This is a review for Oasis fans. I’ve found over the years that it’s impossible to convince anyone of Oasis’ ability to be anything more than loudmouthed musical thieves. Never mind the fact that very traits that prompt accolades from fans and critics alike for equally derivative bands like Sloan, Spoon, and even my beloved Elliott Smith are all cited as evidence that the Gallaghers et al. are nothing more than Beatle worshipping dipshits with great hair and big amps. So, the rest of you can click away, we’re going to revel in our fandom for a bit.
Most artists (and yes I know Noel Gallagher doesn’t consider himself an artist) have periods of inspiration followed by terms of mediocrity or creative drought. Perhps the energy of having created greatness leaves them depleted and withered for a spell. Or maybe they simply got lucky with a couple great pieces and then the luck ran out? Most will tell you that Oasis peaked with 1995’s What’s the Story Morning Glory—a truer testament to Britain’s domination over pop culture in the mid-90s than flannel wearing Cobain worshippers would have you believe—and there’s an argument to be made there. But I think that argument rests mainly on the band’s position as pop culture icons, especially in Britain, and the fact that they not only beat the sophomore slump in which so many bands slog but for a brief moment made the premise seem silly. Morning Glory established the band once and for all as the dominant British lords of pop music and banished their rivals Blur to the college rock ghetto until they too rose up to hypnotize America with “Song #2,” which oddly sounded more like Nirvana than the Kinks, but I digress.
And so it is under the shadow of Morning Glory that all other Oasis albums live. There have been valleys of boredom, make no mistake (specifically 1997’s Be Here Now and 2002’s Heathen Chemistry), but the band has consistently cranked out good singles throughout the lost of years of their lackluster album production. Even the leadoff track to Be Here Now, the bombastic and messianic “D’You Know What I Mean?” sends chills down my spine when cranked to deafening levels.
Fans who wait anxiously for Oasis’ return to the majesty of Morning Glory should just pack it in already. Times have changed, the band has changed, YOU have changed. The ability for one band to capture that much attention in these days of digital downloads, live video streaming, and SendSpace is just too much to ask even of the forever confident Gallagher brothers. As Noel Gallagher told Spin magazine last month in response to the generally accepted notion that Be Here Now was a shit record, “I’ll remind you that that record sold nine and a half million copies. If ANY band this year sells that many records I’ll shit in my trousers.”
So Dig Out Your Soul is not the long-awaited return of 1995, and that’s good news. If anything it’s a continuation of the songwriting maturity and inspired production of Don’t Believe the Truth from two years ago. Finally, the band that wanted to sound like the Beatles started recording like them.
To be certain, there’s no shortage of attitude on this album. Liam still sneers his way through sure-to-be live staples like “Shock of Lightening” and “The Turning” but the band has also seemingly grown comfortable with space in their music. Instead of filling every open track with louder and bigger guitars, there’s room for your mind to roam the grooves and find the bits of melody that crash off each other if given the opportunity. The creepy and droning “Falling Down” is fast becoming my favorite Oasis song and that’s mostly because it’s propelled by Zach Starkey‘s drumming to a point of dizzying bliss. In fact, Starkey’s drumming is the lynch pin of the whole record, making it doubly disappointing that he’s left the band.
It’s nice to see Noel Gallagher has expanded his record collection a bit. No longer limited to the thirteen albums the Beatles officially released during their career, Noel has now discovered The Plastic Ono Band, John Lennon‘s first real solo album. “Waiting for the Rapture” rumbles in with throbbing distorted bass and “Cold Turkey” guitar solos. And as we know, the 70s weren’t all drugs and crunchy guitars, “I’m Outta Time” is saved from being another lame-o contemporary adult rock snoozer by 70s Creep Out guitar work.
So, it’s not likely we’ll see Liam’s pompous mug smiling out from under the sheets on Vanity Fair this year, nor will we see Noel sheepishly saunter up to 10 Downing Street to meet with the Prime Minister. Their days as pop culture vanguards are over, but the music, all that probably should matter anyway, goes on and for now the band seems to have found its groove.
Trailer: Oasis – Dig Out Your Soul