Ian Brown

Unfinished Monkey Business

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Several years on, and still everyone is playing that first Stone Roses LP, one of the great achievements in British rock and pop. But the magnificence of that well-loved album has also been the problem since. The Roses spent the early '90s suing the label that released it, then signed a new, bigger deal, released a total dud of a turd of a turkey of a second LP, lost its members one by one, then mercifully quit with a whimper. Fantastic guitarist John Squire ruined Second Coming with his sudden obsession with Jimmy Page-style wank-soloing, and his subsequent LP with the Seahorses is an equally miserable piece of bad bombast for the same reason. So now it's singer Ian Brown's turn, his first post-Roses try at convincing the world that The Stone Roses was not a momentary fluke, an accidental, monumental treasure. But he, too, falls a little short. Without Squire (at least the 1989 version!), Brown is lacking in guitar talent. The work here, though competent, is pedestrian. The bass and drums are also well below the level of Mani and Reni. And also, without Squire's help, Brown's songwriting is vaguely hooky but average. Perhaps Unfinished Monkey Business is too well titled. But unlike Second Coming and the Seahorses, at least this feels good to listen to, as compelling background sound. What Brown lacks in backing and material, he does his best to make up for with singing attitude, groove, and, most of all, production vibe and atmosphere. Several nice songs, such as "Can't See Me," shake with quiet cool, approaching the Roses' singles "One Love" and "Fools Gold," and a few more-pop tracks, such as "Nah Nah" and the U.K. hit "My Star," are genuine pleasures that bring back the hints of magic for a while. Rarely has such a poorly constructed LP felt so soothing and cool, if vaguely unsatisfying.

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