'Facsimile of a facsimile' - first review of new Stone Roses single 'All For One'
Published 12/05/2016 | 22:40
As news came through that the Stone Roses were to release a new single on Thursday night, fans of the iconic Nineties rockers will have felt a swirl of emotions: dread, nervousness, confusion…and, perhaps, the faintest glimmer of optimism.
Few groups have endured so underwhelming an afterlife as the flag-wavers of the Madchester scene, cursed to forever toil in the shadow of their unsurpassable debut album.
They've arguably tainted their legacy once already with an opinion-splitting second LP. Would a comeback single – their first in 21 years – further undermine their position as one of the great British bands of the past 30 years?
The good news is that fears of a middle age car-crash proved unfounded. On paper, at least, All For One ticks all the boxes. There's frontman Ian Brown, singing in that yearning yelp so familiar from Made Of Stone and She Bangs The Drums.
Guitarist John Squire gives it his everything too, with a twirling riff that skips the Roses terrible Led Zeppelin phase and looks to the joyous abandon of their early days.
Crucially, the song, produced in London by Adele collaborator Paul Epworth, channels the sense of boozy brotherhood that made the Roses less a collection of musicians than a gang you got to be a vicarious member of.
"All for one, one for all/If we all join hands we’ll make a wall" sings Ian Brown and he sounds as if he means it. The Roses always regarded themselves as the people's band and the new single trades powerful on that worldview.
Yet while All For One avoids smoking wreck status, it nonetheless feels like a facsimile of a facsimile. That spiralling guitar line is quintessential Squire all right, but closer to the dross he regurgitated in post-Roses project The Seahorses than the gold spun during the Roses' heyday.
Moreover, the melody is endlessly wan and weedy and even after repeated listens the trying-too-hard chorus fails to imprint itself on your brain.
In a way All For One is worse than terrible – it's merely bland and forgettable.
It is, of course, encouraging that the Roses are moving forward as a creative entity and there are reasons to hope their forthcoming tour, which includes a July 9 date at Dublin's Marlay Park, is to be more than the traditional cash grab.
Nonetheless, All For One has the whiff of a dreaded "new song" and punters trekking to south Dublin for the concert will hope the Roses get it out of the way early in the evening – surely the most damning indictment of all.