Released last night at 8pm to a flurry of input from the music community and its journalistic cousins, ‘All For One’ by The Stone Roses has, seemingly, already proved to be a divisive turn from the Madchester veterans. And why wouldn’t it be? It’s been over two decades since Ian, John, Mani & Reni have released original material, and it’s with this in mind that we asked some of our writers to give their thoughts on the return of The Stone Roses.
Twenty years! For this? It always baffles me how musicians, with all that dead time on their hands and all that high-end studio equipment at their disposal, can still come up with such uninspired, half-hearted music. Look at U2 – they stick rigidly to a time-span of four or five years between albums but invariably produce an album with only one decent song on it. What the hell have they be doing all that time? Which brings us back to the Stone Roses who have had TWO DECADES to come up with something new. In fairness, there was bad feeling within the ranks since their split in the mid-90s and Jon Squire swore he would never return but since the detente in 2011 they’ve had a good five years to create something to bring a nostalgic tear to old ravers and balding indie-fans, to make their devotees feel the magic once again. But ‘All For One’ isn’t it, sounding as it does like a bad Ocean Colour Scene B-Side. Squire’s brief guitar solo gives a very fleeting reminder of why we fell in love with them in the first place but it’s not enough to save a song that should soar, that could have been the sound of the summer. Instead, we get something forgettable and trite. The legacy is still there but more music like this and the cracks will begin to show.
As far as Stone Roses’ enthusiasts go I’m more of a pebble seedling. In secondary school, I listened to ‘She Bangs the Drums’, ‘I Wanna Be Adored’, and ‘Waterfall’, out of teenage necessity, and in truth, I really enjoyed those songs. However, it’s been a long time since I’ve listened to Stone Roses and ‘All For One’ is an awful, awful reacquaintance. It felt like I was listening to a poorly composed football anthem, but one so bad that it would make Manchester United fans convert so drastically to support Liverpool, severing all ties with Manchester altogether. The juice from the lemon has dried up and the remains are well and truly soured.
This is dire. Like a Deep Purple b-side or like the theme tune to a kids’ program, where various types of glue are required and an adult’s help is gratefully received. The only thing new about this is the sense of resignation that we have to do this Stone Roses shit again. It was fucking excruciating the first (and second, third etc) time around, and this time I’m too old for the drugs that made it all bearable.
Twenty years since their first tumultuous blaze across the worlds conscience and The Stone Roses have re-emerged unified once more. But are they still relevant? It is a throw back in the purest sense of the word but begs the question whether or not 4 purveyors of the finest baggie jeans in music history can appeal to the skinny slacked millennials that now rule the trends that populate our airwaves. I, for one, hope that this is start of a new era of recording for the Roses and not just for the obvious nostalgic reasons. They birthed an populated an entire scene from stages across the globe on their first outing, fingers crossed they can perform a similar shake-up this time round too.
Listening to it reminded me how I felt when I saw The Phantom Menace after waiting nearly twenty years. And not in a good way. Bland as shite and lyrically an Ivor Novello – free zone, it’s over quickly and instantly forgettable. As comparisons went this week, Radiohead and the Roses was like comparing Lenny Bruce to Lenny Henry.
I wanted to like this, I really did. But I just can’t. I saw them at Phoenix Park a few years back, the middle-aged fulfilment of a teenage dream. Definitely one to remember and recount to my son when I am older and greyer. This new song from them however is sadly not one to remember. It has been a long time coming and it was never going to please everybody. To be honest I am not sure what I was expecting, but it wasn’t this.
I wasn’t expecting Radiohead levels of re-invention and studio wizardry, but given the surprisingly quality of Ian Brown’s solo output, I hoped for some kind of cosmic confluence of musical styles. In my head it was glorious. But in reality we are slapped in the face by a guitar that sounds like it is stuck on ‘Second Coming’ or gasp! Seahorses settings. Mani is barely there. Reni is there but way more than he needs to be. The guitars and drums dominate the track and not in a good way. The lyrics are weak. At best it sounds like a bad b-side. At worst it sounds like an idea for an intro stretched paper-thin into a single. The first 7 seconds made me smile, the rest of it made me cry.
‘All for One’ joins the dots between the seminal debut Stone Roses record and the lesser favoured Second Coming with a jaunty swagger, clunky lyrics and euphoric, communal vibe that one imagines will make for a real good time in Marlay Park and fields across the UK this summer. John Squire delivers a classic, vital-sounding Stone Roses riff, to the point that the solo that can only serve to draw the listener in. Ian Brown has never been painted as a master lyricist, but he brings to bear a classic melody over the ever smooth and instinctive rhythm section. It’s to be appreciated that they didn’t need to offer any new material to maintain this comeback, and it remains to be seen what the rest of the mooted new album has to offer, but for now the Stone Roses are back with a song that sits well with the belated arrival of summer.
It should be noted that when we asked our lovely team to contribute a piece for this feature, the email thread threw up some notable responses/counterpoints. These are a selection of them that are, more or less, fit to publish. Ahem.
Philip Dunne (In reply to Dave Hanratty)
It’s shit but not as shit as I originally thought when I indignantly listened to it after a feed of pints last night.
Justin McDaid (In reply to Dave Hanratty and Philip Dunne)
Imagine, if you will, Noel Gallagher trying to write a modern-day Stone Roses track and giving it to Ocean Colour Scene.
Dara Higgins (In response to all the above)
This is life affirming stuff. Keep it coming.
Dave Hanratty (you get the idea by now..)
Hey guys I just made an important Twitter poll on the subject https://twitter.com/
Aaron, if you don’t run this entire fucking email thread as is, you should be ousted Jon Snow-style.
It made me sad. “If we all join hands we’ll make a waaaaaalllllllllll…..” Ugh.
Hilary A. White
Nice enough guitar riff, but.
Just what the world has been waiting for: four middle aged white dudes telling us the answer to world peace is holding hands or something. The ghost of the Hacienda must be weeping ketamine tears.
Haven’t actually listened to it tbh.
Blimey. Best summed up by the Guardian: “like they suddenly remembered they had studio time booked”
Three things occurred listening to this:
1 – The hugely annoying theme from childhood cartoon Dogtanian and the 3 Muskahounds entered my head and proceeded to set up home there for the rest of the evening – the only positive being that I instantly forgot about this Ocean Colour Scene B-side.
2 – Any song that could theoretically be co-opted by the Donald Trump presidential campaign can’t be a force for good.
3 – 3rd coming? You’re having a laugh lads – go back and do the second one properly.
The thread team then turned its collective attention on ‘Together Stronger (C’mon Wales)’ by the Manic Street Preachers, but that’s a feature for another time. Or is it?…