Stone.

Which is not to say that it’s a bad film. Or that The Stone Roses were an average band. It’s just that it’s probably a little more… reverential than it needs to be. Or if I’m been cruel… pandering. It swiftly skims over the legal troubles, numerous line-up changes and pays no attention to the 15 year gap in the band’s history. No mention is even made of Ian Brown’s very successful solo career.

I guess we’re meant to assume that The Stone Roses = Life.

But in an odd way, it gets away with it.

Director Shane Meadows, of This Is England fame, is an unashamed Stone Roses fan and his love for the band is infectious. Before seeing it I had wondered why one of the shining light of British film had decided to switch into music documentaries – when you see him talking about them, it makes perfect sense. Who would turn down the chance to make a film about their favourite band ever?

Indeed, where the film shines is when they talk to the fans. In May 2012, as a warm up to the comeback tour, The Stone Roses gave something back to the fans by playing a free gig in Parr Hall, Warrington. It was the first public gig they’d played in 16 years and, understandably, fans were desperate to get their hands on tickets. Shane Meadows quickly delves into what The Stone Roses mean to these fans and it really brings to the fore how influential the band really were, far more than archive footage from the ’80s.

It’s also worth mentioning that the film brings nothing new to the table in terms our understanding of Ian, Reni, Mani and John. While Meadows has followed them around on tour and rehearsal, there are no new sit down interviews with the band, just some footage from the press announcement of the gigs and some gigging banter.

The reason The Stone Roses: Made of Stone works is because it’s a film for fans, by a fan with some formidable film-making talent. Even though some of the songs did drag for me (I have never been a fan of Waterfall) it’s a great showcase of their talent. They may have only had two albums but damn did they have some fantastic tunes.

If you’re a fan of The Stone Roses, it’s a must see, but even if you just enjoy their tunes, it’s worth a look. It might reignite a love you didn’t know you had.


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