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Out of Court--and Out of Time? : It's been five years since Stone Roses' debut album made a big splash. A new album is due, but is there an audience?

October 16, 1994|Steve Hochman, with\f7 Dave Jennings from London

The Stone Roses' 1989 debut album, a mix of swirling guit ars and pulsating beat, was hailed in some pop circles as the Second Coming. And expectations soared even higher when Geffen Records signed the band from Manchester, England, in 1990 for about $4 million.

Dozens of delays later, the band's second album is finally set for release . . . with the title "Second Coming."

But is it coming too late?

"It's not a matter of how many years have passed, but how good the album is," insists Geffen's head of marketing, Robert Smith.

"In some respects, the Stone Roses were ahead of their time, the blend of guitar-driven rock with an alternative base. . . . That music is now the mainstream, and there is an enormously enlarged potential audience. And there's an enormous cache of belief and interest in this band, and I think people will not be disappointed."

Interest is clearly still high in England, where the album will be released Dec. 6, a month before the U.S. release. There, the Roses were bona fide stars before successfully suing to be released from their deal with the U.K. label Silvertone.

"I was never a great fan, I have to admit, but I think the mythology has been sustained over the intervening period," says BBC radio deejay John Peel.

In the United States, though, it's another matter. Despite prominent press coverage, the group never had a real hit here, and it scrapped plans for a 1990 tour that could have helped raise its profile. Now the band will have to be reintroduced virtually as a new act.

"They definitely waited longer than they should have (to release another album)," says KROQ-FM program director Gene Sandbloom. "People in the industry are very much awaiting this album, but listeners, nothing."

Says Megan McLaughlin, editor of the alternative music publication CMJ, "There was anticipation the last couple of times it was announced, but not since. It's too much crying wolf."

What has the band been doing all this time?

Even Steve Rosen, an L.A.-based manager who helped handle its affairs until recently, has trouble answering that one. "They haven't been doing too much," he says. "It's unfortunate. It was a great band and I'm curious to hear what it sounds like."

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