Thursday, 30 June 2016

How I learned to stop worrying and love the Second Coming

As I mentioned on my previous post, the summer of 1990 had started on a positive note. Having bought my 12 inch copy of "One Love", a song which featured on most of my summer mix tapes of that year, the future looked bright: We could look forward to more brilliant music from The Stone Roses in the months and years to come. Unfortunately, this was not to be. We had to wait until 1994 for new material to come out. This was in the form of the "Love Spreads" single. I remember seeing the video on MTV Europe and confusing its intro with the one from Beck's "Loser" which was also playing on MTV in the same period. It did not exactly sound like The Stone Roses but it was a good song anyway. As it turned out it was a typical example of the second album which under John Squire's influence sounded more like Led Zeppelin than like The Stone Roses. (What's funny is that because of this, "Second Coming" would probably appeal to classic rock fans who normally would not touch anything "indie" or alternative with a ten foot pole... or a selfie stick nowadays!). Anyway, I bought the single but not the album at that time and this had to do with the way I was handling my limited budget for buying records back in the 90's. I would buy the singles first, because these would be deleted after a while and as for the albums, well, these would always be available so I could buy them later. This of course meant that I delayed in buying some albums that I wanted to buy for several years, but this is not exactly what happened with Second Coming.
So let's go back in 1995 when the second single from the album came out: "Ten Storey Love Song". This sounded exactly like The Stone Roses, this was in fact what I had been waiting for since the summer of 1990. I was delighted.
In late 1995 (in fact on the same day as "Wonderwall" by Oasis as I read somewhere), the third single came out: "Begging You". I bought it without hearing it first. Well after all, I had all the other Stone Roses singles, and these were after all The Stone Roses so it could not be bad could it?. It did not have any b-sides just a few remixes. And by the time I put the needle on the record (or more precisely the laser beam on the CD since it was a CD single) the Roses were no more. They had split up. And to add insult to injury, the song was horrible. Just a constant "begging you begging you begging you" and not much else seemed to be happening. By the time I reached the 4th remix (which was the last song on the single anyway) I had had enough. "Put a sock in it Ian, I'm begging you to stop" I thought. And that was it. When the CD finished I took it out of the player, put it back in its digipak case which I then placed on the shelf... from where I never took it down again for the next 20 years! I was through with The Roses. And due to this traumatic experience I never bought the second album...
...Well I did, in 2001 along with "The Complete Stone Roses" when my interest in the band was re-awakened by the 10th anniversary edition of the first album. But still I refused to listen to it. I just put it on the shelf, probably somewhere closer to "Begging You".
And so the years passed until I finally got tickets to see them in Manchester this year. "I should really listen to the second album before going to Manchester" I thought. So I took it down from the shelf, opened the booklet... and almost placed in back on the shelf when I saw the duration of the first song: 11 minutes and 18 seconds. "This is going to be another nightmare" I thought. "Breaking Into Heaven" however is one of the best songs on Second Coming and one of the few they are more likely to play live from that album. "Driving South" is not really memorable but then comes the masterpiece (imho): "Ten Storey Love Song". I would probably not have paid much attention to "Daybreak" which comes next, but it is segued with "Ten Storey Love Song" so it forces you to listen to it more closely. But it's the following track that is a little gem: "Your Star Will Shine", followed by "Straight To The Man" and "Begging You" (and do you really want my opinion on that one again? Still it sounded better after 20 years. But only a little bit). Things slow down on "Tightrope" and continue to be slow on "Good Times" which surprisingly picks up after a while. They slow down again fo "Tears" (which is a very nice song actually) but the real surprise is the next one. "How Do You Sleep", its title bringing to mind John Lennon's song of the same name, is my favourite song on the album (after "Ten Storey..." of course) and makes you wonder what these guys could have achieved if they had stayed together. And finally the album closes with the well known "Love Spreads". Closes? Well, not exactly. "Love Spreads" is followed by 77 tracks of silence, each lasting 4 seconds (the minimum duration a CD track can have) and then, if you have left your CD player running all this time your senses are attacked by what is known as "The Foz", which is funny, but it is also quite good (in an.. ahem "funny" sort of way). This is followed by 9 more silent 4-second tracks, bringing the total to 99, the maximum number of tracks a CD can have.
And there you have it: An album review that is more than 20 years too late. Not a bad album, actually it's quite good, certainly better than the average Britpop album (are you paying attention there at the back, Noel?), but not good enough for The Stone Roses. Let's wait to see what their 3rd one (if there ever is one) will sound like. You never know. After all, if we all join hands we'll make a wall...

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