It might be time to take your knee off Oasis’ chest.
How dare they?
After eight years, four studio albums, and a pile of piss, coke, and tabloid grandstanding larger than all the icebergs in Greenland, Oasis STILL hasn’t apologized to you. Consistent, shameless aping of the Beatles’ back catalog. A continuous run of gluttonous, Rolling Stones-style partying and pillaging. Subtitles on MTV. All of this without even a downward glance of humility. And now Oasis has returned with a new studio album. To listen to it, they must have discovered a crate of John Lennon’s solo LPs in the basement of some castle Noel bought. There’s the usual smattering of anthems to punch your pal to. And Liam – goddamn Liam – he thinks he’s a songwriter! Who do these guys think they are? They should be ashamed of themselves. In the meantime, you’ll be sitting quietly in your room, listening to “Revolver,” waiting for The Gallaghers to get down on one knee and apologize for hawking their blasphemous wares in the temple of rock and roll.
Or maybe Oasis doesn’t owe you anything.
There are no gimmicks anymore. No quarreling at the Q Awards, no political agenda (unless you count slagging off the Queen), no scene of like-minded bands. Oasis has outlasted its own hype, and outlived its own competition. Brit-Pop and the Shoegazer movement, early 90s English music phenomena of which Oasis was tangentially a part of, have died off and risen again while Liam, Noel, and the boys have steadily worked through their own demons and growth spurts. (To wit, a recent Magnet Magazine article traced the history and significance of Shoegazer, placing Ride on the cover. Ride’s Andy Bell now plays bass in Oasis.) Oasis has no one left to be angry with, to show off to, or to pretend to be better than. England, Blur, the press, the fans – no one has them on a pedestal anymore. Without the burden of being Everyone’s Hated Rock Star, the music Oasis has made for its latest album is more straightforward than ever before. The Fab Four still lurk around most corners. But if Oasis doesn’t care anymore whether you like them or not, how can they be accused of copying the masters for profit? Must they still apologize to you for their past indiscretions?
Heathen Chemistry is an album without the standing water that gathered in the low points of Be Here Now and Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants. Sure, Liam Gallagher is still a precocious lout. But his personal Beatles fascination has led to new tunes, penned without the grating sentiment of Shoulder‘s “Little James,” that suggest the arch, halted pop of John Lennon’s later solo material. Noel – no longer required to be the bloke with the biggest balls on stage – can relax, and eat up the heartbreaking, Floyd-ish vocal scenery on “Little By Little,” which is the best Oasis song since “Acquiesce.” And veterans Bell and Gem Archer (ex-Heavy Stereo) don’t have to stand awkwardly in the Gallaghers’ shadow. They’ve added George Harrison guitar licks, touches of piano, and in Archer’s case, the seedy, sneering rocker “Hung in a Bad Place.” The rumors are true: Oasis’ new material stands on its own as a return to form. Instead of searching about for new directions, or the next great Oasis single, Chemistry presents 11 songs describing Oasis in the here and now. They are simply an English rock and roll band, creatively unified for the first time in their eight years.
“Tonight, I’m a rock and roll star,” Liam sang on Definitely Maybe. Hate him or love him, Gallagher the younger was, and is, everything that a rock star should be. But things change. “In the end, we’ll leave it all behind,” he sings on Heathen Chemistry. “Because the life I think I’m trying to find is probably all in my mind.” See? Even limey pricks like Liam Gallagher get older and wiser. In their time on this Earth, Oasis has hit every high imaginable, and traveled through the down, dirty lows that are the inevitable flipside of so much success. But they’ve emerged on the other side with their vision (and Beatles songbooks) intact, with an almost unassuming quality that would’ve been impossible to believe in the halcyon days of 1994-5. Little by little, Oasis gave you everything you’ve ever dreamed of. Where will you be when they get high again?