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REVIEW: 'Made of Stone' - Shane Meadows' Love Letter to the Roses

Posted: 31/05/2013 14:42

Stone Roses

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Everybody has one band, for whom judgement is put aside, critical faculties are suspended, disproportionate amounts of cash and effort spent - the one whose tunes are hardwired into our cells, on an album that inevitably makes its way onto the stereo at the end of every big night. For Shane Meadows it is the Stone Roses. Made of Stone is his explanation.

In 2011, these Manchester icons stopped flint-hearted men in their tracks with reports of their renewed friendships, sniffs in the air of new music being written, culminating in a press conference announcing a series of gigs. Nearly as highly anticipated as this reformation itself is Shane Meadows' film documenting this triumphant return to the stage after 15 years of sulks and absence.

Made in Stone tracks the journey - via rehearsals, warm-up gigs and surprise tantrums - from this announcement to their performance at Heaton Park in Manchester, eight months later.

Interspersed is archive footage explaining how four Northern lads - Ian Brown, John Squire, Gary 'Mani' Mounfield and Alan 'Reni' Wren - came to occupy such a high perch on the indie and Madchester scene, because of their looks, their sounds, and despite or obviously because of most of all, their indifference to how they were perceived. One highlight is a cringeworthy chat with Brown and Squire just before their first album came out. On the rare occasion Brown bothers to speak at all, it is to tell the non-plussed interviewer that "it might take a while to fall in love with us... but it's inevitable."

What also seems inevitable looking back is how they fell out of love with each other after only two glorious albums - even Oasis managed seven - but this film is no chest-baring exercise of exploring the strains behind the split in 1998. Past tensions are hinted at, referred to but contained, with Meadows explaining at the world premiere of the film in Manchester, "the band had no interest in sitting down and talking about the past. Their renewed friendships are still fragile. This isn't Big Brother."

What it is, is an unashamed love letter from a fan to his heroes. When Brown phoned Meadows to ask him to film the conference, the This Is England director told the frontman that if they let anyone else direct this documentary, he would kill himself. Impartisan, this is not, nor does it claim to be.

What this transparent bias allows is Meadows to penetrate and share the world of the Roses fan. This is never more heartfelt than in the middle section of the film, when the band cause a right internet rumpus by announcing a spontaneous gig, for that very evening, in Parr Hall in Warrington.

Meadows gives us black and white footage of locals running, smiling, phoning each other, clutching the requisite memorabilia they need to prove their fan-dom and gain access to the gig. This demand could be seen as narcissistic - "prove your devotion to us for the chance to worship once more" - but it brought out the true devotees, and some charming soundbites about what the Stone Roses mean to the Everyman follower.

It was a helpful, nay crucial, intersection in a film that could otherwise have been a trip of self-indulgence. What it did conclusively was prove that Shane Meadows is not alone in his belief that the sounds of the Roses somehow transcends mere music and moves into something spiritual for this secular age.

It is a faith given visual support by the two bookends of the film. The slow opening shot, of Ian Brown walking past the crowd at Warrington, stopping to connect hands, is a study in rapture, while the last ten minutes, given entirely to Fool's Gold on stage at Heaton Park, is a collective trance. For such times, there are no words, it's when only putting on a favourite album will do. In Shane Meadows' case, one by the Stone Roses. Everybody has one band.

 

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