“Kiss me where the sun don’t shine, The past was yours but the future’s mine…”
– She Bangs The Drums, The Stone Roses (1989)
“I cast a shorter shadow with every passing day
No time to think I’m just fading away
Some kind of magic in all your hopes and fears
Show me the future through the tracks of your tears…”
– Tears, The Second Coming (1994)
What a difference five years can make.
The Stone Roses exploded out of nowhere in 1989, and brought with them an album that sits high on the majority of British journalists, magazines and music fans’ Top 10 album lists. They energised a generation of musicians, artists and made it cool to want to be in a guitar band again, something that the bland and boring 80’s had all but destroyed.
People talk about “baggy” and “Britpop” movements, but they only last a year or two. Times change. The Roses have never been out of fashion, and now they’re back, filling stadiums and fields like they’ve never been away. But fans know that the highs of 1989 were short-lived, and by the end of 1990, the Roses had disappeared off the face of the earth, leaving their peers to fill the void left by them.
Legal wrangles with managers and their record label Silverstone stopped the bands momentum dead in its tracks, and when kids and marriages got between the bands strong gang unit, it quickly crumbled. By the time they signed with Geffen and released The Second Coming in 1994, the band was playing second fiddle to the bands they had influenced. The likes of Oasis, Blur, Charlatans and Pulp had taken their crown. It didn’t stop the hype for the album being the highest of any band in the history of music though.
The Second Coming didn’t flop, but it didn’t live up to expectations. How could it? The Roses’ second album was expected to be 10 tracks similar in vein to the indie-dance grooves of 1990 singles Fools Gold and One Love, not a Led Zeppelin inspired guitar fest with songs that displayed an uncertainty and vulnerability not before heard coming from the pen of Ian Brown and John Squire.
The Roses were on a hiding to nothing and within 18 months of their return, they had lost Reni, their drummer, John Squire then quit, and then Ian Brown led what looked and sounded like a Roses tribute band on stage to headline the Reading 96 festival. This wasn’t Butch and Sundance going out in a blaze of glory, this was putting an animal out of its misery. An animal that everybody had loved.
There have been many albums over the years that have grown in popularity over time, and The Second Coming is one of them. Taking away the back story and the hype of the band and just listening to it on its own merits, it’s a superb album. In some ways it is a far superior album to the first. Here’s why:
The production is far better on the second album. The bass thumps, the drums thud and the guitars sound like weapons of mass destruction. It’s a full on rock album. The first album has some of the greatest songs of a generation, but the 60’s sounding production makes it sound tinny and weak.
The band really knew their instruments by this point. They had mastered their crafts. Their live shows from their 2012-13 comeback shows prove that they have got better as musicians over time. They were great in 1989. Superb in 1994. They’re legends now.
The mood on the album actually gives it character. You feel like the band has been through the mill when you hear the album, and whilst some of the songs are vulnerable, others soar. John Squire in particular sounds like he’s been released from prison and has picked up his guitar for the first time in years. It’s a release for the whole band.
Some albums are just doomed from the start, and The Second Coming is one of them. What’s great with the Roses coming back is that now – when the songs are played live to an audience who didn’t wait for the second album for five long years and who are just there to see a legendary band in the flesh – they don’t know what songs are from The Stone Roses and which come from Second Coming. Sometimes the media and such a loyal fan base are a band’s worse enemy.
The Stone Roses released two great albums in their lifetime. Check them both out.