Artwork: John Squire
Sitting upright, tightly clutching the laptop that streams Annie Mac’s evening show on BBC Radio 1 – I wait as the final seconds pass before The Stone Roses’ first new music in over 20 years is unleashed into my ear canals. I’m ready. Hours (a minute) later, the brand new track’s title is swiftly announced, along with the production details. It’s what the world is waiting for, whether it knows it or not.
And here it comes.
A distorted buzzing akin to that which ends their last single hitherto, 1995’s ‘Begging You’ builds before John Squire sends his greetings with a very John Squire, rasping riff. It sounds familiar. ‘All for one, one for all / if we all join hands we’ll make a wall’ is delivered in Brown’s signature hushed vocal and the track chimes along naturally. After the second repeat of the hook, one would consider the possibility that the lyrical simplicity is a downside – but then I Wanna Be Adored and This is the One spring to mind and the listeners hedonism restores itself. This is an obvious attempt at a punchy, high energy kickstart to a new era, albeit with a nod to the psychedelic pop of the bands golden age. Bright and youthful, the song is reflective of the mood surrounding the groups 2011 reunion, subsequent world tour, and the genuine glee on the faces of the four while hunted down recording in Paul Epworh’s Church Studios – the awaited comeback single importantly fits the environment it is born into.
The drum fill and subsequent guitar solo near the end of the track’s short 3:36 running time is the first apparent highlight. It hits the spot, not indulgent, reminds us that the British musical landscape is better when John Squire is creating music and not hiding away in a barn somewhere, painting. The second, Brown’s vocal delivery is uplifting, within his range – and well nuanced: ‘ch-emistry’ produces an eargasm or two across the first handful of plays.
The one obvious negative here is the lack of creativity on part of, and focus on the rhythm section. Odd too, considering Brown was long boastful of Mani and Reni’s musical contributions setting the Roses apart from their competition. Paul Epworth perhaps played the biggest part in this. Mani’s bass is for the most part difficult to make out and the drumming is not representative of the octopus-armed beats that make Reni arguably the greatest drummer of his generation. This problem – as I was satisfied to learn – was completely eradicated in the bands live performances of the song in the summer of 2016 – with Reni having the freedom to enhance the beat and the slightly tweaked bass-work of Mani front and centre.
‘All for One’ isn’t an instant classic on par with the high level musicianship of other selected Roses works but it succeeds in being what it aims to be: a gig-friendly, crowd pleasing stadium anthem that projects a mood perfectly reflective of the joy surrounding the bands emergence from the grave. With this, The Stone Roses have finally done the once unthinkable and – knowing they haven’t even began to reveal the totality of what makes them such a special entity – the listener is left wanting more. It works.
Rating: 3 out of 5 lemons