Second Chance


News just in: second Stone Roses album quite good after all shock. Fifteen years after its release, this piece on Mojo's revitalised website finally sees someone with respect to lose stating what's seemed to me the self-evident truth: that the main failing in the eyes and ears of those who heard Second Coming when it was new was that the band hadn't simply re-made their debut.

The disappointment might have been understandable, but for two things: the five-and-a-bit years between the band's first and second LPs, during which even the most stubborn She Bangs the Drums-ophile might have conceded that things musical might well have changed a tad; and the existence of both Fool's Gold and, perhaps more pertinently, One Love - the last record they'd put out, in 1990. Even if you allow that three years creative progress was effectively lost in court, what surprises now is surely that there are two tracks on Second Coming (Ten Storey Love Song and How Do You Sleep) that sound like they could have sat happily on the 1989 debut. Fool's Gold changed pop music, and One Love showed that John Squire, in particular, had a Zeppelin fixation that had to find free rein at some point. What were people expecting from album number two?

Disappointment alone, though, can't excuse the cloth-eared response to what still stands up as a fine, fine album. There's some flam: I could have lived without ever hearing Tears and not felt my life was poorer for it, notwithstanding the neat psychedelic chord changes in the too-long coda; Straight to the Man is a potentially decent song scuppered by its too-fey campfire presentation (though for Tightrope, another to add to the canon of addiction songs that work as if they were about love, the Bron-Y-Aur Stomp conceit of the arrangement actually works); and Ten Storey Love Song has always sounded to this listener like a slightly desperate "No! Really! Come back! We've not gone all rock completely!" plea aimed at fans of the first album confused by the opening two tracks - it's them going through the motions, repeating themselves for diminishing returns. But the rest of it is blistering. Really - go and listen to it again.

The album works, for me, in two ways, both continuations of previously established creative directions. First, the band's keenness to play with the idea of melding '60s-derived indie with the possibilities of the breakbeat - the magnificent Begging You on the one hand, and the understated, almost slight Daybreak on the other, where the inspiration isn't so much the idea of "dance beats" as going back to where those breaks came from, getting inside the sounds of bands like The Meters and inhabiting that space, trying to take the vibe off somewhere new. Second, Squire's virtuoso guitar playing, aligned with the breaks/funk mindset, gave them the excuse they needed to morph into a funk-rock band par excellence. The clues were there on One Love, from which the best parts of Second Coming seem to spring: Love Spreads, a meditation on Catholic guilt pegged to a dirty, swaggering blues-rock riff; Driving South, the reimagining of the Robert Johnson crossroads myth uprooted from Mississippi and landed in Lancashire; and Breaking Into Heaven, the epic, essential opener, which delivers on the overlooked apocalyptic promise of the album title, and predicts Oasis better than anything else in the Roses' oeuvre to boot (Sonically, the song's influence on D'You Know What I Mean is pronounced, obvious; and lyrically... well: "Listen here sweet child of mine, have I got news for you/Nobody leaves this place alive" - did Noel G ever manage to cram more references to rock iconography into two lines? And while we're at it, what was with all the disparagement heaped on Second Coming because it dared to consciously plunder past musics? That's how hip hop - for the decade leading up to Second Coming's release, pretty widely accepted as the most cutting-edge musical form - operated, and this was the sonic equivalent of Squire's widely praised cover art, with its sequence of doffed caps to previous paint and collage styles. And by 1995, and Britpop's boom, quoting from the past was suddenly in vogue, whether it was Noel and the Beatles or Damon and Ray Davies. Maybe Second Coming, after all those years in the making, was ahead of its time).

We're used to hearing these days about "guilty pleasures", about ironic appreciation of music, about having songs you unfurl your admiration for with coy pride in admitting your lack of class by doing so. Well, frankly, that's all bollocks. If there's any guilt anywhere, it ought to be among those who'd deny their own instinctive response because their intellect cuts in and warns, "Uh-uh - you'll be laughed at if you say that's what you're into; conventional wisdom decrees that the cool people don't like it." That's been the main reason, I think, that Second Coming has been resisted and panned over the years. Bravo, then, to Chris Catchpole and to Mojo, for doing their bit to get the truth out there.

Now, did I ever explain exactly why Be Here Now is the best Oasis album?


'bout bloody time...speaking as about the only UK music critic who gave the album an unequivocable thumbs up (full page in Melody Maker) when it was released...

posted by: Jerry: 3 Jun, 2009 13:40:47

Well I liked it

posted by: Tim Barber: 3 Jun, 2009 18:09:18

Hmm. I remember thinking it was OK, but did seem to plunder Led Zeppelin to an unacceptable extent in places. I did like Ten Story Love Song though. I haven't listened to it in ages. Will now go and listen to it again.

posted by: Martin Millar: 24 Jun, 2009 11:47:03

I had a conversation along the same lines only last week with a mate of mine!

We agreed that it was just impossible at the time not to compare it to their first album, and that’s why everyone got a bit hysterical about its ‘failings’.

Hope all is well


posted by: Dave Clarke: 10 Jul, 2009 18:46:19

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