Ian Brown

Golden Greats
(Interscope)

In the long line of limey trailblazers that couldn't move unit one stateside, the Stone Roses at least proved themselves predecessors to navel-gazing U.K. teen-a-ramas like the Charlatans, Ocean Colour Scene and the vaguely remarkable Primal Scream, Manics and Oasis. On Brit shores, the Roses' '89 self-titled debut was considered a thing of get-on-yer-knees beauty, boasting all the well-timed reference points that are hallmarks of a record that perfectly defines a place and context.

The Roses had the alluring front man in Ian Brown -- big drugs, heady grooves and Revolver-era guitar hooks. By summer 1990, the Roses could only pass rose petals, lionized in that uniquely British way that brazenly celebrates itself while making ridiculous cultural monuments of its pop stars of the moment. In the midst of all this, Brown was the lo-fi crown prince of London.

Half-decade and one record later, the Roses had succumbed to their own folklore, laying waste to expectation with a legendary demythologizing gig at the 1996 Reading fest that by all accounts saw people heading for the exits in tears. Brown's debut record was dubbed spotty at best. A public fracas aboard an airline in 1998 saw him land in jail and had most ready to erect the career tombstone.

Enter Brown 2000, still shaggy and swivel-hipped with patented stoner sneer attached, ready for at least another go. And this, his second record, is sardonically titled as if it's a best-of collection. You'd think the idea was some pathetic "Hey, look at me" reminder common to packaging on Roger Daltrey solo records. Yet Golden Greats is, for the most part, a comely heap of discotronic, loopy funk, weed groove and the occasional rock 'n' roll. And full of the analog synths that recall the days of acid house.

The fuzzy opium den intro and Eastern chime motif of the opener "Getting High" recall Zep in the best possible sense; that is Zep as seen through Rosey hindsight. "Free My Way" documents Brown's jail stint with a monotone croon over airy strings that emphasizes melancholy/regret in the lines "Legal wrangle Holy papers/You gotta know your worth."

"Dolphins Were Monkeys" is house-ready with huge airy drums and a percussive keyboard line that you'd think only Billy Preston could pull off. The disc's highlight, however, is "Golden Gaze," an eerie sing-along in which American dreaming is the metaphor for happier times of the All Important British Pop Star. In the end, deceptively clever stuff.

 
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