There are very few albums whose questionable reputation can be summed up by a zombie movie, but that’s just one of The Stone Roses’ ‘Second Coming’‘s dubious distinctions.
Faced…There are very few albums whose questionable reputation can be summed up by a zombie movie, but that’s just one of The Stone Roses’ ‘Second Coming’‘s dubious distinctions.
Faced with two flesh-eaters in their north London garden at the start of Shaun Of The Dead, Nick Frost and Simon Pegg turn to the latter’s record collection for defence, using 12-inches of insufficient musical quality as deadly(ish) Frisbees, while saving the better albums for a future listen.
That is until the ‘Second Coming’ makes its cameo. Triggering a short debate between the pair despite the apparently life-threatening situation, Frost is all for hurling the album into a walking corpse, while Pegg tries to save it with a defensive “I like it”. And that’s The Stone Roses’ second album all over, even with the prospect of being horribly eaten alive, admitting to liking ‘Second Coming’ is still a bit embarrassing.
The Independent labelled it as one of the ten worst rock n roll career moves ever, suggesting the album “dismantles the [band’s] perfect pop formula”. And with reports of rows within the band’s camp preceding its release, the album essentially heralded the long-draw out demise of one of Britain’s best loved bands, culminating with only half the original line-up playing one of the most embarrassing, out of key and passionless performance imaginable at the 1996 Reading Festival.
Of course the circumstances of the album’s release didn’t help its reputation. If it wasn’t bad enough that it was the follow up to that debut, the five-and-a-half year delay between the Manchester band’s first and second albums – during which time they virtually disappeared as contract disputes prevented them from touring or releasing singles – so scarred fans psychologically that now any act now dallying between releases is accused of “doing a Stone Roses”.
As NME’s reviewer in 1994, John Harris, acknowledged: “anything other than a stone cold classic that sounded like it had been beamed in from another plane was going to be a jarring anti-climax. ‘Second Coming’ is exactly that.”
To be fair it’s easy to see why the follow-up to ‘The Stone Roses’ wouldn’t make an immediate impact – ‘Second Coming’ is all about grooves. Intense, swelling grooves that take a while to bury their way into your brain rather than immediately-flowering game changing rave-meets-The Byrds pop moments of the debut. Yet as anyone who has ever berated a DJ for cutting off the end of ‘I Am The Resurrection’ will tell you, The Stone Roses are very good at grooves indeed and given a bit of patience, so is the ‘Second Coming’.
With John Squire’s guitars and Mani’s bass seemingly mind-melded, Reni’s shuffling drums guiding them forward and Ian Brown’s sinister yet righteous fury, the tile ‘Second Coming’ is no cheap pun, this is a twisting and turning tour of an underworld of devils, fallen angels and the need for revenge.
The likes of ‘Breaking Into Heaven’, ‘Good Times’ and ‘Straight To The Man’, skulk along with a low slung venom, ‘Begging You’ is a high-speed dancefloor dogfight while ‘Your Star Will Shine’ and ‘Tightrope’ do not only revive the band’s English folk song heart (as glimpsed on ‘Elizabeth My Dear’), but make it feel far less bolted on to the ‘Roses vision than previously.
‘Second Coming’ also delivers three stand out moments worthy of any in The Stone Roses’ impressive cannon. ‘How Do You Sleep’ demonstrates that far from being dismantled, the pop formula was far more versatile then ever, even when reduced to its bare essentials; ‘Ten Storey Love Song’ is just that, a beautiful skyscraper of emotion, while comeback single ‘Love Spreads’ is the Mancs at their take no prisoners best.
At 73 minutes long (not counting the irritating four second ‘bonus tracks’ of silence on the CD that took the album to 99 on the counter) ‘Second Coming’ is often accused of being overlong, and while a bit of editing might have improved the immediate impact of some songs, on close inspection there are no obvious contenders whose immediate removal is deserved or would suddenly improve the album.
Ok, you can use ‘secret’ out-of-tune jam ‘Foz’ at the end to fend off the undead if you like, but the rest of ‘Second Coming’ really does deserve to survive beyond the zombie apocalypse. Yes Mr Pegg, I like it too.