Greetings, Glancers! I continue my never-ending adventure through the best albums of all time, with a band I’m familiar with but an album I have never heard. As a side note – you see how popular all these Youtubers are getting with song reactions? I especially listen to a lot of the ‘first time reacting to Metallica’ or Metal in general videos, and while they were fun at the start, every other dick has jumped on the bandwagon meaning we get copy and paste ‘personalities’ reacting the same way to the exact same songs. There are a few good ones, but the general format is ‘cute girl/gangsta rap fan listens to Metallica/Iron Maiden/Nightwish/Megadeth and is amazed that people can play instruments/write those lyrics/sing that way, and how they have never heard of it before. With each new reactor it’s getting more false and less likable, but it’s essentially what I’m doing with these posts. The difference being that I’m listening to the entire album and that you don’t get to see my face or my ‘reactions’. Which is probably for the best as I don’t have the most expressive face and it would be even more boring than reading this, as impossible as that sounds. If I ever did do a video reaction, I think it would be less repetitive than when I write – when writing off the cuff like this I tend to take less care in what I write, but when I speak off the cuff I’m much more creative. It’s strange, because it’s the complete opposite when it comes to planning – when I plan, my writing is much more interesting but when I speak it sounds like a sleep inducing speech. Enough!
What Do I Know About The Stone Roses: Only released two albums – the first was a huge success, influential, and has a few songs I enjoy. John Squire played guitar, Mani was on Bass, and Ian Brown started the whole strutting about Manchester singer thing. I’ve seen Ian Brown live several times, though not by choice – he just always seems to be there.
What Do I Know About Second Coming: It wasn’t a flop, but didn’t have the success or praise of the first. Looking at the tracklist, there’s only one song I definitely know but I know I’ve heard some of the others because my best mate in school was a massive fan.
Breaking Into Heaven: An intro heavily reliant on feedback, distortion, and looping, followed up by water sounds – a river, and is that a bird. I think I’ve heard this before but it’s not stirring any memories at the moment. Some voices lingering in the background, like a train announcement system. Tribal beats and lasers and bird calls. Sudden guitar wankery. This goes on for a few more minutes. The shift into the song proper doesn’t quite work – the drums come in perfectly but there’s this little gap in the guitar where it feels too jarring – it should be a clean break or a fade but this is neither. Brown’s familiar vocals waft in – as I’ve said elsewhere I’m not a fan of the Manchester scene and a lot of the samey vocal styles which came with it. It feels like a band in full command of their abilities and bursting with confidence. The vocal melodies are too wispy and light – slightly better for the chorus and bridge but nothing which really grabs me. It’s all about the guitar, with Squire tearing it up and turning a non-eventful tune into something more epic than it may genuinely be. The middle melody is stronger, followed by another instrumental and kicking solo, before it fades out.
Driving South: This opens with a beast of a riff, phat and thic and other misspelled, well-meaning adjectives. The drums don’t do much for me – they’re too static and rigid – again like much of the Manchester stuff of the era. Brown’s vocals don’t match the bite of the guitar and instead he goes for an air of cool – that worked for most people of the time but I never bought into it being much more on the grunge side of the fence. Really this is all guitar and the words and melodies are so far in the background as to render them pointless. If we had a good melody then we would have a much better song. As it stands it’s still good – easy to move to, easy to listen to, but it may as well be an instrumental.
Ten Storey Love Song: This is the one I definitely know as my mate played it for days. It has a famous noise fade in, with a lot of bits which swirl around in conflict with each other, sometimes joining, mostly breaking, until the lead guitar line and vocal comes into view. We finally have a decent melody and the band matches it. It’s a fantastic, underrated song, but I imagine how good it would be with a vocalist really belting it out – Bono or Bradfield would have a whale of a time with this. The drums are even more interesting, filling out the spaces and leaving a few well intended ones of their own.
Daybreak: This doesn’t start out well – more of the same whispered, accented vocals and shuffle drum beats, with riffs relying on old Blues tropes. The little instrumental section between verses is great – drums included – but then the verses come again and leave me flat. The guitar acts as a better drum in the verses. It’s weird, because those instrumental pieces are excellent, guitar, bass, and drum all loose like the best Zeppelin jams. Vocals in the middle are a little better. It closes out with an organ of all things and a big guitar and drum sped up jamming session which is good fun. A song of highs and lows.
Your Star Will Shine: Is this going to be the hippy track of the album. A gentle acoustic intro with hand clap style drums and some backwards stuff at play. A better attempt at melody. This suits the vocal approach better. It’s short and it doesn’t progress much and still a bit light to make an impact on me.
Straight To The Man: A brief tribal intro morphs into a Seventies porn rhythm. This is probably the most straight and simple song so far, it doesn’t stray from the norm, and it hits all the established notes of the album except for the more creative experimental leanings.
Begging You: A fade in of throbbing and swirling guitar bits before the same old drum beat drops, albeit in a slightly faster pace. The vocals are marginally more aggressive, but this one feels repetitive. There’s a lot of distortion and the guitar parts are noise based rather than your standard hooks, chords, or riffs, disparate parts coming together to form a mass. It has a few moments of interest, namely more instrumental or any time the drums cut out. Another which doesn’t do much for me.
Tightrope: A second hippy track? A lazy vocal with single chord strums, and tapping beats to give a campfire singalong feel. I thought it was going to explode, but instead it became even more campfire. Feels like a Youth Mission on a beach. I see what they’re going for, but it’s flat, dull, and boring. More like a demo written and recorded inside 5 minutes while the producer was taking a dump/snorting coke.
Good Times: This is becoming a slog now, waiting for a better song – a bit of invention. This starts with harmonica, so that’s different. Vocal with drums, or cymbals I should say. This is a fine example of Brown not being the most appealing vocalist. The guitar comes in – great, but the drums do too, and that’s not so great. This is little more than a middle of the road old fashioned rock and roll song with the Manchester sound cumming all over it, and a dashing of Squire goodness. A better singer would take it up a notch, but it’s distinctly average. At least there’s more energy, but you feel the band lost all their creative writing the two best songs.
Tears: A third hippy song. This has a very folk Zeppelin vibe in the intro. Any comparison ends the moment Brown opens his gub. It just keeps going on, at the same level, with no variety yet without hitting the hypnotic quality, until finally the volume strikes and I have a giggle at Brown’s awful attempts at keeping up. Honestly, any other singer would have made 90% of these songs 70% better. The Zep vibes continue as the heavier parts suspiciously mimic the heavier parts of Stairway to the extent that this is surely a knowing homage. Squire plays a blinder again, even the drums are decent. I’d quite enjoy this song with another singer, or with Brown actually putting in some effort.
How Do You Sleep: Good guitar intro, cool lyrics. Brown’s vocals… well, we know what we’re getting by now. This feels like an anthem – it’s straightforward and has a more obvious melodic quality from start to finish. It’s that lazy/laid back drawl which still holds it back for me. I know plenty of people who love that, but my personal preference is for vocalists with power or urgency. Sweet, simple solo in the middle. I’d happily listen to this one again, but that only makes it three or four from the whole.
Love Spreads: Ha, for the briefest second this sounded like Radiohead’s I Might Be Wrong. It’s groovy, great production as always, and it has that foot tapping rhythm. I know it’ll fall over once Brown comes in. And yes, it does. I realize I’m being harsh on him, but it’s just no my thing. The problem with some of the vocals, not in this song, is that he is quite severely out of tune. Drums are much better here. The last couple of minutes are needlessly stretched out. A decent end but stamps again how little the Madchester scene means to me.
There’s meant to be some Untitled stuff at the end of the album, but I’m not going hunting for it now.
What Did I Learn: That the one band with the greatest chance of making me enjoy the whole Madchester thing… couldn’t. The whole look, style, the spidey wee glasses, the awful hair, the ‘look at me everyone, I’m taking drugs’ arrogance, the strutting about like you’ve shit your pants… it’s embarrassing and hateful, and produced a hell of a lot less good music than people think. I already knew Squire was a great guitarist, but this reminded me and taught me that he was the main driving force in the band. It also reminded me of the importance of having a strong singer in the group; it doesn’t matter how good the band is – if your singer is muck, then the whole temple tumbles to ruin. Oasis remain the only Manchester band I regularly enjoy. I love the song names, if that’s any consolation.
Does It Deserve Its Place In The Top 1000 Albums Of All Time: Based on the usual criteria – no. I don’t believe it sold well, critical reviews have always been mixed, and by the time this came out their time of influence had already passed. Had this been their first album then maybe, but this isn’t as good as their first. There are a couple of great songs, a few which could have been great with a decent singer, but the rest are middling. The overriding feeling I got from this is that Squire wished he was in a metal band. I understand why people will love it and will dance to it and get mad for it or whatever, but beyond the guitar there are a hundred other Indie bands from the same time doing stuff exactly like this and it fails to stand out. Change the singer, keep the drums away from that repetitive style, and I’d enjoy this a lot more. Even with all of that, I imagine if I was drunk or listened to this more I’d get into more by pure familiarity. I have no desire to.
Colin Larkin’s Ranking: 920/1000
Let us know in the comments what you think of The Second Coming!