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24 February 2016

Welcome back, All Saints – the girl band that made me the lesbian I am today

Because of All Saints, I bought my first pair of cargo pants and practised looking crestfallen. This entire aesthetic fit perfectly with my burgeoning lesbianism.

By Eleanor Margolis

“A few questions that I need to know,” said some women, nearly 20 years ago.

“I need to know what I’ve done wrong.”

Answer: a decade of absence.

“And how long it’s been going on.”

Answer: a decade.

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“Was it that I never paid enough attention?”

Answer: Well you were absent. For a decade.

“Or did I not give enough affection?”

Answer: See above. But shit, All Saints. Us fans probably could’ve been kinder too.

So about that decade. That’s how long it’s been since Shaznay, Melanie and Appletons Natalie and Nicole released an album. You probably don’t even remember it. It was called Studio 1. It somehow managed to simultaneously try too hard and not try at all. It was… iffy and deliberately distant from their Pure Shores glory days.

But when the band dropped their new song One Strike this week, the All Saints comeback, which has been vaguely in the pipeline since 2014, became extremely real. You can pretty much smell the CK1 wafting off One Strike. All reverb and Nineties girl soul, it’s sort of like someone shook Pure Shores” out of the coma it went into when it did a dodgy E at Glasto. Or something else suitably millennium.

I was eight when I first heard All Saints’ 1997 hit, Never Ever. In those days, Leonardo DiCaprio was the only actor and the Spice Girls were the only band. I liked the Spice Girls a lot, but All Saints felt grown-up. The thinking woman’s Spice Girls. I remember watching the video for Never Ever, clocking the tank tops and dark lipstick, fancying everyone involved and having the first of many existential crises to come.

“Mum, I want to be a depressive when I grow up,” I didn’t say, but may as well have done.

OK so the closest I’d come to heartbreak, aged eight, was a particularly brutal episode of The Animals of Farthing Wood. But Never Ever served as a warning that love is a disaster. Wannabe, all of a sudden, was the dumbest thing I’d ever heard. And All Saints’ unrepentant sullenness was the coolest thing I’d ever seen.

I got my first pair of cargo pants from GAP and practised looking crestfallen. This entire aesthetic, by the way, fitted in perfectly with my burgeoning lesbianism. Girl Power served its purpose but, before All Saints, girl bands were mercilessly upbeat. B*Witched, serving as probably the best example, wore a suffocating amount of denim and sounded like Haribo. Until I discovered All Saints, I don’t think it had occurred to me that it was OK not to be permanently hyper.

Looking back the All Saints phenomenon as a real life adult, it’s easy to tell what really set them apart from the likes of the Spice Girls. And it’s not just that All Saints’ lyrics were genuinely quite contemplative. They were, and still are, extremely sexy. The Spice Girls, meanwhile, were mildly crotchless. Which is fair enough, seeing as their fans were mostly pre-teens. It’s almost comparable to the Beatles versus Stones thing. The Stones: sex music. The Beatles: comfortingly devoid of genitalia. All Saints were my Rolling Stones, and it’s probably fair to say that they made me the lesbian I am today.

So, even if it is about Nicole Appleton’s split with Liam Gallagher (Liam Gallagher), listening to One Strike is like being hugged by 1997. Which bodes well for Red Flag, All Saints’ first album since the forgettable Studio 1, due out in April. This gives the trouser industry a couple of months to unleash a decent enough marketing campaign to get everyone looking like this again:

If All Saints managed to cover the Red Hot Chili Peppers in style (seriously, how much better was their version of Under the Bridge?) then cargo pants can probably claw their way out of the grave and back onto our legs in time for Spring 2016. Or so I dearly hope.