Squire has spent the last 10 years or so helping to make one of the most disappointing follow-ups in pop history – the bloated, inappropriately named Second Coming, and recycling old Rolling Stones and Free riffs via ego-trip vehicle The Seahorses.
Having collaborated for a while with former Verve bassist Simon Jones – nothing tangible seems to have emerged from it – Squire has been thrown back on his own devices for what is, in effect, his debut album.
That responsibility – and the pressures associated with having to front a project rather that stay in the shadows – seems to have reawakened his muse, and there’s a nervous energy and urgency about this album that has been all too absent from recent efforts.
Joe Louis has the kind of epic, faded grandeur the Verve were so good at in their heyday, Shine A Light is a joyous, folksy romp, and there are even two odes to his old Stone Roses colleagues – 15 Days and the touching bluesy shuffle I Miss You, with its valedictory line “remember when we were heroes”.
The rootsiness of tracks like the title track and Welcome To The Valley are new, but seem to suit Squire’s relaxed, grounded, persona. Long gone are the widescreen anthems and sub-Hawkwind cosmic ramblings of the Roses at their worst.
The vocals, however are an oddity, veering between Dylan at his most curmudgeonly and David Bowie at his most mannered – not the most comfortable, or comforting, of mixtures. Indeed, with this album, you feel Squire is searching for a more generalised musical voice, something to distinguish him, perhaps, from Ian Brown, his more high-profile ex-colleague.
Squire says it was Beck‘s Mellow Gold album that was the initial inspiration for this album and there’s certainly something of the American’s quirkiness about proceedings. For the most part, however, Squire has opted for a more polished sound, which allows the melodies – and there are plenty of those – to take flight.
His guitar-playing, too, has never sounded better – eschewing some of the self-indulgence of old in favour of a style that’s altogether more economic and sympathetic.
All in all, it’s not the greatest album you’ll hear this year, but a pretty impressive statement of intent.