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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?


Bovril said...

somehow Second Coming was always going to be a bit of a let down, no matter how much you loved the band. everything you cited seemed to work against them, but the hype machine really did expect a second coming and anything less was going to see them slated. some dubious gigs and festival appearances seemed to seal their fate for them. it wasnt the 2nd coming, but it wasnt terrible and i have some goodmemories of it and still quite like (most) of it. As for the 3rd coming? when is the new roses lp coming out? i'd love to drive into town one morning to see whole buildings plastered with flyposters for it, but i expect we'll find out by a facebook/twitter post. can they live up to the hype again after the promises made or was it just a way of selling a few more copies of their reissued debut?

Swiss Adam said...

I don't think there will be a third coming. Apparently Ian has started a solo lp which would seem suggest there's nothing cooking in the Roses camp.

anto said...

inneresting post SA. i too have had moments of both love and bewilderment with the album and in fact my own dear wife has always loved 2nd coming more than the original (thankfully, her poor taste didn't extend to men eh!) having said that, i saw them in Cork in 96 and some of the tunes sounded great. I always feed sad when I think of what could have been with the roses, when i see the shite that came behind them it is some testament that for me, after their incredible debut, no band captured the epic and the mystic in the same way.

Anonymous said...

brilliant writing