Friday, 20 February 2015
That Second Coming
I've shifted position on The Second Coming several times since it came out at the end of 1994. At first I loved it, despite the negative press- actually probably because of the negative press. It was so good to hear Roses songs after such a long absence. Now I feel it's not such a great record, not even a good one maybe. Looking back the band were in trouble creatively from after the release of Fools Gold. One Love, a song I do really like, was a rehash (although Something's Burning showed a road they could have gone down). The lengthy, torturous, on-off sessions for The Second Coming, the court case, the money from signing to Geffen, the distance growing between Ian and John, the increasingly unpredictable Reni, the tension between Ian and Reni and John and Reni- all these things have been documented in the last few years and all show a band ebbing away.
Breaking Into Heaven is startling and breath taking, full of deliberately cliched and genuinely funny lyrical imagery and more guitars than you can shake a stick at. A four minute introduction with field recordings, tom toms and all sorts, then the verse and chorus, full of it and on fire, and a heartspinning bridge section shifting on one heavenly chord. It has groove, it has sleekness, it is tender and tough. It's a keeper. Driving South is a Jimmy Page fest and (like Primal Screams' Rocks or Jailbird) just has to be enjoyed rather than thought about. Ten Storey Love Song, the only song that could conceivably have fitted on the debut, is a rush of chiming guitars and swooning. Three songs in and all is good.
After that things go tits up- Daybreak is a studio jam that gained vocals, they could do that sort of thing all day and probably did. Straight To The Man a B-side at best, different and a bit funky but not up to the standard they had set. Good Times is a riff, a filler. Tears is too self-consciously epic. Lyrically the lightness of touch from the debut and its singles has gone. I used to like How Do You Sleep? but usually skip it now. Your Star Will Shine is affecting, neatly played and sung, and Tightrope sounds pretty good, an actual band performance. Begging You stands out sonically and has energy to spare. But really it takes the last song to pull the album out of its nosedive. Love Spreads redeems it at the finish, a genuinely great Stone Roses rock song, with power and dynamics and a proper Roses theme (a female Jesus). They still had it on Love Spreads.
Throughout there's nothing wrong with the playing, the guitars are often superb, the drums and bass spot on, the singing is fine and in places the singing actually makes it more than just a British rock album, Ian Brown's voice roots it somewhere else. But it doesn't feel like an album- it feels like a bunch of songs finally scraped together, in a rush ironically, with a few massive high points but too much middling filler. It's overdone in too many places and it is too heavy (in many senses of the word but mainly it seems too heavy in that it is weighted down, lead footed). I think, twenty years later, it is a 6 out of 10. Primal Scream's Give Out But Don't Give Up (see yesterday) is a 7. There's a big difference. GOBDGU works better as an lp, fits together better somehow and is more coherent but it doesn't have those two or three songs of genuine brilliance that the Second Coming has.
I don't really take any pleasure in being this critical- this is a band I adored. Tellingly when they reformed for those gigs recently the only songs from The Second Coming that made it to Heaton Park were Ten Storey Love Song and Love Spreads. We'd all loved to have heard Breaking Into Heaven. They played Tightrope at the secret Warrington gig but dropped it afterwards. Everything else was jettisoned- was it down to reunion sensitivities, a band member not wanting to force a song in that they liked but no-one else did, or down to the realisation that many of the difficult second album's songs were not quite good enough?