Saturday, June 24, 2017

Classic Album Review: Stone Roses - Second Coming (1994)

Whatever the hype, whatever the sense of disappointment, whatever they try to tell you about this album, contrary to popular critique and the court of public opinion at the time … Second Coming rocks. It really is as simple as that.

But I do understand why so many critics took the hard-line approach with the album given that the Stone Roses self-titled debut (of 1989) was one of the most critically acclaimed albums of all-time. Yet that seems a harsh stance to take when assessing this belated follow-up solely in isolation.

 When the Stone Roses released that debut, unquestionably an album of real quality, it could never be replicated. And even if the Roses had attempted to do just that, I’m quite sure the same critics would have condemned the band for being a one-trick pony. What didn’t help the cause, however, was the five-year hiatus between releases.

During that period of downtime, the band was beset with a whole range of “issues”, collectively and individually, but the sense of expectation from fans and critics alike became perhaps the biggest burden of all. The great shame is that this one was not only the follow-up, it was – give or take a random recent release or two – also a swansong.

Second Coming is a fine album in its own right. It certainly has a much harder edge to it than anything the band had released prior, with guitarist John Squire being far more prominent than ever before. Squire’s contribution is immense, and in many respects he’d taken over from Ian Brown as the key individual within the foursome by 1994.

Perhaps it’s in a lyrical context that Second Coming falls a little short, but the trademark/signature musical reference points remain firmly intact, with flowery retro Sixties influences still very much evident throughout.

In fact, the basic modus operandi of the band is essentially the same; guitar rock for the E-generation. Music to dance to, music to drink (and sway) to … music to get wasted to. That familiar, almost hip-hop-lite, slightly off-beat drumming, with tight and solid basslines, warm vocals, and layered harmonies, are all present and accounted for. Yet, if the MO was similar, its execution saw the rock’n roll factor cranked up tenfold, thanks to mainly to Squire’s axemanship.

If there is a criticism, it would be that the production rather pales in comparison to that found on the crisp debut effort … which, it could be argued, was ahead of its time regardless.

That, and the feeling that the album does drag a little through the middle stages.

Second Coming probably was a major myth-busting let down to the band’s massive fanbase, or those who expected the world with bells on, or the moon on a bloody stick, but it's also the sound of a harder, less naïve band, that had understandably moved on.

Highlights: ‘Breaking Into Heaven’, ‘Ten Storey Lovesong’, ‘Tears’, ‘How Do You Sleep’, and the single, ‘Love Spreads’.

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