Spike Island: To The Stone Roses what Across The Universe was to The Beatles.

by Padraic Coffey
Spike Island

Though never relegated to the bin of musical obscurity – their eponymous debut album continues to chart highly on any British-based poll of the all time greatest LPs – The Stone Roses have enjoyed a resurgence in popularity that surpasses any of their peers from the so-called ‘Madchester’ music scene of the late 1980s/early 1990s. 2011 saw them reuniting a decade and a half after their high profile public disintegration, a split brought on by creative lethargy, alleged cocaine abuse and the exposure of lead singer Ian Brown’s vocal limitations. Now two films have been released in as many months in which the ‘baggy’ icons feature heavily. One is Shane Meadows’ Made of Stone, a love letter to the band documenting their recent and highly lucrative tour, though averting its gaze when tensions arise between the members. The other is Spike Island, a fictional account of five Manchester youths’ journeying to The Stone Roses’ legendary (for both good and bad reasons) 1990 gig on the reclaimed toxic waste site.

In a way, Spike Island neatly works as a prequel to Made of Stone. Meadows’ film featured middle-aged fans queuing for hours to attend the band’s first 30 minute set after their fifteen-year hiatus. One vox pop in particular, when questioned on the band’s appeal, says “you know, and I know, but you can’t write it down, can you?”. Perhaps Chris Coghill and Mat Whitecross, the respective writer and director of Spike Island, should have followed a similar logic. Spike Island is, for the most part, wholly predictable, with all the tropes which audiences will have come to expect from a film depicting teenage life. It borrows from superior works of yore, such as Trainspotting (character names appearing on screen mid-freeze frame) and Mean Streets (the SnorriCam, mounted on an actors’ chest to convey his character’s intoxication).

There are also several cringe-worthy attempts to crowbar in references to the band’s back catalogue, which recall most strongly Julie Taymor’s critically-panned tribute to The Beatles, Across the Universe. The object of lead characters Tits (Elliot Tittensor) and Dodge’s (Nico Marallegro) affections? Why, Sally, of course! (Cue an impromptu rendition of ‘Sally Cinnamon’). Lambasting his brother for failing to visit their ailing father, Tits describes hospital trips as, ahem, ‘The Hardest Thing in the World’. There are also the obligatory digs at Thatcher, and an original, Roses-aping song entitled ‘Ten Mile Smile’ (perhaps some crossover between the Roses’ ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ and Beach House’s ’10 Mile Stereo’… who knows?) performed by Tits, Dodge et al in the guise of their own rock band, Shadowcaster.

Fans of The Stone Roses may flock to see Spike Island regardless, but non-converts will find little here above the ordinary.

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