A band release a stellar debut album with rocketing sales and almost crippling acclaim, tour too much, see too much, take far too much, get too indulged, fall out with their label and veer from lovable scallywags to charmless liabilities. So back to the studio then to salvage their reputation and to make, as promised, the greatest LP ever.
A 4 year withdrawal from gigs.
More silence. Relocation to rural Wales*.
Then after 5.5 years, Second Coming.
Sound familiar? what were Geffen Records feeding their bands on at the beginning of the 90’s? Second Coming was greeted with enthusiasm, followed by a collective shrug of the shoulders and a not-as-good-as-their-debut consensus**. Band split up. Apathy. The earth went around the sun a few more times and folk mostly forgot about it. I cry ‘shame upon thee’.
Nobody at 1537 towers is arguing that Second Coming is up there with Stone Roses, but it is definitely due a bit of a reappraisal, mostly for John Squires fabulous guitaring – which is splashed, slathered and dripped all over this platter in a manner reminiscent of gloss paint across one of his canvasses.
Example? opener ‘Breaking Into Heaven’ chugs along like a journey up the Nùng River in a PBR, taking in sound FX and half-heard long-forgotten psychedelic radio, before becoming a song, before becoming a fabulous rock out, all guns blazing. Take ‘Good Times’, uncertain, limpid, fragmentary before Squire sets himself firmly astride proceedings and rides it on home into the sunset, or the belting ‘Driving South’, slathered in rock.
The comparison always made for Second Coming is that it is the band’s Zeppelin LP and there is a lot in that. There are pastoral elements to the likes of ‘Tightrope’ (particularly good cut), ‘Tears’ and ‘Your Star Will Shine’ that verge on campfire Bron-yr-Aur-isms. It even burns on through into the discordant jug band-isms of ‘Foz’^*
What I think limits Second Coming and stops it becoming the all-out rock LP it yearns to be is Ian Brown’s voice. I can think of no better man for a languid, funky, 60’s tinged, sun kissed psych track but his limitations really get laid bare on this LP for all to hear. A few of the tracks here, ‘Daybreak’ come off as well played but skipteasingly inconsequential, just yearning for a bit more vocal authority to take it on home^. The man just doesn’t have the tone for rock, which is fine he more than makes up for it when singing other ways, unfortunately the material here does not always show him at his best.
The best thing here by a country mile though looks forwards not backwards at all. The cataclysmic turbo-charging ‘Begging You’ lights up Second Coming like a flare in no-man’s land, throwing everything else into stark relief. Essentially it is Fool’s Gold on hyperspace speedy-speedy-blackout drugs, a truly great combo of rock, dance and something entirely of its’ own devising. The video is scarily like the contents of my own mind. Like the sign on the front of the bus said – Further.
The economical-with-the-pixels rhythm section of Reni^^ and Mani reach some astonishing heights throughout the LP, they blend and meld with the requirements of each song to an uncommon degree – shuffling, driving, jiving, thriving. I would argue that it is Reni’s drumming that lifts the Stone Roses, you place a more normal drummer in there and you collapse the soufflé good style*^. Take the strangely late-nite-Claptonesque ‘Straight To The Man’ if you want an exemplar.
It all ends with lead single ‘Love Spreads’ which is simply a superb rock song. I remember the excitement of buying it on 7″ on the day it came out and just being knocked sideways by the sheer intent, tunefulness and the darkness of it all. There’s something awesome about the way Brown delivers the line ‘I forgive you boy / But don’t leave town’ that hooks me every time.
So, yeah Second Coming doesn’t quite live up to the fabulously arrogant (mock arrogant? who knows?) title but it really is a damn good collection of largely rocked-up songs, head and shoulders over most pretenders to their crown. I’ll take that.
PS: I stumbled across this today which I found unexpectedly charming:
*where only good things can happen.
**a fact it would be a) difficult to deny b) a fucking high bar to leap.
^*digital only bonus track, but hey, this is my world. Plus, it’s awful bollocks. Vinyl wins.
^or possibly to the bridge.
^^mate of Simon Wright (of AC/DC fame) and a man who Pete Townsend tried to poach for his own band after the Stone Roses’ first gig with him.
*^am I being a bit too street here? I don’t want to alienate my demographic.