Wednesday, March 24, 2004
Something I started Writing About Second Coming But Which May Never Be Finished...
There are two ways to approach The Stone Roses: as a starting point, or as a finishing point. The latter attitude suggests that there is nothing else to accomplish and nothing else to explore, encourages the kind of guitars-are-best retro-fetishisation and reductivism that keeps people on a narrow musical path. It sees The Stone Roses as part of a lineage of ‘classic’ bands that starts with The Beatles and progresses through Led Zeppelin and The Clash to Oasis, taking in The Rolling Stones, The Sex Pistols, The Smiths and- well, you know the rest. The canon of English rock music. It’s an attitude that encourages people to see the Roses as great songwriters, and more than that, as the Platonic essence of the Great English Four Piece Guitar Band. And why not? If that’s your approach, that they’re the finishing point, then why not? They are the greatest and there is nothing else.
I always took The Stone Roses as a starting point, as the jumping off moment that lead me on a long, strange road to where I am now which is, in turn, only a staging post on the way to somewhere else. Somewhere I’ll hopefully never arrive at. Of course, back in England in 1990 or so, this was the case for a lot of people, lead by the hand by “Fools Gold” (still no apostrophe) into the nightclubs and onto the dancefloors. That was never the case for me, I was too young and too far away from where it was happening to step into the world that way. Instead I had the interviews, the references, the quotes, the links made by journalists to the places the Roses had come from (figuratively, musically, not literally and geographically – Brown himself said once that “it’s not where you’re from, it’s where you’re at” that matters). Why take the easy route of the guitar-lineage when there was so much else that was so much more colourful and interesting and strange going on? Where did “Fools Gold” come from? How ever did they create “Don’t Stop”, the sound of their own music turned in on itself, refracted and dissolved and inverted? How did they know to do this? What inspired the groove in “Something’s Burning”? Where did those words come from and what did they mean? They would talk about reggae and funk and hip hop and house music and how Reni learnt to play drums in his parents’ pub with local jazz bands, how Ian and Mani met in Manchester during a scrap with a racist who’d been beating a black guy and they stepped in because that was wrong, how John had worked as an animator and painted all their fascinating, beautiful sleeves himself. About how one day they scrawled the band’s name across the faces of underpasses in the city centre, because the myth and perception of the band was as important as the music and image. Because you need to make people believe in magic. In one interview with Melody Maker they talked about politics and how the monarchy was wrong and about how they took ideas for lyrics from the Paris student riots (the end of history?), from situationism, from religious texts, from experiences they had had travelling around Europe (trips financed by applying for government grants for cookers, because experiencing the world was more important than a cooker, because it was right that in a country run by Thatcher you could rip money back from government and use it to expand yourself and increase your tolerance, wisdom and understanding of the world and life and art). The Stone Roses were a gateway.
But anyway, enough of all this fanboy shit. Let’s be having Second Coming, eh?
Second Coming did not take five years to make. You cannot make an album while you’re in court and legally prevented from recording new material. You cannot make an album when you have no money to pay for studio time. You cannot make an album while you’re mountain biking round the Cheshire countryside, or spending your eventual advance from your new record company (once extricated from the old record company) on a trip around the world visiting religious monuments and getting high in Jamaica. You cannot make an album while you’re sitting in a pub in Wales. Like the hyperbole their manager Gareth Evans (known for carrying around a suitcase full of cash in order to freak out journalists backstage at gigs) spouted about their drug habits (they recorded the first album pretty much teetotal, let alone stoned or fried on LSD and ecstasy) and like the incidents when the band themselves threw paint over the car of the boss of one of their numerous ex record labels, the stories about Second Coming’s monstrous delay may have a grain of truth in them, but their essential purpose was myth making.
Second Coming is one of the biggest let downs in the history of music. Second Coming is a cop-out. Second Coming is overwrought, guitar-hero nonsense. Second Coming has none of the magic or songs of the debut album.
These are all lies. Well, pretty much. Had it arrived in 1991 or 1992, Second Coming (as well as having a less apocalyptically ludicrous and arrogant title) would have been seen as a strong and surprising follow-up to The Stone Roses.
(It tails of somewhat here... ehehehehehe...)
3/24/2004 10:41:00 am