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>

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That Old Town

While in London we took the students to the O2 arena to see the Museum Of British Pop Culture. As soon as you put rock ‘n’ roll in a museum it seems to lose some of its charm in some ways but some of the exhibits were good. There were large projections playing in slow-mo (The Smiths, Wham and The Stone Roses on Top Of The Pops in the 80s, The Clash and Sex Pistols from 70s TV), different rooms for different periods, a room full of guitars and drum kits to play on and a rather nifty touch screen virtual record box which tried to tell the story of dance music (a good selection of tracks although I tutted and shook my head at what I thought were a couple of factual errors). In the rooms, as well as some touch screen stuff, there were various pieces behind glass- some Bowie costumes from the early 70s, a Small Faces bass drum, a royal flush of Spice Girls outfits, dresses belonging to Petula Clark and Dusty Springfield, a pair of Rickenbackers- Weller’s pop art guitar and Mani’s abstract expressionist bass (John Squire’s handiwork, along with Mani’s paint splattered clothes from that NME cover, visible in the left of the second pic).  Art-rock crossover. I was hoping for a Cubist drum kit but left disappointed.

It transpired that two of my 6th form students’ Dads were present at Spike Island along with me, a quarter of a century ago. They say working with kids keeps you young- it can also make you feel very old. I then spent some time racking my brains trying to think of when Weller and Mani might have played together and came up with this 7″ single from a few years back, a super sharp slice of Mod pop, recorded with Graham Coxon.

This Old Town

And here played live on the gogglebox- Weller, Mani, Coxon and Zak Starkey on drums.

They probably played together on a Primal Scream B-side too (‘Til The Kingdom Comes, XCLTR era, sounds like The Who) which I have posted before. In fact having just searched the blog, I’ve posted This Old Town before too.

 

The Whole Of The Law

It’s not often that someone who has played stadiums alongside the ‘greatest guitarist of his generation’ plays one of your local pubs- but such was the case last night as Chris Helme appeared at The Brooklands Tap for the princely entrance fee of £3.00. You can barely get a pint for £3.00 now so I thought I’d go down and have a look. Following his departure from the Stone Roses John Squire quickly put together The Seahorses with Chris Helme as singer, discovered while busking in York. I really liked the first single Love Is The Law and the follow-up Blinded By The Sun, written by Helme. A post album single followed which somehow I have managed to own two copies of on 7″- You Can Talk To Me- which I also really liked. Trad Britpop rock maybe, but with a decent tune and well played. Parts of the album Do It Yourself I cannot recall at all, in fact looking at the tracklisting I don’t even recognise the titles.

Chris does his thing now as a singer-songwriter, acoustic guitar and beard, travelling light. He plays a mixture of those Seahorses songs, some Nick Drake influenced folky stuff and a couple of covers (The Faces’ Ooh La La, No Expectations). He sings really well and gives the songs a real wallop. We were accosted by a young drunk mid-set who insisted David and myself looked like Ray Winstone and Danny Dyer respectively (not true in either case thankfully). Having sung on the main stage at Glastonbury you could argue that singing to fifty people in a suburban South Manchester boozer is a bit of a comedown but I suspect Chris has been through the wringer and just wants to play to anyone who wants to listen.

This is the full length version of debut single Love Is The Law (with its Crowley quoting title). The riff sounds like a good Second Coming out-take. The song is three minutes long followed by four minutes of John Squire playing guitar, long and loud.

Love Is The Law (album version)

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.

>Hello Squire

>
The day John Squire’s second solo album came out I was in Chorlton’s King Bee Records. It was on the counter and I asked the man by the till what it was like. ‘Did you get the first one?’ he asked. I nodded. ‘It’s not as good as that’ he replied. This is Room In Brooklyn and it’s got some cracking guitar work, as you’d expect. All the tracks on the album were inspired by Edward Hopper paintings. I still haven’t got the album but I do quite like this single.

>Hello Squire

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There was a link somewhere recently to a short film of John Squire at the Tate, talking about abstract watercolour paintings, and then John painting (which he does full time now). It was diverting enough and I ended up clicking onto youtube to see what else there was, which ended up reminding me of his solo career. John Squire gets most of the bad press of the former Stone Roses. He gets the blame for the demise of the band. Ian Brown’s continuing solo success ensures his public profile is high and he rarely misses a chance to slag the guitarist off. The Seahorses were underwhelming. And then there’s the solo albums.

John released Time Changes Everything in 2002 and the press were lukewarm at best. The main issue was John’s decision to sing and if you look on youtube it’s more or less the only thing people can think to post in the comment boxes. The thing is, some of the songs on the album were really strong. Trad perhaps, post Britpop maybe, but the songs were there, the playing was good and there were some interesting instruments and arrangements in parts, including a snakecharmer’s pipe. The topics of the songs showed awareness of the past (I Miss You was seen as an olive branch to Ian, 15 Days the story of The Roses set to song). But people couldn’t get past the voice, charitably described by some as ‘Dylanesque’. This is the title track, Time Changes Everything, probably the best off the album. The guitar work in the last minute and a half is lovely, the tune is strong, it’s got a whistfulness and ruefulness that appeals to me, and the singing’s fine. Not great, but fine. I like John Squire- he always seemed like the most thoughtful of The Roses, he had a deadpan wit, he had the best hair, and boy, could he play guitar.

04 Time Changes Everything.wma

John Squire ‘Penguin Books Decades’ Covers

These are nice, and came out last month. I found them through the very good Heavenly Recordings website. Penguin Books commissioned various artists to redesign the covers of five books from each decade from the 1950s through to the 1980s. Former Stone Rose John Squire got the 1980s, and here are three of the results. Zandra Rhodes got the 1970s, Peter Blake the 50s and Allen Jones the 60s. Interesting and well worth hunting copies down I’d say. No Pollacking or tins of Dulux evident though.