The Second Coming by The Stone Roses. This is the somewhat maligned, heavily delayed sophomore album to the band’s hugely acclaimed eponymous debut The Stone Roses. It’s 21 this year, by heck, and we first listened to it disappointedly in 2001 during a visit to Nottingham.
Gone were the inspiring psychedelic pop songs and jazzy riffs, and in came a really bloody heavy, Led Zeppelin sound. The press freaked out, and it got a mixed response. The band imploded shortly afterward. But since 2001, we’ve come to appreciate it a great deal.
The Second Coming
It was released in December 1994 in the UK, 1995 in the US. The Stone Roses (singer Ian Brown, guitarist and artist John Squire, drummer Reni, and bassist Mani) had been away for 5 years.
Stuck in a three-year legal dispute between Silvertone Records and Geffen, they had been banned from performing live or recording music, which ultimately dissipated the momentum they had built up over the last 8 years.
Before the band collapsed, however, they were able to release the Second Coming. Not the best title, but the album remains something of a forgotten gem all the same.
Some of the problems begin with an unnecessarily long, jungle sounds fused intro to Breaking Into Heaven. This drags on a long while (the single version cuts that nonsense out), but it breaks into a heck of a groovy, bluesy number which at 11 minutes 21 seconds is one hell of an opener.
Unfortunately, this is followed by Driving South (skip), and later in the album there’s Good Times (arguably the band’s worst song), and the pointless Straight to the Man. The latter’s not too bad, but it’s not album material.
But there are many other top moments, such as the Led Zeppelin-inspired Love Spreads. There’s even a fun hidden track tucked away deep into the album, showing the band did at least have some fun recording this laborious project.
But quite why the band didn’t include the brilliant Ride On instead is beyond us. It was merely released as a B-side to one of the album’s singles and was one of Reni’s last contributions to the band before he quit in April 1995.
Drummer Reni’s Masterpiece
Despite these flaws there’s a lot of fantabulous music here. Guitarist Squire’s on top form and drummer Reni is quite unbelievable.
The Stone Roses are something of a cult band, so Reni remains largely unknown, but the man is a genius of the highest order. On the Second Coming he’s remarkable from start to finish and this isolated loop of his Love Spreads drumming showcases his skills.
Daybreak is the highlight for him, a tight jam with an incredible groove. It’s one of the all-time great drumming performances: complex, streamlined, dextrous, fluid, funky, controlled, and precise. It sounds so effortless it’s only when you try to replicate it that you realise you’re an idiot.
Ten Storeys of Conclusions
Drumming aside, there’s great music here. Ten Storey Love Song is excellent (the band did a video for the single – Reni didn’t attend, indicating his time with the band was now limited), as are the acoustic numbers Your Star Will Shine and Tightrope.
Tears also features a stunning intro from Squire… before descending into bland stadium rock. Which, unfortunately, is one of the weak elements of the Second Coming.
But one of the forgotten gems is the subtle, quiet number How Do You Sleep – it has an indelible charm to it and it’s actually quite beautiful. We really dig this one – great choruses and Reni complementing Brown’s singing with those typically uplifting backing vocals.
Things close out with the aforementioned Love Spreads, a classic which hints, had the band been allowed to be more focused, at how good the could have been.
Unfairly treated by the media, but now being recognised as a flawed gem, the Second Coming’s a low 4/5 on the strength of its best songs and the extraordinary drumming.