A Second Opinion on The Stone Roses’ Second Coming

25 years later, the Madchester greats’ sophomore LP is better than you may recall

Ian Brown on the cover of NME, November 1994

Second Coming, The Stone Roses’ aptly titled sophomore set, may have been one of the most anticipated follow-up albums in pop history, and for good reason.

The band’s eponymous debut instantly elevated the band to the top ranks of their generation’s most lauded acts of the late ‘80s and early ‘90s, reaping praises from the public and pundits alike. Some went so far as to herald them as the greatest British group of all time. Cited as champions of the so-called “baggy” set, they shared the spotlight with Oasis, Primal Scream and other denizens of the Manchester music scene whose riveting semi-psychedelic sound ushered in a new trend inBritish rock during a particularly polarizing time. 

The Stone Roses Second Coming, Geffen 1994

Nevertheless, it was the anticipation and the high bar the band themselves had set which doomed Second Coming to relative failure even before its first notes were heard. Five and a half years had passed before its release, exacerbated by internal tensions and the determination of their first label, Silvertone, to refuse them release them from their contract so that they could sign with powerhouse Geffen Records. During that time, the group was prohibited from releasing any new material, and given their lack of touring, the lapse had a near fatal effect on the band.

Even so, expectations ran high given Stone Roses’ previous run of hit singles — “Fools Gold,” “Elephant Stone,” “She Bangs the Drum,” “Waterfall,” and “I Am the Resurrection” —  all of of which had been culled from that self-titled first album. Although the album would eventually go on to sell over a million units worldwide and peak inside the U.K. Top Five, critical acclaim was definitely muted and nowhere near on par with that initial offering.

Still from video for The Stone Roses’ “Love Spreads” / art by Ron Hart

Ultimately there was good reason. Given the inevitable comparison to that first album, the band let their insecurities get the best of them to the point where they doubted their own ability to pull off an adequate successor. Tensions reached their peak when the drummer, Remi, left the band a mere three weeks before a tour to support the album was set to begin. A year later, guitarist John Squire announced his departure, leaving singer Ian Brown and bassist Mani to try to salvage what was left on the band’s fragmented reputation.

When it was finally released on December 5, 1994, Second Coming was destined to be Stone Roses’ final effort, ending a short-lived but once promising career. Brown and Squire would achieve some measure of success on their own and a six year Stone Roses reunion from 2011 until 2017 produced some possibility of reclaiming former glories. Nevertheless, the group’s legacy still boils down to the two albums released early on.

ISecond Coming doesn’t sound nearly like the disappointment critics suggested it was at the time. While the opening racket of “Breaking Into Heaven” didn’t necessarily bode well for the rest of the set, “Ten Storey Love Song” provides a career highlight, sounding like a slightly more psychedelic take on the Byrds’ “Chimes of Freedom.” “Tears” and “Your Star Will Shine” follow suit, given their shimmering set-up and gentle melodic distinction. Tribal rhythms and cosmic cacophony dominate much of the rest, particularly songs such “Good Times,” “Tightrope” and “Driving South” in particular.

A quarter century of leeway as its cushion, Second Coming in 2019 stands as a decent requiem for a group with so much more to give.

 

AUDIO: The Stone Roses Second Coming (full album)

Lee Zimmerman

Lee Zimmerman is a writer and columnist based in beautiful Maryville Tennessee. Over the past 20 years, his work has appeared in dozens of leading music publications. He is also the author of Americana Music: Voice, Visionaries, and Pioneers of an Honest Sound, which will be published by Texas A&M University Press early next year.

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