Ok, let's do this. The internet consensus is that the new Stone Roses single, All For One, is dreadful and that includes the opinions of people I know whose taste counts for something in my eyes. The problems, in no particular order, are a) the lyrics b) the tune c) the guitar playing d) the drumming and (lack of) bass and e) the written for the football stadium nature of it. It arrived like Roses things do with a sense of event, fanfare and expectation. It was the first time I've listened to Radio 1 for I don't know how long. They're on a hiding to nothing really, the weight of expectation, the gap, the silence since the re-union gigs, all mean that almost whatever they put out would be not enough.
But still, a) the lyrics- yes, dreadful, completely. The Dogtanian theme tune. If they're an attempt at an early 90s positivity, power-to-the-people style vibe, they've missed the mark. The buckets of reverb on Ian's multi-tracked vocals don't distract from the fact that these are unfinished, half thoughts that needed to be reworked. b) the tune- I don't mind it, it's sticks. There's something lurking in there. I've been trying to like it. c) Squire's guitar playing is the highlight for me, and pretty restrained by Second Coming standards. The comparisons to Beady Eye and The Seahorses are a tad unfair- the riff, breakdown and re-entry at two minutes thirty something and solo are pretty good to these ears. d) The drumming- it does seem to lack Reni's trademark fluidity, thumping away in a Ringo manner. The bass is submerged beneath everything else. e) It's undoubtedly been written with football stadia in mind, all together now, sun going down, 'in harmony, all one family' as Ian sings, beery blokes with shaggy haircuts hugging and spilling their lager. Which is a shame- if they've started writing for their perceived audience then they have got a problem. Because if you take the feedback fade in, the riff, the solo, the phased sections and remix them, pull the FX forward and drop the words further back, make it more experimental and psychedelic, rather than something to be bawled back at you by 75, 000 people, then you've got something that picks up where they left off at some point two and a half decades ago. Not a single maybe but a song. And this is the real issue with it- it does sound, as people have said, like a song from a mid-90s Britpop compilation rather than the headspinning, sweet rush of the psyche-pop Roses of Don't Stop or Elephant Stone or the fluid dance influenced Roses of Fool's Gold or Begging You or the lighter than air Roses of Waterfall or This Is The One. They've mistaken muscle for swagger, volume for presence.
Their recorded legacy (such as it is and they're in danger of pissing it away) rests on the eleven songs on the debut lp, the Elephant Stone and Sally Cinnamon singles, a clutch of B-sides from the album sessions (Standing Here, Going Down, Mersey Paradise, Where Angels Play) and the shimmering, mutant funk of Fool's Gold. What they had in '89 was a sound that managed to be progressive- it was 60s influenced but it was moving forward. Those songs weren't written and recorded to be played in stadia- they were just written and recorded. They've become a stadium band since then- even in 1995 they were playing halls like the Apollo not arenas. If All For One was written in a shared flat in Chorlton and performed at a polytechnic student union building with a low stage and ceiling it would be a totally different song. The massiveness of those gigs three years ago and the groups growing reputation with the now grown up children of the original fans has totally altered their approach- on the basis of this song. There's a chance that the album may be better, more nuanced and varied. The other problem here is that the music All For One harks back to is a debased currency- mid 90s, Dadrock. No one wants that- except I suppose a large proportion of the 150, 000 people who bought tickets for the shows this summer. I think they need to show that they've moved on, that the progressive nature that led them from Sally Cinnamon to Fool's Gold is still there and that the lightness of touch they had that characterises their best songs is not lost. Instead they're aiming for back row, half a mile form the stage
For the record then, and I reserve the right to change my mind whenever I feel like it- I don't think All For One is dreadful. But it's not great either. It's alright- I can almost quite like it. But if it wasn't them, I wouldn't listen to it more than once. Yet here we are, loads of us, talking about it.
Two further things- in the summer of 1990 we waited ages for the new Roses single. It was delayed, the cover art had to be redone, the release date kept changing. Then it came out, One Love, the follow up to Fool's Gold, a band at the peak of their powers and the height of their notoriety, and .... it was a bit of a let down. A decent tune, a shuffly drumbeat, early 90s positivity and power-to-the-people lyrics, but falling short. That was the moment their forward momentum stalled. John Squire said later he didn't like the song, that it felt like they were selling something for someone. Sound familiar?
I've written about The Second Coming before, a flawed, overcooked, guitar rock album with a handful of genuine thrills. I've long thought that if you could get hold of the mastertapes and had the technical skills, you could make a really interesting version- a long, drawn out twenty or twenty-five minute single track, an Orb style excursion, an Amorphous Androgynous psychedelic mix. Take the ambient, club influenced intro to Breaking Into Heaven and it's burst into menace, the shimmering shards of Ten Storey Love Song, fade into and out of the campfire acoustic guitars of Tightrope and the wide eyed Your Star Will Shine, drop the vox in and out dub stylee, break down into Mani's bass and Reni's drums from Daybreak or Straight To The Man and then build up into Begging You. That, in my head, is where Don't Stop, Waterfall, Shoot You Down, the backwards tapes experiments of some of those early B-sides, Fool's Gold and Something's Burning were heading. A headtrip. And that's what All For One and whatever comes next should be.
How on earth have I got this much text out of three minutes thirty seven seconds of disappointment? Come on chaps, dig a little deeper and give us a little bit of something else.
And as a final thing, a few weeks back I saw this and it makes me smile...
Go Home Productions - Begging Kylie from BorisB High Def on Vimeo.