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ANNIVERSARY LISTEN: Ian Brown – Unfinished Monkey Business

Ian Brown released his debut solo album Unfinished Monkey Business on this day in 1998. The record followed Ian’s departure from The Stone Roses after they split acrimoniously in 1996. Matt Mead gives a retrospective review for Shiiine On.

At the end of The Stone Roses Ian Brown released a statement saying ‘Having spent the last ten years in the filthiest business in the universe, it’s a pleasure to announce the end of the Stone Roses’. From those words it was thought Ian would no longer be heard of in the music business, instead choosing to follow in his Grandfathers footsteps to become a gardener. However, no sooner had we heard this news Ian appeared out of the blue to be in his own studio recording new songs, ready and raring to release a new album. For me personally being a fan of the Roses since 1988 there were questions: Would his new music sound like The Stone Roses? Would this be a sell out? Or would this be a undoubted return to the slip stream for the King Monkey?

The resulting album Unfinished Monkey Business is an undoubted 5 star triumph, even though the music press in some quarters slated the album at the time, I think it still stands as a great, refreshing piece of work mostly because Ian played most of the instruments himself, but when he called for help he joined forces on the self-financed / produced record with a number of multi-talented musicians including the backbone to the final line up of The Stone Roses; Aziz Ibraham, Gary ‘Mani’ Mounfield, Robbie Maddix and Nigel Ippinson all get a starting place in the line up. Also included is a drum loop from the illusive masterclass drummer Reni that features on Can’t See Me plus the delightful, ever beautiful vocals of Dennis Johnson feature on Lions.

The album starts of on a mish-mash of Star Wars toy sounds, deep bass beats, a child’s vocals and Indian sounding guitars on opening track Under The Pathing Stones/The Beach which was inspired by the French May 1968 protests that also inspired Roses track Bye Bye Badman. The track blends and intertwines into the debut solo single My Star. Mixing vocals straight out of the top draw of Browns vocal range and Dear Prudence hypnotic Rickenbacker guitar, the song tells the story of space exploration and trying to escape form a space hideout told in a psychedelic revolving repetitive verse ‘I’ll see you in my star’.

Further songs on the album might be and have been often quoted to be directed at John Squire. Ice Cold Cube, a nickname Reni used to call John, which was played in The Stone Roses final set lists, features a complete reworking of the song that was played live by the Roses. The revolving looping Can’t See Me, straight to the point What Happened To-Ya and electric guitar slice of Deep Pile Dreams all appear to focus on a self-centred, two faced individual dependent on drugs, seemingly Cocaine, a drug Brown has never been happy with, the drug of the upper classes plus there’s my personal favourite on the album, the wistful folk acoustic guitar sing-a-long of Nah-Nah. The album has a number of standout individual pieces of music added to its bow, the arrow is aimed straight at the heart of the listener.

As you will no doubt be aware Ian has just released his latest album Ripples, which again has divided fans and critics alike, but what is evident with the King Monkey is he never tires of making music for the masses, no doubt we’ll see him shaking a shaker at a venue near you somewhere soon.