Classic Rock Review

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Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2011)

noel_gallagher_high_flying_birds_album_cover_location_beverly_hillsFrom supajam.com

Oasis were undoubtedly one of the biggest British rock bands of the last 30 years and the Gallagher brothers are now two of the most well-known names in music. Now whether you’re a fan of Liam or Noel, it’s pretty much common knowledge that the pair have always done things differently. On one side we have Liam, the larger than life, super boisterous outspoken Oasis bashing headline generator and on the other side we have Noel, the more down to earth, laid back of the siblings.

When Oasis split back in 2009 due to Noel leaving with the quote, “with some sadness and great relief…I quit Oasis tonight. People will write and say what they like, but I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer”. Liam made it clear that Oasis would be carrying on without Noel. The remaining members re-named to ‘Beady Eye’ and released their debut album ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ only a year later.

So while Liam rushed to get things going, offering up some fairly decent versions of Oasis-sounding songs, Noel took the long-view approach, realising that a great album has to be nurtured, coddled and brought up right.

Some people might say that Noel held all the cards for Oasis: He was the main songwriter, writing all of the hits that gave Oasis their legendary status in the first place. Not only that but his singing voice was simply magnificent, a rich throaty delivery that could be so expressive and passionate but widely underused of the two Gallagher brothers. Then again, there would be no need for Liam if Noel just wrote and sang all the songs would there…

So it was to many fans’ delight when Noel announced he would be working on not one, but two solo albums! Even more so when early demos started to leak on the internet showcasing that Noel hadn’t lost his genius song writing touch.

After two long years it’s finally here ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’. It delivers some of the best material Noel has written since ‘What’s The Story Morning Glory’ as it has everything you would come to expect from Noel; Each track is brilliantly composed with all the emotional buttons – desperation, anger, joy, melancholy and everything else included! Utilising the talents of new band mates Jeremy Stacey (drums), Lenny Castro (Percussion) and Mike Rowe (Keyboards) the manner in which they jump through so many moments of epiphany, sometimes in the space of one song, is astonishing.

Now we wouldn’t go as far to say that this album is the future of Rock ‘n’ Roll but if it wants to linger around for the next few years we certainly wouldn’t complain. With another album apparently just around the corner we here at SupaJam can only hope we’re not dreaming, and that music still has a leg to stand on in this world plagued with Teen pop, dubstep, horrible R&B collaborations, X-Factor rejects and everything in-between.

‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ sets another precedent for the rest of the music scene to live up to, and if everyone was to just take one step in the same direction as Noel then maybe in twenty years’ time we can look back on the music of our generation and be proud.

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April 13, 2013 Posted by | Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds | , | Leave a comment

Oasis Dig Out Your Soul (2008)

Oasis-Dig_Out_Your_Soul-FrontalFrom Uncut

Oasis and their audience seem to have agreed to not grow up together. The band was founded on an ideal of rock and roll as the coked-up, cocksure arrogance of lads on the Saturday night lash, and though Noel Gallagher has enrolled in the dadrock school of songcraft and Liam has written the odd number for his kids, it’s hard to say in 15 odd years they’ve ever seen much point in looking any further. Yet the lads and ladettes who swayed and brayed along at Knebworth must be deep into their thirties by now. Are these teary, bleary closing-time anthems about booze and fags enough to see them through middle age?

News that tickets for Oasis’ entire tour sold out in less than an hour – in your face, Michael Eavis – suggests they may be, being just the latest testament to the remarkable, enduring devotion of their fans. Such loyalty can seem strange. The acts who span the decades are usually those that somehow soundtrack their audience’s lives – think how far Paul Weller fans, for example, have travelled with him since they first donned their parkas in the fourth form.

But why bother with maturity? When Liam leers “Love is a time machiiiiine” on “The Shock of the Lightning”, the first single from Oasis’ seventh album, it’s almost as though the act keeping faith with your teenage passions could keep you young. The song is the first sign of a change of tack in the Gallagher camp. After the well-tempered Kinksy refinement of 2005’s Don’t Believe The Truth, Noel has talked about getting back to a groove rather than classic rock pastiche, and to be honest, it’s a welcome move. Despite their Merseybeat pretensions (and DOYS inevitably comes replete with references to “magical mysteries”, revolutions in the head, and even samples of John Lennon interviews), Oasis were never convincing as the Manc Beatles, but were far better as some kind of Burnage Stooges – heroically moronic products of post-industrial, suburban boredom, welding together secondhand riffs like used-car salesman, with idiot-savant frontmen daring the crowd to make something of it.

The first half of DOYS goes some way to making good on that promise, and may be the most thrilling half hour of music they’ve mustered since their second album. “Bag It Up” could be a sequel to the Fall’s take on “Mr Pharmacist” – a ramshackle speedfreak racket, Liam taking refuge from “the freaks coming up through the floor” with his “heebeegeebies in a little bag”. Both “The Turning” and “Waiting For The Rapture” ride along on grinding monotone riffs, pitched somewhere between the blunt frustration of “Raw Power” and the desperation of “Gimme Shelter”. Running straight into the short, sharp “Shock of the Lightning”, this is a terrific sequence – urgent, wired, alive for the first time in ages.

Even the interruption of one of Liam’s Lennon ballads isn’t unwelcome. “I’m Outta Time” is lovely, right down to its impeccably George Harrison guitar solo – and once again seems to be about the disenchantments of growing old. “Y’know, It’s getting harder to fly” sings Liam with unaccustomed modesty. “If I were to fall, would you be there to applaud?”

“(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” is a pretty funny title and not much more, but it gives us a breather before “Falling Down”, which implausibly enough, this late in the day, is one of the best songs Noel’s ever written. Riding along on a downbeat echo of that “Tomorrow Never Knows” drum break, Noel complains of trying to talk to God to no avail, as the sun comes down on all he knows. “We live a dying dream, if you know what I mean,.” And for once you kind of do. Turns out we’re not going to Live Forever after all.

It’s a brilliant closing track. But unfortunately, Dig Out Your Soul is not over yet by a long way. It’s almost as though, feeling pretty pleased with himself, Noel has taken the afternoon off and let the rest of the band finish the record. And so we have to deal with: “To Be Where There’s Life” – a sub-Heavy Stereo stewed psychedelic blues jam from Gem that gives the album its title; “Ain’t Got Nothing” – a self-explanatory squib from Liam; the Ruttles raga of Andy Bell’s “The Nature of Reality” (it’s “pure subjective fantasy,” in case you were wondering, epistemology fans) and then the closing track, another Liam contribution, “Soldier On”. In a way the song seems like a strange echo of the Stone Roses “Fools Gold” – the original stoned scally, baggy odyssey – except now 20 years on, drained of every ounce of funk or idealism, the quest has been reduced to a dire, joyless test of endurance, of keeping, on keeping on.

It’s an uninspiring ending to a record that it’s best faces up to some pretty downbeat truths and thus seems to fit right into the current national mood. But is this really what we want from Oasis?

It may be that the genre they really fit into is the terrace anthem. They made their name with songs to sing when you were winning, when you were young and it didn’t take much more than cigarettes and alcohol to make you feel like you were a rock and roll star. Like New Labour, they’ve benefited from the good fortune of ten years of relative plenty. But really, the great football songs are the ones you sing when you’re losing – when you’re relegated to the third division, or you’ve been twatted at home by United or your club’s been taken over by criminal plutocrats. They’re songs that give you heart, in spite of it all – “I’m Forever Blowing Bubbles”, “Blue Moon”, “You’ll Never Walk Alone”. As their audience slump into middle age, and recession looms, when folk might lose their homes, their jobs and more, it may be that Oasis’s biggest challenge is to give their audience something to sing along to when there’s not much else to shout about. Are they up to it? Are they still mad for it?

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Dig Out Your Soul | | Leave a comment

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2011)

noel_gallagher_high_flying_birds_album_cover_location_beverly_hillsFrom The Huffington Post

After the 2009 breakup of their incredibly successful rock band Oasis, perpetually fighting brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher went their separate ways. With him, Liam took the rest of the Oasis band members and formed a new group called Beady Eye whose debut album, which was released earlier this year to lukewarm reviews, called to mind an early Oasis sound with a bit of the Rolling Stones and Beatles thrown in. Older brother Noel went his own route and formed Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, whose name comes from a favourite Jefferson Airplane tune of his.

With the help of long time friends David McDonnell on guitar and Russell Pritchard on bass as well as a few studio musicians filling in here and there, Noel recorded the band’s debut self-titled album, which was also released along with a half-hour making-of documentary called It’s Never Too Late to Be What U Might Have Been. In the documentary, Noel, now age 44, compares making his new album to what it was like making Definitely Maybe, Oasis’ first record, which was released in 1994. He explains that making the two albums were similar in that “you haven’t got an audience,” he said. “The only people that knew I was making a record was the wife and my manager.”

The album features a few new tracks written after Oasis’ breakup and a few tracks that Noel wrote years ago with the intention of having them released on an Oasis album. “Stop the Clocks,” in fact, was recorded by Oasis twice over the years, but never managed to make itself onto an album (though the band did use the name for their Best Of record that was released in 2006). What comes of these songs, particularly the ones that were written five or ten years ago, is that they give Noel’s new album a very strong Oasis-y feel.

There are even songs, like “If I Had a Gun…” and “AKA… Broken Arrow,” that begin with guitar strumming that you’d swear will break into “Wonderwall” at any moment. Even the beginning of the album’s first track, “Everybody’s On the Run,” has that same dead air, then the sound of someone coughing, followed by music, just as “Wonderwall” does.

In response to his lack of creative departure on this album, Noel comments that “I’m not adept enough as a musician to go into a studio and say ‘You know what? I wanna make a jazz album.’ I can’t do that… I can’t read music. I’m not a great guitarist. I’m not a great singer. I’m great at being me and doing what I do.” As a music critic, perhaps a bit more creative effort would be appreciated. However, as a Noel Gallagher fan, I really couldn’t care less that he didn’t decide to make a jazz album or at least something else even slightly more daring.

Tracks like “AKA… What a Life,” “Everybody’s On the Run,” and “The Death of You and Me” certainly make up for any lack of daring departures though. “Everybody’s On the Run” has lush, layered instrumentation that washes over and vibrates through you. It features a 24-piece string ensemble and 100-piece choir that swells and contrasts nicely against Liam’s gritty rock and roll voice, electric guitar, and strong back beat.

“The Death of You and Me,” while still a rock tune at heart, has a slight Parisian feel (I’m serious) and a New Orleans-sounding horn bit at the end that is a little bawdy and incredibly enjoyable. “Good Rebel,” a bonus track found on the deluxe edition, is also quite a gem with its optimistic pop beats, Wall of Sound layering, and Noel’s wonderful vocals.

As a whole, the album feels meticulously crafted, mature, and even happy and optimistic (imagine that). Though some tracks are unfortunately a bit forgettable, there are a few surprises sprinkled throughout that should make any Noel Gallagher fan as happy as a clam.

April 12, 2013 Posted by | Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds | , | Leave a comment

Beady Eye Different Gear, Still Speeding (2011)

BeadyEye-DifferentGearStillSpeedingFrom The NME

With so much hostility and hyperbole surrounding Beady Eye, half the music world getting ready to laugh, the other half expecting big things, ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ is something of an anti-climax on first listen. Neither disaster nor classic, the album nevertheless has to be regarded as something of triumph, since it manages to put clear water between Beady Eye and Oasis. And the biggest surprise is that, away from Noel, Liam hasn’t just turned this group into the ultimate Faces-style lads’ band.

Instead, this album is, well, quite soft actually. Carefree too. Sunkissed. Sweet, even. Without that self-confessed control freak to please, it seems the pressure’s off. Sure, this means the quality control isn’t always there, but that weight of simply being Oasis, which made their latter albums quite tense listens, has been lifted. It allows this album to coast through even its dodgy moments and emerge as a loose and easy proposition.

To instantly undermine the above point, the opening track, ‘Four Letter Word’, is as aggressive a song as anything Liam’s sung since ‘Bring It On Down’. We say ‘sung’, it’s more like he bites off chunks of lyrics and spits them out again. With sweeping John Barry strings adding drama, it’s one of those outpourings of inarticulate rage that yer man embodies. “I don’t know what it is I’m feeling/A four letter word, well, you get my meaning”, puts it awkwardly, but it’s all in the delivery, and as he goes on, “Nothing ever last forever”, it’s obvious this is intended as a line drawn with the past.

With that done, Andy Bell’s ‘Millionaire’ kicks back with a big dopey grin for an instantly loveable country song that’s very ‘Beggars Banquet’-era Stones, painted over by, well, Salvador Dalí. “Sweet Salvador, the shadows painted and the light he saw/The way I see it now so clear, like diamonds on the water”. Liam’s always been a surrealist at heart, but still, him cooing about Dalí is unexpected. It neatly tees up Beady Eye’s obsession with dreaming, mind. Every song is ‘dream this, dream that’, all woozy production. It’s not surrealism, of course, it’s psychedelia, but a gentler kind than ‘Dig Out Your Soul’.

‘Wind Up Dream’ is a ramped-up reworking of Lennon’s ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, which has nice lyrical twists, a good bit of harp and even Liam doing a proper ‘Woo!’. Yes, a woo. Noel wouldn’t have let him do a woo. ‘For Anyone’ is a West Coast love song with Liam singing at the top of his range, pledging he’ll be “forever by your side”. Lovely. The psych peaks with the six-minute ‘Wigwam’, about an early morning stumble home which surrounds its booze blues in an Eastern drone, but then lifts itself out of self-pity with a gospel climax that aims for Spiritualized heights of Hosanna and nearly damn gets there.

These are all fine songs, and really this album could have been, not ‘Definitely Maybe’, but a more obvious triumph, were it not for a few duds. ‘The Roller’ is a by-numbers lumpen rock song that reeks of Stereophonics’ ass. ‘Three Ring Circus’ works a little better, but again its uninspiring semi-anthemic rock is exactly what you’d expect from the ex-Oasis boys. But next to ‘Beatles And Stones’, even that sounds like a classic. Ugh, this one is a careless, tasteless imitation of ‘My Generation’, with Liam singing, “I’m gonna stand the test of time like Beatles and Stones”.

Bad times, which not even Liam’s consistently sensational delivery can save, but there’s more good stuff. ‘The Beat Goes On’ is a big positive ‘All You Need Is A Lennon Songbook’ number, which works as their ‘Champagne Supernova’. “I’m the last of a dying breed/And it’s not the end of the world/It’s not even the end of the day”, goes Liam, seemingly wistful for himself. Closer ‘The Morning Sun’ is another hazy beach-bum song that works very nicely indeed.

But it’s that initial first hit of Beady Eye, ‘Bring the Light’, that really elevates this album. It’s probably the one song that Oasis would never, ever have recorded, and in its breathless, spontaneous spirit is properly exhilarating. Piano is at the fore of the proper ’50s rock’n’roll production, but it’s not so much Jerry Lee Lewis that Liam’s most channelling with his “c’mon”s, it’s Ike & Tina Turner. At its furious peak it justifies the creation of this band at a stroke.

What Noel will make of ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ is anyone’s guess. How it’ll resonate with the public is a more immediate question. It remains to be seen how many people will be going to Beady Eye gigs expecting Oasis songs, get disappointed and never return. But in taking on the tough task of establishing themselves as more than ‘Oasis Without The Decent Songwriter’, Beady Eye have succeeded with some aplomb.

April 11, 2013 Posted by | Beady Eye Different Gear Still Speeding | , | Leave a comment

Oasis Familiar To Millions (2001)

zFrom amazon.com

All live albums should be recorded in the UK, preferably Wembley Stadium. Okay, I know Wembley is being rebuilt right now, but anyone who has heard a lve recording from there knows what I mean, but it’s less the building than the fans that make UK live records so moving. They just love to sing along, and not just casually sing along, but sing coherently. It’s an awesome thing to hear. Oasis’ music is tailor-made for stadium sing-alongs…good, straightforward rock music with rave-up choruses, and on Familiar To Millions, the band delivers one great sing-along song after the other.

But this is Oasis remember, and an Oasis live show is also incomplete without the snide, pernickety, taunting banter from the two Gallagher brothers. This album was recorded right in the middle of a controversial time for the band, with Noel Gallagher threatening to leave the band (he did for a while), frustrated at his brother Liam’s idiotic antics. You can feel the uneasiness on Familiar To Millions, but instead of bringing the show down, it elevates it. There’s a bit of an edge to every song, a feeling as if the band will implode at any moment.

It’s not a perfect performance, and the recording quality is barely a step above a soundboard recording, but it’s a memorable one. You can practically see Liam growling into the microphone in that disinterested way of his, while Noel plays the part of Rock God off to the side, ignoring little brother, while the other three members (they do have names, right?) do a workmanlike job in the background. Their Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants album is given a token mention with three songs in the setlist, and when that’s over with, the fun, and yes, the singing along, begins.

The great songs all there: ‘Supersonic’, ‘Acquiesce’, ‘Roll With It’, ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, ‘Live Forever’, ‘Champagne Supernova’…proof that Oasis have built themselves up an impressive catalogue. ‘Step Out’, known by Oasis fans as the one that was yanked off the Morning Glory album because it blatantly ripped off Stevie Wonder, is a nice surprise addition (complete with co-songwriting credit given to Wonder, finally), as is Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey, My My’ (the audience indifference to the cover song is a bit amusing). An ordinary version of ‘Helter Skelter’ from their US tour is tacked on at the end, for no other reason than to fill up some cd space.

The absolute high points are during ‘Wonderwall’, and especially ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, when the crowd takes over and sings as only the British can. It’s something to behold, something that sends shivers down your spine. However, my personal favourite moment from the show is right before ‘Live Forever’, which perfectly sums up the sloppy, uneasy, but memorable feel of the performance. Liam announces that it’s the last song they’ll perform, and right before the song starts, you hear Noel say incredulously, “Did he say it’s the last one?” Ah, brothers…

April 9, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Familiar To Millions | | Leave a comment

Oasis Time Flies…1994 – 2009

Oasis-Time_Flies_1994-2009-frontal-saltez-salvador-altez-palominoFrom dailyvault.com

The second double-disc compilation of Oasis music to arrive in four years, Time Flies was released shortly after the Gallagher brothers vowed to never work together again, breaking up the band in the process. As four years have gone by and both brothers have moved on to other projects, it’s safe to say Oasis is done, which makes Time Flies the only full-career overview of this great band.

That’s not to say it is comprehensive. The first attempt at an Oasis collection (Stop The Clocks) was compiled by Noel Gallagher and focused almost exclusively on the band’s 1994-96 heyday, allowing space for only four songs after that time. Nevertheless, this included pretty much all of the band’s best songs. Time Flies collects all of the band’s singles (the A-sides), which provides a balanced overview of all seven albums plus a couple of essential non-album singles to complete the set.

Both approaches present a problem; emphasizing two discs on a two-disc collection leads to redundancy and paints an incomplete picture, while selecting only singles leaves out some key album tracks and B-sides that were on par with Oasis’ best work. Plus, not every single deserves to be compiled, particularly from the middle period of the band’s career.

That said, Time Flies is probably the best place for complete neophytes to start, as it gives them all of the band’s biggest songs and provides enough glimpses of each album to warrant further investigation. Make no mistake, the music here is some of the best of the ‘90s and only gets better with each passing year, while the newer tracks certainly hold their own with the classics.

Oasis updated the sounds of ‘60s British rock with a punk sneer and cock-rock ambition, lending a sweeping majesty and working-class attitude to their songs while finding a little room for emotional resonance. The swagger of “Supersonic,” the party anthem “Cigarettes & Alcohol,” and the melodic grandeur of “Champagne Supernova” and “Live Forever” all showcase different sides of the band, while “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” rewrote the template for what a rock ballad can be. These six are among the band’s best works, and they are all here.

Unlike Stop The Clocks, this compilation finds space for a couple of songs from Be Here Now, both overblown epics, and includes the excellent acoustic buzz of “Go Let It Out” from Standing On The Shoulder of Giants. Although Heathen Chemistry was not a great album, “The Hindu Times” and “Songbird” are probably the two best songs from it, while the tracks from Don’t Believe The Truth are fine, if hardly up to the high standards set by everything else.

As far as career-closing albums go, Dig Out Your Soul is one of the best, a melancholy yet alluring rush that replaces the snotty party-‘til-you-puke approach with a world-weary journeyman rock approach. “The Shock Of The Lightning,” “I’m Outta Time,” and “Falling Down” are not only three of the best songs from that disc, but three of the best since 1997’s Be Here Now.

The single-only “Whatever” and “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down” make an appearance here; the former has never been available on a compilation until now and is a pretty good song, if a bit of a dry run for the more majestic “Champagne Supernova.”

For casual fans, this is all the Oasis they need, and it is a better introduction to the band’s catalog as a whole, although Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory are masterworks that deserve to be owned, end of story. Sure, there are a few album tracks missing (“Morning Glory” and “Rock And Roll Star” come to mind), as well as a couple of the classic B-sides (“The Masterplan,” “Acquiesce”), and including them in place of a couple of the dull singles like “Lyla” would have made this a perfect overview. As it is, Time Flies is merely a near-flawless collection of songs from one of the great rock bands of the last 20 years.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Time Flies...1994 - 2009 | | Leave a comment

Oasis Stop The Clocks (2006)

093624981893From dailyvault.com

Stop The Clocks turns out to be an apt title for the first Oasis compilation, as it pretty much halts the band’s career at the 1996 mark, just after the release of the landmark masterpiece (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?.

This was the band’s heyday, commercially and musically, so it makes sense for a collection to focus on this peak…except that a) this is two discs and b) Oasis had four albums and a B-sides/rarities compilation between 1997 and 2006, the year of this release. Also, there are only 18 songs here, nine per disc, which is a bit skimpy and questionable in the CD era (each CD is about 40 minutes, or the length of an LP).

If this sounds like nit picking, it is, because the music here is without question fantastic throughout. There is nary a bad song to be found. Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory are two of the best albums of the ‘90s, hands down, and the assorted singles and B-sides from the era are good enough to have been included on those records. Of the remaining tracks, “Go Let It Out” and “Songbird” are excellent and “The Importance Of Being Idle” is one of the few highlights of the dull Don’t Believe The Truth disc. Only “Lyla” fails to excite; it could have been replaced with “The Hindu Times,” “F—ing In The Bushes” or anything from Be Here Now, which is unjustly ignored on this compilation.

If you already own the two aforementioned albums, there’s little here that you will need, and if you don’t, you should pick them tout suite. If you are an Oasis newbie, this is a fine introduction, although be warned it is not a comprehensive or balanced overview of the band’s career (that honor belongs mostly to 2010’s Time Flies).

Nearly all of the best songs from Morning Glory are here, from the acoustic ballad “Wonderwall” and the majestic “Imagine” rewrite “Don’t Look Back In Anger” to the classicist noise of “Some Might Say” and the epic one-two punch of the title track and “Champagne Supernova.” Only “Hello” is missing, but the B-sides “Acquiesce” and “The Masterplan” make up for it.

From Definitely Maybe we get the swagger of “Rock And Roll Star” (as clear a mission statement as any band has ever written, lyrically and musically), the giddy sparkle of “Supersonic,” the mini-masterworks “Live Forever” and “Slide Away,” and the T-Rex update “Cigarettes & Alcohol.”

All of these songs, as well as the B-sides and the three other songs mentioned above, are among the best of the decade and the best Oasis had to offer, and time has only cemented their status as classics, which is what the guys were aiming for. It’s not a perfect collection or a balanced overview, but it’s a solid collection of damn fine music.

April 8, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Stop The Clocks | | Leave a comment

Oasis Definitely Maybe (1994)

DefinitelyMaybeOasis2PR200712From jerryseinfeld.hubpages.com

On thousands of occasions since the release of Oasis’ first album, commentators have suggested that the beauty, the danger and the absolute brilliance of it has never been repeated. It has become almost passé to suggest that Definitely Maybe is the best that Oasis ever produced, indeed it has become a cliché in music itself for erstwhile fans to claim preferring an artist’s “earlier stuff” but now, over a year after the demise of the band, and just weeks from the first release by Oasis spin-off Beady Eye, it seems like the perfect place to start the series of Retro Review.

The album, Definitely Maybe is ingrained in British consciousness, like The Stone Roses , as a career defining tour de force; the album, intensely awaited (it became the fastest selling debut album of all time in the UK on its 1994 release) and retrospectively revered is simply 11 – 13 if you have the Japenese version, 12 if you have the vinyl version – supreme examples of British music rooted, so clearly, in The Beatles, The Jam and The Who.

The album opens with Rock ‘n’ Roll Star , a five minute riot of a slow burner where lead singer, a 22 year old Liam Gallagher, gets to live his dreams of superstardom. There are no hints at that point to suggest this is a debut album and that Oasis are just warming up, this feels like Oasis are already the biggest band in the world; as an opener to an LP career the track is a mission statement that demands the undivided attention of the listener. The title, Rock ‘n’ Roll Star , sets you up for a cheesy glam rock number but by the time you have gotten to the end of the it you have forgotten whatever else you may be doing and Oasis have got you just where they want you.

Over a recording career of 14 years, Oasis suffered mainly unflattering comparisons with The Beatles. Mostly it was of their own doing as a lot of the material subsequent to their debut release was part tribute, part homage (and no small part pastiche) to their heroes. Some of the criticism and comparisons, however, was lazy journalism, the type that also saw Oasis compared with The Smiths and The Happy Mondays just because they were famous bands from Manchester. On Definitely Maybe , Oasis show a range of styles almost entirely absent from the rest of their career with the playful melodies of Up In The Sky and Digsy’s Dinner , the lyrical postcard home of Shakermaker (see also the early b-side Fade Away) and the beautiful anti-love letter Married With Children . The easy transition from one style to another is reminiscent of The Beatles and, if the songs themselves don’t always hold up in comparison, bear in mind that one man wrote Definitely Maybe single handed while The Beatles output was written by four.

Oasis were a band hyped out of all proportion before their first record, leading of course to massive sales, which was partly due to the buzz surrounding their live performances. On the face, Oasis were five men who stood on the stage, hardly moving, while racing through their set-list before disappearing, not a word spoken in between. This is a fallacy borne of those that had not experienced Oasis first hand and had therefore never experienced the unmoving, unnerving power, like a Mike Tyson stare, of those early ‘performances’. The closest you can get to a live Oasis performance on this LP is Bring It On Down . Over the years this track, more than any other on the album, has been criminally underplayed by fair-weather fans but at the same time has been held up by others as an example of the best of early Oasis. At just over four minutes long, Bring It On Down has the form and length of a pop song but the snarling delivery of not only the vocal but the guitar, bass and drums, gives you Oasis, live in your stereo.

There are four songs on Definitely Maybe that Oasis played right until the very end; Live Forever, first single Supersonic, Slide Away and Cigarettes & Alcohol. It is these songs that define the Oasis sound, one that lead guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher would always dream of escaping (see his work with The Chemical Brothers and the soundtrack of The X-Files); a sound that can only really be described as ‘Stadium Anthems’ (the trick was repeated time and again but most successfully on their second album with Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back In Anger, and Champagne Supernova). They are great songs bursting with an energy that belies their relatively slow pace and in the context of the album serve to raise Oasis high above their contemporaries and competitors.

At the time, Definitely Maybe, was seen as an aperitif to whet your appetite for things to come; the band spoke often of The Beatles and, when put side to side with Please Please Me, their first release was rammed with promise. But it was that promise that was to become a burden. Two further releases followed in the next three years; the mega selling, stadium filling (What’s The Story) Morning Glory, itself a pale imitation of its predecessor and the bloated, unwieldy disappointment of Be Here Now.

It has been pointed out, rightly, many times before that debut albums are the result of years of song writing and development and so are honed to supersonic perfection, and that trying to write subsequent albums while touring and promoting can see any artist filling out a catalogue of ennui. This proved to be the case for Oasis as over the years they tried, unsuccessfully, to recreate the verve and wonder of this first release, eventually becoming themselves an Oasis tribute band.

If you have never heard this album, or have never heard anything by Oasis and you are looking for a couple of pointers, listen out for Rock ‘n’ Roll Star, Supersonic, Digsy’s Dinner and Married With Children. This is a very, very good LP, make no mistake but I believe that these four songs showcase both the charm and the power of early Oasis.

What of the extra tracks on the Japanese version? Sad Song is beautiful and gives Noel the opportunity to break the hearts of listeners, an opportunity that he grabs with laconic enthusiasm. The second extra track, Cloudburst was a b-side in the UK and, good as it is, is another example of Noel’s magpie like approach to music. Whether it is stealing a melody from a Coca Cola advert (Shakermaker), a T-Rex song (Cigarettes & Alcohol) or, as in this case, a Stone Roses number, Gallagher Snr. has often found himself unable to resist lifting sounds he likes almost verbatim and reproducing them under his own name.

Definitely Maybe is wonderful; it is exciting, loud, beautiful and optimistic. Oasis could never live up to the promise on show in this record, but few ever can when the promise is this great.

April 4, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Definitely Maybe | | Leave a comment

Beady Eye: Different Gear, Still Speeding (2011)

beady_eye_album_sleeveFrom blogcritics.org

The world has stopped in breathless anticipation of this album. At least that’s what Beady Eye – Oasis minus main songwriter Noel Gallagher – thinks.

The world actually didn’t stop, however, and the release of Different Gear, Still Speeding hasn’t really been the splash, let alone ripple, the band bragged it would be. Although it would have been disappointing if the band didn’t brag; a big part of Oasis’ non-mystique is how they brought the swagger back to rock music.

As seismic – again in their eyes – as Nietzsche declaring God dead, Beady Eye declaring Noel dead, and “rising” from those ashes, could potentially either be a bold act of defiance or the makings of one of the greatest punch lines in rock history

In all, Different Gear, Still Speeding has a freshness and intensity the last Oasis album – Dig Out Your Soul – was lacking. Chalk it up to Beady Eye having something to prove, or their vindictive need to crawl out from Noel’s shadow.

With the opener, “Four Letter Word,” this revived energy is palatable and carries through various other tracks, most notably “Standing on the Edge of Noise” and “Wind Up Dream.”

This renewed panache, however, stutter-steps when the requisite Beatles pastiche rears its head. Liam Gallagher is unabashedly derivative and without his older brother to butt heads with, he runs for comfort to both the ’60s and the Lennon/McCartney canon with mixed results.

For every catchy and capable song like “The Roller,” “For Anyone,” and “Three Ring Circus,” which reveal layers and depths to the songwriting, there is a shameful sister-track like “Wigwam,” the hideous “Bring the Light,” and blatantly daft “Beatles and Stones,” a poor choice of title given the similarly named, yet sublime House of Love single from 1990.

Robust egoism (and previously copious amounts of cocaine) was always a quality and consistency killer for Oasis, yet thankfully, Beady Eye are able to produce some accomplished and polished numbers, despite the self-love and ’60s simulacra, to produce an inconsistent debut that in the end reveals some promise.

April 2, 2013 Posted by | Beady Eye Different Gear Still Speeding | , | Leave a comment

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2011)

noel_gallagher_high_flying_birds_album_cover_location_beverly_hillsFrom pitchfork.com

Oasis perpetually faced accusations of over-borrowing from rock history, unapologetically nicking words and melodies from the biggest groups of all time. But the band were also skilled samplers of rock’n’roll storylines, arriving in the early 1990s pre-equipped with that classic intra-band conflict, the singer vs. the songwriter.

The tension between Noel and Liam Gallagher arrived with Oasis in the early 90s as a fully-formed rock drama worthy of Keith-Mick, Robert-Jimmy, and Rog-Pete, given added juice by shared genetics. With Chekhov’s gun inevitability, their squabbles blew Oasis apart in 2009, with the final indignity of forcing Noel, the band’s master architect, to quit his own masterpiece project via blog post.

So here begins the familiar second act of the rock’n’roll story arc, the competitive-solo-record period. While Liam and the rest of Oasis got in the first punch (reforming and flicking Vs at their former bandleader as Beady Eye), Noel has launched his High Flying Birds “collective” with a premise that’s also rock canon: who needs a frontman, anyway? Oasis history already gives Noel some credibility on that front– by their second album, the guitarist was already taking lead vox duties on a hit single (“Don’t Look Back in Anger”), and the notorious MTV Unplugged episode proved he could do just fine without his brother on the band’s other material, thank you very much.

But for a declaration of independence, the self-titled High Flying Birds LP sounds awfully nostalgic for the good old days. Through most of the mercifully brief 10 tracks, Gallagher passes on the opportunity to use this new career chapter for either an Albarn-like experimental exploration or something stripped-down and personal.

Of course, nothing in his career to date would suggest “stripped-down” is in Noel’s vocabulary. His new band goes straight back to the widescreen aesthetic, with choirs, string sections, horn sections, and choruses aiming for the universal. Noel is still writing for the stadium– it’s the only audience he knows.

Keeping that in mind, a listener can forgive a lot of corniness, even as Noel tests the limits. At this point, it’s almost endearing that he earnestly sees no problem starting a song with the lyric, “Hot time/ Summer in the city,” and thinks the clunky “(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine” is an acceptable song title and hook. But the latter track also shows Gallagher can still tickle anyone who once took the kind of soaring-orchestra-and-guitar-solo bridge (think Slash emerging from a pool of water in the rain) seriously. If the emotional power of anthemic rock is quickly draining, Gallagher remains among the best conductors of the fumes.

Still, there are some intriguing ideas buried under the maudlin arrangements and verse-chorus-verses. Often, the most interesting parts of the songs float frustratingly on the periphery of the mix, as with the lap steel of “If I Had a Gun…” or the musical saw that eerily haunts both “The Death of You and Me” and “AKA… Broken Arrow”. One place where that formula reverses promisingly is “AKA… What a Life!”, which is built upon a stormy piano loop, filtered drums, and Noel’s melancholic take on 20 years of stardom.

The song is a reminder that Gallagher might have found a more exciting solo path by revisiting “Setting Sun”, the Oasis-related moment that sounds most vital in 2011 (and perhaps the inspiration for his upcoming collab with Future Sound of London side project the Amorphous Androgynous). But instead he chooses to make another MTV Unplugged statement that’s equal parts self-sufficient and self-conscious, all but writing in Liam and the rest of Beady Eye drunkenly heckling from the balcony.

Founding High Flying Birds on pretty much the same musical territory as his old band, where Liam’s snide yowl will always win out over Noel’s passable but pedestrian voice, is the album’s critical flaw. Forever a slave to rock history, Gallagher feels like he’s biding his time for the third act reunion rather than breaking from the well-trod path.

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds | , | Leave a comment