When I was in college, the Guitar Hero and Rock Band fad (which has since come to a merciful end) reared its ugly head, beginning in the spring of my freshman year with the release of Guitar Hero II for the Xbox 360 and lasting through the fall of my junior year with the release of Rock Band 2. The music game mania would reach its apex the fall of my sophomore year as Guitar Hero III and the first Rock Band were released back to back, and we played the hell out of those games. My interest in them ebbed as I became more and more interested in pursuing how to play the actual guitar, but those games were pretty fun while they lasted. I’m just glad I never spent any money on them. Typically, those games feature a main set list with more famous songs, as well as some bonus songs from lesser known artists that you unlock as you go. The most notable of these lesser known songs in Guitar Hero III was Dragon Force’s “Through the Fire and Flames,” as it was downright impossible to play.
However, I remember after we got bored with the main songs we tried out some of the extras, and one of them was “She Bangs the Drums” by the Stone Roses, which I had actually heard of, though I didn’t recall from where. I suggested we play it, and unlike the rest of the bonus tracks that were mostly awful, it was actually pretty good. I did some research on the Stone Roses and was surprised to discover they were absolutely beloved in England, since I hadn’t so much as sniffed a trace of them Stateside. I consulted Rolling Stone‘s 500 greatest albums list, but the Stone Roses didn’t make an appearance on it, which I found surprising since The Stone Roses is one of the most, if not the most, heavily praised British albums in the British press.
The same year (2003) Rolling Stone published their greatest albums list, British music magazine NME published their list of the 100 greatest albums of all time; The Stone Roses was number one. The next year, another British magazine called The Observer ranked The Stone Roses number one in their list of the 100 greatest British albums. In 2006, NME published their own list of the 100 greatest British albums and (naturally) The Stone Roses came in first. I find this rather massive gap in acclaim between American and British critics to be fascinating. When Rolling Stone published their list in book format in 2005, they added in The Stone Roses at number 497. (Note: Rolling Stone updated the list again in 2012; The Stone Roses was number 498.) My friend Sarah was kind enough to buy the book for me in high school, so I was very interested when thinking of what to write for this entry to read what Rolling Stone had to say about The Stone Roses:
For a few glorious moments, the Stone Roses looked like they were going to lead another British invasion. Instead, they fell apart – but first they made this incredible album, highlighted by the ecstatic eight-minute-long “I Am the Resurrection.” It singlehandedly launched Nineties Brit pop.
Now, you can call me crazy if I’m reading the above passage incorrectly, but it seems to me from that rather effusive praise there that The Stone Roses merits a higher position than number 497 or 498. And while it’s easy to pile on Rolling Stone since they put themselves out there with their opinions, I’ll refrain from doing that. It’s important to stick to the positive when making and talking about these kinds of lists, since lists are celebratory above all else. But I really wonder how The Stone Roses is so revered in England and yet so ignored in the U.S. Obviously, America isn’t England. What’s big or important here isn’t always big or important there, and vice versa. But I’ve never seen the divide between American and British critics be this wide on a particular album.