Second Coming

The Stone Roses

Geffen, 1994

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


It should have been a triumphant return. Heck, the Jesus imagery was thick as ever; first, they were the resurrection, now this is the Second Coming. Hallelujah!

What the Stone Roses failed to account for was that the rock world changed considerably in five years. In 1989, Madchester was briefly all the rage in Britain, while America was split between underground alternative just starting to bubble up, the rise of hip-hop and an alarming number of wimpy singles on top 40 radio. Fun fact: The top chart songs of the year were from Milli Vanilli, Bette Midler, Paula Abdul, Chicago (“Look Away”) and Bobby Brown’s “My Prerogative,” which was actually pretty good. Also, George H.W. Bush took power, but that’s neither here nor there.

Anyway, the Stone Roses were kings of the Madchester scene, and their eponymous debut is still highly regarded by critics and fans. Not only was it the defining record of the movement, it influenced a large number of bands in the years since (Blur, Arctic Monkeys, etc.) and remains a colorful whirlwind of gaudy guitar/dance pop/rock with a heart and balls and a lovable dose of ego.

It would have been difficult to duplicate that landmark album, and Second Coming doesn’t really try, to its credit. The five-year gap allowed the band to absorb some classic rock influences, deepen their house sound (fitting, since my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Screamadelica had come out in 1991 and bassist Mani would eventually join Primal Scream), and so this disc is just as colorful and absorbing as the debut.

Problem is, it’s not that memorable. The best Stone Roses songs – including the enduring 1990 single “One Love” – have a way of creating their own little universe and sticking with the listener, and that doesn’t happen here as much as it should. But the major complaint is that it takes half the record to get to the highlights. An 11-minute opener screams pretension as a matter of course, but it’s padded with a very long, slow drum intro and jungle sounds before the mediocre song itself kicks in about four minutes through. See “I Wanna Be Adored” from the debut for how a portentous introduction can be best used, especially when it explodes into a daring, well-written song. “Driving South” goes nowhere and “Ten Storey Love Song” is probably the corniest song of the band’s career. So far, so disappointing.

But once we careen headfirst into the absorbing dance rock rave-up “Begging You,” things get good in a hurry. In a weird juxtaposition, the tune is followed immediately by the handclaps, acoustic guitar and general front-porch folk feel of “Tightrope.” Both are excellent songs, career highlights for the band, but they should have been spaced out a bit so as to maximize their impact. From there, the solid blues-rock of “Good Times” leads into the noisy, affecting ballad “Tears,” which stuns with acoustic and electric guitar punctuation trading off over the drums, which Reni plays as practically a lead instrument. It sounds similar to what Oasis would do a little later with their ballads, but with a slight Guns ‘N’ Roses influence and the band’s own wall of sound.

The disc closes with “Love Spreads,” which sounds like a wiser version of the Stone Roses we all know and love and is yet another highlight. Like most discs from the early ‘90s, a hidden track appears called “Foz” which is an enormous, irritating waste of time but was probably a drunken hoot for the band to record, like most hidden tracks (“Endless, Nameless,” “All By Myself,” that one Robert Goulet-sounding track from STP’s Purple). Such was the tenor of the times, so don’t worry about it.

The best songs here are quite good, standing up with the debut and showing promise that this band could have continued and thrived in the Britpop era they found themselves in, but it was not to be; infighting took its toll, two of the guys left, and the band disintegrated with only two albums to its credit. For fans of the band, the Madchester sound or alt-rock in general, this is definitely worth picking up. Shame that only half of it lives up to the good Stone Roses name, even if it that half if outstanding.

Rating: B-

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