Bag It Up
When I began scribbling this thingy on the downhill side of 2009 it seemed that Oasis' fate may at last have be sealed. Noel's departure and Liam's pronouncement of the end of the Oasis entity meant there was little left to do but sprinkle the last bit of dirt on the grave and compose the obit. The estranged members formed up as Beady Eye, Liam launched his own line of fashionable costly-wear and even Noel got ‘round to releasing a solo record. So now that the band is dead, unless the inevitable reunion happens soon, there’s no better or worse time to look back on the sonic stuff these Mancunian brothers made.
Let us now fall back one and a half decades ago when your humble correspondent was 30-something twit in living in soggy Seattle. While Britpop was in full flood in the UK, I was blissfully unaware of the movement as labored up and down stairwells as a package courier. Back then I was feeding on the the narcissistic dreck of "Alternative" radio. But perhaps during the heavy rotation of grunge crap like Nirvana, Smashing Pumpkins and Hole, I might have heard "Wonderwall" or "Country House", but I sure don't recall any of it. Basically by the time I discovered Oasis, and Britpop was almost ten years gone. I had heard very vague references to Oasis in the music press, and I just dismissed them as a kind of neo-Kinks, comprised of two battling brothers ripping off Beatles stuff.
Strangely enough, the reason I finally got into Oasis was due to The Who. Courtesy of a gift of The Who's 2000 Royal Albert Hall DVD, I watched Noel Gallagher guesting on "Won't Get Fooled Again", and found myself unexpectedly impressed with his playing. So much so that I went on to the last of the file-sharing nets and out of curiosity downloaded the most popular Oasis tune, which was unsurprisingly "Champagne Supernova". Instantly I was snookered by the song, and wound up playing it frequently on me iPod.
By 2004 the iTunes store had just got going, I sampled some tracks from various Oasis records and wound up buying all of their albums in a short space of time. And was so impressed that I was even duped into also buying the CD versions as well. It wasn't long before my need for more Oasis noise got me purchasing most of their EPs and other such detritus. And since i dug it so much, I would up diving into other Britpop acts like Blur, Ride, etc. But thanks to Noel's constant raving i became just as fascinated with the Stone Roses. But above all it reawakened my long-dormant love of The Beatles, as Oasis were so heavily derivative of their oeuvre. And even five years hence of my latent discovery of these Mancunian sods, I'm still just as awed and befuddled as ever.
Who Feels Anything?
Over their 15 year recording career, Oasis managed to eek out a whopping seven albums. Clearly the brothers Gallagher were not going to let a rotating backing band, endless fights, drug problems and such hassles prevent them from taking their own sweet time in issuing records. But unlike the typical sonic review of Oasis' output, my point of view is almost all in retrospect. So there's little of the slobbering worship of the band's first two albums that almost every music mag hack uses a measuring-stick to gauge their latest efforts against. In a nutshell I feel all of their early albums are uneven affairs and the combo gelled with the new millennium and the records have improved over time.
Before we leap into the mire, it should be made clear that you'll find damned little personal details and back stories about the band and their songs - this is just a dumb Yank's view of this outfit's EPs and LPs. So if you're seeking details about the fights, divorces, narcotic incarcerations and what Noel was tripping on when he wrote what tune, look away, it ain't here…
DEFINITELY MAYBE 1994
The opening snarl of "Rock N Roll Star" kicks off this seminal bit of British plastic. The track's a brilliant amalgam of boogie-rock and power-pop that's certainly doomed to forever be the band's calling card. Stuffed with the kind of hooks that are damned hard to get out of your mind, it's the tune that defined the album and band - 'we're going be fuckin' rock stars and there's not much you can do about it.' Taking a turn into the goofy world of daft rhymes as a substitute for lyrics, "Shakermaker" is an passible mid-tempo rocker that's only notable as a subtle rewrite of the Coca-Cola jingle "I'd Like To Teach The World To Sing". Much better is the Lennon-inflected "Live Forever", a power ballad that doesn't seem like one. Propelled by Paul McGuigan's steady baseline, it's the album's best track with one of Liam's better vocal performances. Combining a Beatle-eque 'Taxman' riff with some nicely blended fuzztone and acoustic guitars, "Up In The Sky" is hampered by lyrics so vacuous they almost ground the song. The album nosedives into mire of 70s sludge-rock with the awful "Columbia", a tune that sounds like an inept Slade cover song, complete with audience participation "Yeah Yeah Yeah"s during the overlong fadeout. Things improve a bit with the nihilistic boogie of "Supersonic", bringing us back to the into Noel's world of silly prattle and overt dope references. Thanks to some good production, it's still a catchy tune. But just when things are looking up, we get thrown back into the bathetic sludge-metal of "Bring It On Down", which ranks among the worst songs the band's ever done. A pointless four-minute exercise in crappy riffing and characterless delivery, it's only grace is they don't drag it out like "Columbia" Sounding like it was recorded in a dank public loo, the band's paean to the inner-yob "Cigarettes & Alcohol" is a best Status Quo tune never written. But throwaway boogie or not, the sinfully catchy tune (courtesy of nicking T-Rex's "Bang A Gong" riff) is probably heard in a thousand pubs across the world every night. The album's best kept secret is "Digsy's Dinner", a charming, rollicking tune with some nice changes and - god forbid - a piano solo! It's stunning to me that the same hand that wrote 'Dinner' also could pen dreck like "Columbia" and "Bring It On Down" Certainly of the mold as "Live Forever", "Slide Away" is a well constructed song, with some interesting twists, but drags on about two minutes too long. The album's novel closer is a coy little ditty with an understated arrangement and some ironic lyrics combined with some interesting vocals.
It probably doesn't need to be said that Oasis simply tore up the charts with this album and the flood of singles that gushed forth from it (two of which were not on the album). Along with Blur and other like acts, Britpop was a major force that consumed England until the party fizzed at the end of the decade. But this was the one that the band would be forever measured by, and that's a shame, as it's got some good points, but is by no means the seminal statement that most think it is.
CIGARETTES & ALCOHOL
One can only admire Oasis for the moxy of attempting a cover of "I Am The Walrus" - and live to boot. Liam's Lennon-infused vocal style carries the first part of the track, but after about four minutes the track decays into a spacey, meandering solo that's rather pointless and so drags the song to an unnecessary eight minutes. "Listen Up" starts up sounding like "Supersonic" but actually is a much better tune, it's almost a mystery why this didn't end on Definitely Maybe. "Fade Away" seems a bit too close to "Up In The Sky" for its own good.
This EP contains the first of what became a staple of Oasis EPs; the Noel demo song. More often than not, these tracks were better than the tunes on the albums. Like in The Who, the guitarist/songwriter is a better singer than the lead vocalist, and Noel shows great range in "Take Me Away", even if the song is not among his best, but is a good ballad nonetheless. "I Will Believe" suffers from underproduction, and sounds like a band rehearsal version, but that’s what it is, but nothing’s lost as it's a mediocre song, and not too memorable. The "Columbia" demo is marginally better than the DM version, if only because it's a more tempered version and not buried in sonic sludge.
This title of this non-LP tune is better than anything from Definitely Maybe, with the possible exception of "Live Forever". Combining a nice string arrangement, Ringo-esque drumming and Noel's clever hooks, "Whatever" is only hampered by the fact that he stole the melody from Neil Innes' "How Sweet To Be An Idiot". The moody swagger of "(It's Good) To Be Free" is the stuff that B-sides are made of, a mostly forgettable song with little to recommend it save Liam's understated vocals. But Noel takes things back to top form with the lovely ballad "Half The World Away", a bittersweet lyric meshes nicely with the nice acoustic guitar and electric piano arrangement. The finisher is an unplugged version of the title tune, which is not bad, but lacks the charm of the full production.
A great single is dampened by a collection of underwhelming tracks. The acoustic version of “Up In The Sky” is just filler, the album version is more satisfying and just strumming the chords shows its underbelly of weakness. “Cloudburst” covers an admirable attempt at a good melody with a sea of distortion, and kills the song. And rounding it out we have a live version of “Supersonic” an addictive track, but it also just feels like filler.
This EP has a variety of tracks with the band’s Coca-Cola theme “Shakermaker” kicking things off. Next is the best tune, Noel’s whimsical “Do You Wanna Be Spaceman?” a nice homage to childhood dreams, with a compelling Chet Atkins-style guitar line. The “Alive” demo seems a lot like “Cloudburst” a track with a good melody lost in a wall of fuzztone, but that’s forgivable as it’s just a demo version. But it all falls down with the live version of “Bring it On Down” one of Oasis’ worst grunge-metal monuments.
(WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY? 1995
It’s hard to be objective about this album, when this humble record turned the li’l Burnage group into megastars. And there’s no denying it’s a very good album, but I still don’t think it’s the definitive word on Oasis. The album kicks of with the banal “Hello” and then gets a bit better with “Roll With It”. This track as the pack marker for the explosion of Brit-Pop, and the UK music press paired it off with Blur’s “Country House” in a torqued kind of competition to be crowned king o’ Brit Pop. “Wonderwall” is a wonderful pop ballad, and probably the only Oasis track the general US population knows about. It’s followed on by the excellent “Don’t Look Back In Anger”, featuring Noel’s plaintive vocal and a nice string arrangement. The next two tracks are homages to UK boogie. “Hey Now” and “Some Might Say” are both great stomp-rock tunes. “Some Might Say” was released before the album and is the last time original drummer Tony McCarroll would play with the group. The mid-tempo “Cast No Shadow” seems rather pale next to “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” but is still a good tune. The album’s best kept secret is “She’s Electric” a great Liverpudlian rocker with bad rhymes and nice guitar arpeggios to keep things driving. An unwelcome throwback to DEFINITELY MABYE’s metal-sludge, the record’s title track is the albums worst song (save for the two “untitled” tracks which sound like rehearsal versions of “Swamp Song”). The epic closer is “Champagne Supernova” starting at a sedate pace before the fuzztone kicks in two minutes into the track. Filled with hallucinogenic lyrics and epic guitars, this became the band’s obligatory show closer. Paul Weller guests on guitar. Lastly there’s the extra tune what was included in a limited release, the wonderfully silly “Bonehead’s Bank Holiday” which remains one of my favorite Oasis tunes.
SOME MIGHT SAY
A great EP with the strength of it’s boogie a-side, “Some Might Say” it would be excellent just for that, but with the excellent “Talk Tonight” and “Acquiesce” it’s all the better. “Talk Tonight” is a superior ballad with a nice vocal arrangement. The power-pop duet “Acquiescence” feels like the story of the battling brothers “We need each other, we believe in each other”. But the last song “Headshrinker” is throwaway metal gunk. A limited version of this EP also included a demo version of “Some Might Say” which sounds almost exactly like the final version, save for Noel’s vocal and the fact that it stretches out for almost seven minutes. it also included Noel’s simple but direct cover of “You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away”.
This EP has the highest highs and the lowest lows. The magnificent “Wonderwall” is paired with horrible dreck of “The Swamp Song” - what a waste. But still the other two tracks eclipse “Swamp Song”’s nadir. “Round Are Way” is an ebullient song with surprising brass accompaniment that keeps things moving along. Ending the EP is the one of Noel’s best “The Masterplan”. It’s a moody, evocative track with an excellent arrangement and even bests “Wonderwall” as Noel refrains from descending to throwaway rhymes and actually says something.
ROLL WITH IT
The a-side was not Oasis’ best song, but still a good tune, just not as memorable as others from MORNING GLORY. Noel’s “It’s Better People” is a steady acoustic track with some nice vocal hooks. The next track “Rockin’ Chair” is the first in a long series of Noel’s efforts to musical express the onset of middle age. It never gets too maudlin, but seems comical for a man not yet 30 to be writing about being old. The EP closes with an acceptable live version of “Live Forever” from the Glastonbury festival.
￼A perfunctory EP, with the album version and a single edit of “Champagne Supernova” along with a track from DEFINITELY MAYBE.
BE HERE NOW 1997
Following up a landslide hit can be a dangerous business and many a group have collapsed under the pressure. I’m probably in a very small group of people who actually thing this record surpasses the previous two. But to most Oasis fans and especially their detractors, it was an overblown expression of Noel’s vast ego and a weak successor to WHAT’S THE STORY. If the album has a fatal flaw it’s the extended length of the songs. Clearly the record label was afraid to suggest that Noel employ a bit of brevity. Nine of the 12 tracks are over five minutes long, with five songs running over seven minutes long. In fact if it was released in the vinyl days it would have been close to a double-LP.
And if its any indication the band dropped any BE HERE NOW tunes from their live set within a couple of years of its release, save occasionally performing “Stand By Me”.
The catchy “D’You Know What I Mean” was a given an extra snarl with the band’s post-apocalypse music video. But it still makes for a strong opener. But the sludge-monster rears it’s head again with another dreadful Slade-esque track “My Big Mouth”. “Magic Pie” is a noble attempt at an epic bit of psychedelia, but doesn’t really make the grade and collapses under it’s own weight. “Stand By Me” is a good try for the epic ballad in the vein of “Wonderwall” and comes pretty close, but again drags on a bit too long. “I Hope I Think I Know” is a little too close to Noel’s “Step Out” (a “Don’t Look Back In Anger” b-side). The surprisingly catchy “The Girl In The Dirty Shirt” is a nice break from the over-saturated production of the bulk of this album.
“Fade In-Out” is another classic example of overweight production of a marginal track crumbling under its own weight. “Don’t Go Away” is too close to “Stand By Me” and feels like an attempt to make another hit ballad and doesn’t really gel. The record’s title track is another sludge-rocker, but thankfully doesn’t take itself too seriously and is actually pretty fun with a silly, but catchy flute riff. It takes a lot of chutzpah to try and get away with an nine-minute Beatles homage, and they almost pull it off amazingly. But a very strong 4-5 minute song becomes an overlong trial of patience. There’s only so many key changes and instrument layers you can add before the weary ear just gives up. And to cap it off the album closes with a two-minute reprise - consider yourself pushed off the cliff. But it’s a good song, just too much to take in one sitting. Oh, between “All Around The World” and the reprise is a pointless sludge rocker “It’s Getting Better (Man!!)” - as Lennon quipped in the Beattles “Getting Better” - ‘It can’t get no worse” Indeed, a waste of seven minutes.
D'YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?
One of the band’s best EPs with a good A-side, if overlong for a single, taking John Lennon’s quip line from “I Saw Her Standing There” and making a snarling pop tune is vintage Oasis. “Stay Young” is good, and probably would have better on the album than some of the tracks that were there. “Angel Child” is a good ballad” The surprise of the set is Noel’s energetic cover of David Bowie’s “Heroes”, which mangles the lyrics a bit, but still has good energy.
ALL AROUND THE WORLD
The a-side will probably go down as Oasis’ longest single and only Noel on his full power trip wouldn’t let a slimmed down version be released. “The Fame” is a fair rocker with a nice hook in the chorus but boring production. Noel tried a bit harder with “Flashbax” which is more ambitious production-wise, but that can’t overcome that it’s a somewhat aimless tune. “Street Fighting Man” isn’t quite as successful a cover as “Heroes” from the previous EP, but still does the original justice, but as I’m a staunch non-fan of the Stones, that doesn’t mean much.
DON'T GO AWAY
BE HERE NOW’s last two singles were a little too close in style and approach for their own good. The last single STAND BY ME was better than this one, both the A-side and the other tracks. There’s a perfunctory live version of the band yob-anthem “Cigarettes & Alcohol” but nothing too inspired. “Sad Song” is one of Noel’s best b-sides, basically just a simple acoustic tune with understated production. Last is an alternate version of the b-side “Fade Away” that features Hollywood star Johnny Depp on guitar, benefiting the Warchild charity.
STAND BY ME
The band’s last single from BE HERE NOW is better than the previous single “Don’t Go Away”. “(I Got) The Fever” is an average Oasis rocker, and probably would have been better substituting “My Big Mouth” or “It’s Getting Better” on the BE HERE NOW album. The same can be said of the rollicking “My Sister Lover”, with a good hook, though a bit long at six minutes. The EP’s closer is probably Noel’s best b-side ever. “Going Nowhere” is a magnificent tune with an almost Bacharach-like hook and a well thought out arrangement with strings and a vibey electric piano.
THE MASTERPLAN 1998
Sometime between the release of BE HERE NOW and the creation of STANDING ON THE SHOULDER OF GIANTS, Oasis lost its original rhythm guitarist and bassist, both of whom apparently couldn’t deal with the pace of life in a mega-band. But it was time for a breathing in period and so Noel saw fit to release a collection of his b-sides.
Since all of the songs were culled from EPs that I’ve already prattled about, I won’t take the time to re-digest them here. But in many ways it’s their best album to this point because of the quality of the b-sides used to make it. Many of the songs have become part of the standard Oasis canon, especially “Half The World Away” which is probably warbled by drunken yobs in many pubs across the UK.
It includes a truncated version of the "I Am The Walrus" and the song "Listen Up" is changed a bit from original release, but aside from that, there’s nothing unique to MASTERPLAN. But if you don’t wish to wade through endless EPs, it’s a great record to start with.
STANDING ON THE SHOULDER OF GIANTS 2000
In the three years between BE HERE NOW and this album Oasis replaced it’s original bass player and rhythm guitarist with the more capable Andy Bell and Gem Archer, respectively. STANDING ON THE SHOULDER OF GIANTS was as inconsistent as the previous three records, with new highs and lows. The first half of the album is generally upbeat and positive, but beginning with “Gas Panic!” the record takes a turn for the weary, with introspective songs about the trap of fame.
The kickoff track “Fuckin’ In The Bushes” is a catchy instrumental with vocal snippets from a film about the “Isle Of White” festival in the 60s. The first single, “Go Let It Out” is a nice change for the band, a catchy and compelling song that uses understatement to good effect. The record peaks with the next song, the magnificent “Who Feels Love” with a mantra-like groove and dense harmonies. But with peaks come troughs and “Put Yer Money Where Your Mouth Is” plummets back down to riff-rock hell. But the band gets back up with Liam’s heartfelt ballad “Little James”. “Gas Panic!” has the makings of another aimless dirge but this time it’s kept under control and the track holds itself together. The next two tracks betray Noel’s apparent weariness with life at the top. “Where Did It All Go Wrong?” is a reflection of his ambivalence and seems to point the finger to the current state of the group. The mournful “Sunday Morning Call” is equally despondent, but more melodic than the previous track. But the fuzzed-up “I See A Liar” feels like a feeble attempt to restore some vigor but fails at that. All the aimless high-speed riffs can’t hide the fact that the song has nothing to say. The closer is the excellent “Roll It Over”, a powerful track with epic production that manages to find some optimism despite the darker themes. The dense Spector-ian choirs at the fade-out are the throwback to Harrison’s “All Things Must Pass” and are a strong finish for the record. It may no have the seminal singles that previous records contained, but overall it's much better than its predecessors.
GO LET IT OUT
On previous albums the EPs were almost all collections of four songs, but that was reduced down to three for each of STANDING ON THE SHOULDER OF GIANTS’ singles. “Go Let It Out” is a refreshing change from the typical Oasis tune, propelled by a relentless bass line and subtle mellotron flutes. “Let’s All Make Believe” is a cynical statement about the afterlife and fits in with the darker mood of many of the album’s songs. The last track is probably the worst title for an Oasis song “(As Long As They’ve Got) Cigarettes In Hell”, but the truth is it’s quite a good tune with a slightly surreal texture and whimsical lyrics.
SUNDAY MORNING CALL
The bleak beauty of the a-side is paired with a couple of songs that don’t really click. “Carry Us All” is another Noel rant about the uncertain state of the world and his faith, but doesn’t seem to come to any conclusion. “Full On” is one last dredge from the bottom of the boogie barrel. The strutting braggadocio of the track is almost embarrassing, a soundtrack for a bad party.
WHO FEELS LOVE
This single is the best tune on the album and the b-sides are effective too. “One Way Road” is another ‘morning after’ kind of song, dealing directly with Noel’s drug problems (“I wanna get high but I really can’t take the pain”). But the tune is strong as well and one of Noel’s most candid lyrics. The groups cover of “I Am The Walrus” doesn’t do great justice to the song, but Noel’s take on “Helter Skelter” is much better. Like his “Heroes” cover he sticks to being faithful to the original instead of trying some fancy rearrangement.
FAMILIAR TO MILLIONS 2000
This 2-disc was also released as a DVD with the same set recorded at Wembley Stadium. The opening three songs duplicate the starting line-up of STANDING ON THE SHOULDER OF GIANTS. “Gas Panic!” is also covered from that album. But aside from “Stand By Me” the rest of the record features songs from their first two records. Oasis were always good on stage, and all of the tunes are delivered well, one just wishes they’d stretch out a bit on stage, but that might scare away most of the fans.
The only offbeat tracks are the b-side “Step Out” and Noel’s curious cover of Neil Young’s burnout anthem “Hey, Hey, My, My”. Last is a cover of “Helter Skelter” which is nothing if far better than U2’s horrendous cover from Rattle & Hum. But overall there’s nothing particularly memorable about this concert, save the newer tracks.
HEATHEN CHEMISTRY 2002
I suppose if you put a pistol to my temple and told me I had to pick one Oasis tune I’d pick the opener of HEATHEN CHEMISTRY. “The Hindu Times” is probably the greatest tune the band ever waxed in my pitiful opinion. The song’s simplicity, energy and relentless hook is all I could wish for in an Oasis tune. Though with such a stunning opener, the rest of the album can only pale in comparison. And the next two songs are so far down they almost kill the record. ‘Force Of Nature” is the worst kind of boozy swagger about the sinful life, and joins “Swamp Song” as the group’s lowest point. And next we have another throwaway “Hung In A Bad Place”, more metal-slag with no purpose. Thankfully the record quickly recovers with the doleful but beautiful ballad “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” and Liam’s folky “Songbird” is catchy has some good production as well. “Little By Little” is a cynical tune that seems a bit more like a b-side kind of tune. “A Quick Peep” is a throwaway instrumental, but brief and to the point.
Noel makes a good recovery with “(Probably) All IN The Mind” which borrows heavily from The Beatles’ “Rain” and as such is quite a good tune. The same is true for the compelling “She Is Love”, another folky ballad, and one of Noel’s best and catchiest songs. Liam next pair of tunes are a mixed bag. “Born A Different Cloud” is a slow dirge that seems a bit too close to “Gas Panic” for its own good. “Better Man” shows Liam can whip out as much macho strut as his brother, but it comes off a little to glib for its own good. Ending the record is Noel’s sweltering instrumental “The Cage” which is better developed than Andy Bell’s “Quick Peep” but still seems a bit of a fizzed-out ending for the album.
THE HINDU TIMES
This three-track EP is probably one of the best in the group’s catalog. The majestic “Hindu Times” is improved by not having the fade-out ruined by the segue into “Force Of Nature” like the album version has. The other two songs are two of Noel’s best. “Just Getting Older” is obviously an introspective ballad that never gets too maudlin like some of his other middle-age woe songs. “Idler’s Dream” is a starkly beautiful tune of solo piano and Move-like harmonies.
This EP is a big step back from the previous single. Liam’s “Songbird” is a nice acoustic ballad (though not quite as good as Noel’s acoustic ballad “She Is Love”) but still good overall. “You’ve Got The Heart Of A Star” is a nice companion to his triumphant “Just Getting Older” and “Idler’s Dream” but tries to overcome it’s weaker structure by fancier production. The closer is an unnecessary live version of the awful rave-up from their debut album.
STOP CRYING YOUR HEART OUT
The haunting single is one of the album’s best tracks and makes for a good a-side. But “Thank You For The Good Times” sounds like Noel was borrowing from his cover of “Heroes” for inspiration on this song. Alas it’s a directionless song and never quite comes together. “Shout It Out Loud” is better constructed, but feels like a redux of “Where Did It All Go Wrong?” but still it’s a better tune.
DON'T BELIEVE THE TRUTH 2005
I’ll start by saying that DON"T BELIEVE THE TRUTH is the most consistently good Oasis album the group ever made. Yes, none of the tracks reach the highs of previous albums, but nor do they fall down to the depths either. So you won’t get hit with the brilliance of “Hindu Times” and then free-fall into pond-scum like “Force Of Nature”
It’s surprising to think that an Oasis record would kick off with an Andy Bell song, but “Turn Up The Sun” does just that. Starting with a deceptively chimey guitars until heavy thud kicks in, it’s a good track with allusions to Bell’s life in Sweden. “Mucky Fingers” is a great stomper from Noel and a musical throwback to the Velvet Underground. “Lyla” is not the greatest single, recalling the Rolling Stones of the early 70s, but again shows what a master Noel is at relentless hooks. “Love Like A Bomb” has a nice swing with a Revolver-esque mid-section and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Taking a cue from the Kinks, “The Importance Of Being Idle” is strutting ballad about the necessity of doing nothing. It also made for one of the band’s better music videos. “Meaning Of Soul” is an energetic blur of a song with some great acoustic drive that comes and goes in the blink of an eye.
Liam’s pun song “Guess God Thinks I’m Abel” is probably his best tune so far, borrowing heavily from the Beatle’s “Two Of Us”, but one of the album’s highlights. Noel’s “Part Of The Queue” is another bitter ballad, but still has good energy despite his ranting lyrics. The records closing trio of songs elevate the record to a new level. Andy Bell’s homage to the film ‘Stardust” “Keep The Dream Alive” features powerful drumming from Zak Starkey and probably get’s my vote for the best song on the album. Gem’s “A Bell Will Ring” comes darn close with an almost barefaced appeal for optimism, and again Zak’s thunderous drumming drives the powerful song. A lovely closer “Let There Be Love”, slows things down with an ‘after the ball is over’ vibe and some nice mellotrons to send you on your way. It’s one of the few songs where Liam and Noel share the vocal spotlight.
I’m not a major fan of “Lyla” but I still think it’s a good single. The other tracks on this EP are pretty underwhelming. “Eyeball Tickler” is a throwaway rave-up that repeats the same riff until your ears grow weary of the tedium. “Won’t Let You Down” might not best the best b-side, but it’s still got a glimmer. It features some nice retro mellotrons but that doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s an aimless song.
THE IMPORTANCE OF BEING IDLE
This EP is probably the most consistent of the DON’T BELIEVE THE TRUTH’s three singles. “Pass Me Down The Wine” is pretty well developed and wouldn’t have been a bad addition to the album. But the real surprise is Liam’s homage to George Harrison “The Quiet Ones”, which has some lovely Harrison-esque chord changes. I wished they’d developed the song a bit more, it was worth it.
LET THERE BE LOVE
Aside from the wonderful a-side, there’s nothing much to hear here. “Sitting Here In Silence On My Own” sounds like undeveloped even as a demo. Recalling “Sexy Sadie” it’ just meanders for a couple of minutes and stops. “Can Y’See It Now?” comes across as a mangled version of “Mucky Fingers”, repeating the same same three chords with echoing vocals that screams for a change of chords or a bridge. So it’s pretty pointless.
STOP THE CLOCKS/LORD DON"T SLOW ME DOWN
The group toured the world (and I missed my one chance to the see the band live due to a migraine on the night of the show). They released a tour film and their first compilation album. The only thing worth mentioning about the film is the song of the same name from it. “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down” came from the DON’T BELIEVE THE TRUTH sessions. It’s a pretty good track with some good Revolver-esque guitars. I saw the film once and it didn’t really interest me, to be honest. Oasis are more interesting in the studio, I don’t find their live work that important as they simply play the tunes. That might appease the great rabble, but the less I know about the group personally, the better I like their music.
The STOP THE CLOCKS compilation is nothing to get excited about, it covers the basics, no surprises save a couple of old live tracks thrown into the bargain - shit do we really need another live version of “Columbia”???. The package also included an EP with a demo version of “Cigarettes & Alcohol” and a grungy live version of “Some Might Say” but it still makes for a uninspired greatest hits record.
DIG OUT YOUR SOUL 2008
With hindsight the band’s last album is a good effort, not quite as strong as the DON’T BELIEVE THE TRUTH. Oasis clearly has got the fire burning and the record emphasizes the band’s harder edge. The album’s great opener “Bag It Up” is unabashed and consistent with an intense coda. Keeping up the pressure “The Turning” is a minor-key power ballad with vague religious references sprinkled throughout. More ‘rapture’ references continue in the turgid “Waiting For The Rapture” with Lennon-esque guitars keeping up a steady pace. The record’s big single “Shock Of The Lightning” picks up the pace again and has the best production of any of the tunes. The record’s only ballad comes courtesy of Liam. “I’m Outta Time”, crammed with Beatles influence and a nice melody features a clip of John Lennon in the fade-out.
The “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” is another tiresome Noel whine about his latest round of divorce settlements. The cowboy stonk tries hard to be charming, but is just wearying after several minutes. But Noel redeems himself with the “Falling Down” track, with tasteful use of Mellotron and “Tomorrow Never Knows” style drums. Once again the Liverpudlian Gem pulls another hat trick track with “To Be Where There’s Life”, the record’s finest moment, awash in sitar shimmer and a relentlessly catchy bass line.
The album closes with a trio of really weak tunes. “Ain’t Got Nothin’” is pointless but short and energetic - but the title says it all. “The Nature Of Reality” plummets down to the boogie-gunge of Status Quo and Foghat, with only a jazzy guitar solo to recommend it. Closing out the record is a medium-paced dirge called “Soldier On” and is about two minutes too long, starting out like a slow version of “Bag It Up” and then taking forever to finally fade out.
Peppered between the songs are pointless bits of studio noise and feedback foolishness, but they don’t add to the record’s vibe and are really unnecessary. The record was released in several mega-editions, with bonus tracks and alternate takes. Nothing really stands out in the bonus material, but “Boy With The Blues” is a good track, just a bit too much like “Out Of Time” for its own good.
SHOCK OF THE LIGHTNING
Once upon a time, Oasis B-sides were the hidden gems of the band, but alas the b-sides from DON’T BELIVE THE TRUTH were weaker than b-sides of the past. And DIG OUT YOUR SOUL pretty much marks the end of the b-sides era. In their place we have a lot of really pointless remixes. Despite the pedigree of the Chemical Bros, the remix of “Falling Down” is a waste of time and I don’t imagine it was heard in too many dance clubs either.
I'M OUTTA TIME
Aside from the A-side the rest of this single is clogged up with another rasher of bad remixes. Worst of all is the ‘Neon’ remix of “To Be Where There’s Life” which makes a brave attempt at making a great song sound as terrible as possible with lots of dorky synths. Alas it succeeds brilliantly. The other remixes are not quite as bad, but are still just as pointless, Oasis and remixes are not a match made in heaven.
Aside from “The Swollen Hand Blues” this single features only remixes. As stated above, Oasis music is not really suited to remixing, and so are unsatisfying overall. ‘The Gibb Mix’ is the best of the lot, as it doesn’t bother with trying to infuse a lot of disco cliches like the Prodigy and Chemical Brothers versions do. But “Swollen Hand Blues” is an OK song, it would have fit right in with the underwhelming b-sides from DON’T BELIEVE THE TRUTH.
TIME FLIES 1994-2009
OK, Oasis is now officially kaput, so let’s release yet another compilation album to keep the cash flowing to pay for our vast country estates, right fellows? This was the first Oasis release that I didn’t purchase in real form, eschewing that for the iTunes version as it included all the band’s videos as well as a near-the-end concert recording. But as a compilation it pretty much covers the same bases as STOP THE CLOCKS, just a little more completely. The live tracks are much of the same stripe, but a few surprises like “My Big Mouth” - but I never liked that song anyway. But there’s nothing new or unexpected here, just another greatest hits collection.
Outro - How Sharper A Serpent’s Tooth?
There’s little I want to say about the breakup of this group that hasn’t already been endlessly speculated about, but it seemed to me that ol’ Noel was feeling none-too-respected by his usurping band members and sodded off to do his own thing. The rest of the group huddled together and created Beady Eye and were the first out of the gate with a new musical product. DIFFERENT GEAR STILL SPEEDING was an admirable attempt at keeping a band going, and some of the songs are good and others were hardly more than derivative rewrites. But with three songwriters in the group, somehow I expected something stronger. The closest the band comes to greatness is the curious “Wigwam” tune, which starts out as a mature ballad and then collapses under its own weight. “Millionaire” and the rather lighthearted “For Anyone” are good too. But I found the singles “The Roller” and “The Beat Goes On” were nothing too amazing.
With as much hoopla as his publicist could muster, Noel burst forth at the end of the year with his own act/album HIGH FLYING BIRDS. As one listens to HIGH FLYING BIRDS you realize why Oasis' B-sides have been so weak on the last two albums, Noel was hoarding the good tunes for his inevitable solo project. Alas Noel has also been raiding his own back-catalog, rewriting his own material to limited effect. “The Death Of You And Me” is dangerously close to “The Importance Of Being Idle”, “AKA What A Life” sounds too much like “Falling Down” for it’s own good. The best track is “Record Machine” with lots of retro vibe and heavy mellotrons, “Stop The Clocks” and the epic closer “A Simple Game Of Genius” is also very good. Clearly Noel’s greater songwriting talents give him the edge over his former bandmates, but it’s the old story of Oasis being greater than the sum of its parts. And broken into fragments, just like the Beatles, they’ve joined the ranks of simple, ordinary pop acts. Nothing more. But if the Stone Roses can actually reform, it’s a fair bet that the brothers Gallagher will bury the hatchet sometime in the future, perhaps assemble again as Oasis