These Are Commercial Crusades

My week of protest songs finishes with a double header. First up, Ian Brown and his 2007 single Illegal Attacks, a blistering tirade against the US and British invasion of Iraq set to a hip hop beat and sweeping strings. The Stone Roses had form in lyrical revolution- Bye Bye Badman referenced the Paris ’68 events, Elizabeth My Dear fantasised about the death of Elizabeth II and they often mentioned politics in interviews during their ’89-90 heyday. That’s Sinead O’Connor on backing vocals.

At the other end of the scale from Mr Brown in terms of vocal ability and formation dancing is Beyonce. During last year’s Superbowl she ruffled feathers by turning up with her dancers dressed as Black Panthers.

Co-written by Kendrick Lamar Freedom, from last year’s Lemonade album (an album shot through with protest), is this slice of righteous psychedelic soul led by wheezy organ, shouting loud that Black Lives Matter.

Freedom

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If We All Join Hands

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…


<p><a href=”https://vimeo.com/22480716″>Go Home Productions – Begging Kylie</a> from <a href=”https://vimeo.com/borisbhd”>BorisB High Def</a> on <a href=”https://vimeo.com”>Vimeo</a&gt;.</p>

Face Time

I used to love The Face. Between the late 80s and early 00s I bought almost every copy (and many of them are in the loft, awaiting a good sifting through). Yes, it was silly, pretentious, over-the-top, often very London-centric, and over-styled. But it was also done well, trend setting, at times laugh-out-loud funny, with some really good writers, totally hit the spot at times (and completely missed the target other times), covered issues as well as music and fashion, and its front cover felt like an event- in short essential monthly reading, a frippery but worth it.

Above, the Madchester issue, in which Nick Kent made up quotes various interviewees allegedly said… and below Tricky and Martina Topley Bird

I bought a copy in summer 1987, a double sized, special edition, 100th issue I think. It tried to review the 80s- ‘whatever happens now’ it said, ‘the decade is shaped, nothing can alter the way it looks from here’. Arf. Over the next two years acid house swept the nation, the north rose again, the Berlin Wall came down, Communism collapsed…. 



The pleasure of reading old magazines is seeing where they got it right and where they got it very, very wrong; the bands, records, trends and styles they were sure were the next big thing and are now buried in the ‘where are they now?’ file. I mean, no disrespect to The Farm (who at times I quite like) and I know Groovy Train was a big hit but ‘How to succeed in the music business’? 

Whatever it did though, The Face was rarely boring and for a while it did document our lives (or aspects of them). 
Raving, Aliens, Vodka, Discos, Ibiza… it’s got the lot.

                                                                 Mmmmmmm, Kylie.

                                                     Sorry, lost myself there for a moment…

                                         Actually I don’t remember this 90s Futures Issue one at all.

I more or less stopped buying it with this issue below- I was clearly too old for it, our time together had passed and besides I began to feel they were laughing at me.

The High Numbers (early Who as I’m sure you know). I was going to post the magnificent Face Up by New order from Lowlife but it’s not on my hard drive and I can’t be arsed ripping it at the moment. Laziness. Sorry. This is good anyway.

I’m The Face

Astronauts The New Conquistadors

My Star was Ian Brown’s first solo single and I think maybe his best solo moment- space race samples (‘God speed John Glenn’), driving bass, some good guitar and a Brown lyric about superpower colonisation of space. He should have done more of this sort of stuff.

While we’re on the subject of monkeys, a report last week said that psychologists reckon chimps and other great apes have a mid-life crisis- they become lethargic, their sense of well-being suffers, they start fancying younger apes. Which would suggest that a mid-life crisis is due to hormones or something wouldn’t it? Surely apes don’t have a sense of reaching mid-life and having achieved nothing or an awareness that they’ve passed the midway point. Like us.

My Star

Justice Tonight Last Night


If you live near any of the venues hosting Mick Jones and friends Justice Tonight tour you should consider getting yourself down there- we had a blast last night. And saw The Stone Roses as well. On stage. Well, two of them, Squire and Brown. I think that counts as news.

We got in as Pete Wylie was getting near the end of his set, backed by all of The Farm and Mick Jones grinning on guitar. Wylie finished with Heart As Big As Liverpool, Johnny Thunders’ You Can’t Put Your Arms Around A Memory and Sinful. Everyone then stayed on stage, Wylie announced it was now a Mick Jones gig and the band launched into Train In Vain. Several Clash songs followed- Should I Stay Or Should I Go, White Man (In Hammersmith Palais) ‘sung’ by The Farm’s Peter Hooton, Clampdown sung by Pete Wylie (with lyrics on a piece of paper), a few others. Everyone seemed to be having a ball, mics were dropped, lines fluffed, cues missed, but hugely enjoyable and The Farm made a surprisingly good Clash covers band. The stage then emptied and a minute later Ian Brown and John Squire came on and played Elizabeth My Dear. A thousand jaws collectively dropped. Jones, Wylie and The Farm re-appeared and Brown led them all through Bankrobber and Armagiddeon Times. Someone filmed it. You can watch it here. After that we got John Robb fronting Janie Jones, spending the whole song in the audience, Big Audio Dynamite’s Rush and The Farm’s All Together Now. We were then tipped out into the wet Manchester streets where we took refuge in The Peveril Of The Peak and a drunk man told us at some length that The Chameleons were in fact the best band in the world.

>Breakthrough

>

While looking for a picture for the previous post I found this and thought I’d share it with you- the front cover of Melody Maker from June 3rd 1989, pretty much the exact day The Stone Roses broke through. I had this on my wall for years, the corners all coming off each time I moved house/flat. I think it’s in a file in the top of the wardrobe with hundreds of clippings from the music press from around that time. Yes, I am that sad. Still, great front cover eh?
More of this kind of thing here-

UNKLE ft. Ian Brown ‘Be There’

As I’ve written before I loved The Stone Roses. A lot. I’ve also stated my opinion of their solo careers- not much cop. Sum of the parts greater etc.

I’ve tried really hard with Ian Brown’s solo records. I was as excited as anyone when Unfinished Monkey Business came out, loved My Star and Corpses In Their Mouths. He made his point- I can do this on my own. Since then he’s gone on to make and remake solo albums, which have interested me less and less. Golden Greats was OK, I bought Solarised but I couldn’t tell you what any of it sounded like, and doubt I’ve played it more than a couple of times. The 2001 single everyone raves about, F.E.A.R., is, I’m afraid, utter cobblers. Stoned, pseudo-profound, lightweight nonsense, and not in a good way. I fully expect people will disagree with me. There are members of my own family who would, and strongly. Ian has increasingly comes across as a bit, well, daft. Looking for a picture for this post it was difficult to find one where he wasn’t doing that thing with his hands, wearing silly sunglasses or jeans that are a little too youth for him, or proudly showing off an international sportswear companies freebies, and usually a combination of all of the above. I do like the picture here though. He looks like he’s wearing a tracksuit based on a pair of child’s pyjamas and either offering a tambourine out for a fight or about to kiss it, which isn’t something you see pop stars do very often.

And I don’t particularly enjoy typing these words because for a long time I loved him and his band. Anyway, to get to some kind of point, this record is amongst the best things he’s been involved with since going solo. The backing track was from James Lavelle’s painfully hip Psyence Fiction era UNKLE, and Ian’s vocals added later, to massive effect. This is a really good, out there, post-dance music record. I wish he’d turned in more like this.

be_there.mp3