Classic Rock Review

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Beady Eye: Different Gear, Still Speeding (2011)

beady_eye_album_sleeveFrom The Telegraph

After Noel Gallagher finally quit Oasis in August 2009, who’d have guessed that the rest of the band would side with his younger brother? Liam, after all, was the liability, the loose cannon, whose chief contribution was an edginess which constantly destabilised the ship. Noel, the songwriter, who made the whole world sing (in the early days, at least), surely would have been the more reliable meal ticket.

From day one, however, Noel ran Oasis on a “captain and crew” basis, keeping his charges on a tight, Beatles-embossed leash. At crunch time, the hirelings whom Noel himself had gradually cherry-picked from British indie-rock’s upper echelons to replace the original line‑up, doubtless shared the unreliable Gallagher’s thirst for liberty and stuck by him instead.

So it was that Beady Eye formed, and ever since this debut has been awaited with a rare mixture of car-crash voyeurism and cautious optimism. Wouldn’t Liam make a twit of himself, without big brother’s guidance? But then, wasn’t it really him, the beautiful nutcase, who always set Oasis’s vital energy a‑crackling?

The good news is that, from its amusingly headlong title down, Different Gear, Still Speeding feels a good deal less lumpy than the last few Oasis albums. The teaser track, Bring the Light, is everything one might have hoped for from Beady Eye – a piano-pounding rush of vintage rock & roll, which sets the listener’s fevered brain fizzing with thoughts of Little Richard and the Velvet Underground, rather than the same old Beatles references.

In interviews, Liam, Gem Archer (guitarist; ex-Heavy Stereo), Andy Bell (guitarist/bassist; ex-Ride) and Chris Sharrock (drummer, ex-La’s) have talked excitedly about the joys of collaborative writing, and there is an all-pervasive vibe of freshness, upbeat melody and commitment. Gallagher, throughout, sings like a man possessed.

Aside from another full-blooded, filth-and-fury rocker, Standing on the Edge of the Noise, the highlights are Millionaire and For Anyone, each recalling the breezy, skiffly Merseybeat of Sharrock’s erstwhile accomplices, the La’s. These stand out, for the simple reason that there was seldom room for prettiness within the Oasis brand.

Elsewhere, though, it is, disappointingly, business as usual – particularly on Four Letter Word, the trundling opener, which was presumably put there so as not to frighten the horses and Oasis’s staunch fan base.

It doesn’t take long for Beatles nods to pile up: The Roller so resembles John Lennon’s Instant Karma, one can almost picture Liam with long hair and little round specs singing it. There’s even a song called Beatles and Stones, although, with merciful perversity, it rips off the Who’s My Generation.

Fans will trawl the lyrics for veiled messages to Noel – “Life’s too short not to forgive/ I’m here if you wanna call”, from Kill For a Dream, should set the message boards chattering – but there is enough here to suggest that Beady Eye might take on a life of its own, especially with live gigs lined-up this month.

For now, though, the nagging feeling is that Different Gear isn’t quite different enough.

April 1, 2013 Posted by | Beady Eye Different Gear Still Speeding | , | Leave a comment

Oasis Dig Out Your Soul (2008)


As startling as it was to see Noel Gallagher attacked onstage last month at the Virgin Festival in Toronto, it was arguably the most exciting thing that’s happened to Oasis in over 10 years. For a band that once valorized rock’n’roll stardom as a vehicle through which to escape routine day jobs, Oasis have gone about their own rock’n’roll stardom as if it were a routine day job, their last decade of recorded output amounting to a model of passionless, assembly-line predictability. And yet, the Mancunian rockers have mostly held onto their status as the People’s Band despite being 14 years and several million pounds removed from their scrappy, working-class roots– mainly because (as their concert set-lists and greatest-hits CD tracklists prove), much like their legions of fans, Oasis only want to hear songs from their first two albums, too.

No one knows exactly what compelled 47-year-old Daniel Sullivan to bodycheck Noel into his stage monitors (busting the guitarist’s ribs and forcing several show cancellations in the process); one can only hope he wasn’t so much a psychopath looking to off a celebrity as a concerned fan hoping to shake some life into his favorite band and literally push them back to the underdog position that inspired their most enduring anthems. But we’ll have to wait another album to see if the incident instills in Noel a newfound hunger and fire; for now we’re stuck with Dig Out Your Soul, which like every Oasis album from 1997’s Be Here Now onward, makes cursory gestures toward making the band’s mod-rock more modernist, before reverting back to the same ol’, same ol’.

The precipitous quality decline in Oasis’ output since Be Here Now – whose increasingly uninspired successors make it seem not so bad in retrospect – can be measured two ways: the ballads got more overbearing (“Little by Little”, “Where Did It All Go Wrong?”), and the rockers more sluggish (“Go Let It Out”, “The Hindu Times”). At the very least, Dig Out Your Soul makes inroads to redressing both issues: the lilting sea shanty “Falling Down” is Noel’s most graceful balladic turn since B-side “The Masterplan”, while lead single “The Shock of the Lightning” is exactly the sort of tune Oasis needs more of to stave off impending geezerdom, a hard-driving strobe-lit rocker– complete with a rejuvenating vocal turn from Liam and a suitably Keith Moon-like drum solo from moonlighting Who drummer Zak Starkey. It could be their most robust song since “Morning Glory”; only a clunky middle eight lyric– “Love is a time machine/ Up on the silver screen”– keeps it from entering the highest echelons of their canon.

The song’s brisk velocity makes you wonder why Noel Gallagher doesn’t write in this mode more often, as it still seems to come easy to him; as usual, he runs into trouble when he tries to affix weighty themes to flimsy songs. Two songs in a row talk about “the rapture,” but don’t look here for any insights about the political dimensions of contemporary evangelicalism: While “The Turning” at least tries to back up its vague love-as-religious-experience imagery with some suitably stormy acid-rocked intensity (guided by Starkey’s loose rhythm, a backing choir, and a repeated single-note piano stab), the Noel-sung “Waiting for the Rapture” is just a limpid cock-rock stomp speckled with the usual Beatleisms (“revolution in her head”) and Lennon lifts (specifically, the guitar riff to “Cold Turkey”).

Sadly, this sort of lead-footed blooze seems to be Noel’s default setting now, from the opening “Fat Bottomed Girls” crunch of “Bag It Up” to the awful honky-tonk exercise “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady”. Bassist Andy Bell likewise contributes the standard-issue “Nature of Reality”, a pub-rock slosh that never delivers on the promise suggested by its “Helter Skelter” intro. Guitarist Gem Archer fares better with his songwriting ration, “To Be Where There’s Life”, which at least hitches its Beatles reference of choice (the wiggy sitar drones of “Tomorrow Never Knows”) onto a more exploratory psych-funk rhythm, coming up with the sort of hypno-pop groover the Verve forgot to write for their recent album.

But while you’d think a band seven albums into its career would outgrow its formative influences (or at least try to), the Gallaghers’ Fab Four embrace feels more suffocating than ever, with Liam’s “I’m Outta Time” pushing Oasis to new depths of Lennon grave-robbing: just when you’re about to forgive the schmaltzy “Free as a Bird”-style arrangement and the cribbed piano chords from “Jealous Guy”, they drop an actual Lennon interview sample in the fade-out (because naming his kid after the guy clearly wasn’t tribute enough). While slavish Beatles idolatry has been Oasis’ stock and trade since day one, the band’s definitive early material at least roughed up the Fabs’ pop classicism with pronounced punk, glam, shoegazer, and Madchester influences. However, over the past 10 years Oasis have gradually curbed those corrupting devices without replacing them with any new aesthetic inspiration. So all we’re left with at the end of Dig Out Your Soul is a promise from Liam to “solider on”– not because the band sounds eager to take on the next generation of Britpop revivalists, but because at this point that’s all Oasis really know how to do.

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Dig Out Your Soul | | Leave a comment

Oasis Be Here Now (1997)


How do you follow up a multi-platinum masterpiece? The Beatles followed up Sgt. Pepper’s with the sprawling, flawed White Album. Fleetwood Mac followed up Rumours with the sprawling, flawed Tusk. And Oasis, that most classicist of Britpop rock bands, followed up (What’s The Story) Morning Glory with the sprawling, flawed Be Here Now.

Those first two follow-up records were double albums; this one is 71 minutes, close to double album length. It’s as if the band feels they have free reign to say whatever they want and that every note of it should be captured on vinyl. For a band with rampant egos such as Oasis, one can only imagine the spectacle and grandeur with which they would present their next slice of music…and Be Here Now does not disappoint on that level.

Four of the 12 songs here are around seven minutes long, one is nine minutes long and the rest are close to four or five minutes each, save for the closing instrumental coda. The music is blown up larger than life, with piles of instruments (guitars mostly), extended jams and long intros/outros that bloat this way beyond what it needs to be. Yet the hubris on display is exactly why people like Oasis in the first place, in essence making Be Here Now more of the same, albeit inflated to cartoon proportions.

“D’You Know What I Mean” starts things off with an airplane drone that crashes into the song, a swirling epic that is more about the production than the actual songwriting. Still, it sounds so good – and Liam Gallagher’s voice is as fine as ever – that it doesn’t really matter. As a leadoff single from the album, it was about as ballsy as one could get (7:41? Really?), but it’s pure Oasis.

Much of the swagger of this album comes from the band actually being the best instead of aspiring to be, the way they did on Definitely Maybe, so there’s a sense of invulnerability that pervades the music. Something like “My Big Mouth” would have fit in on that debut; here, it is given wall-to-wall guitar overdubs and played with absolute mid-tempo confidence. Actually, a lot of the songs are like that around the middle of the album, but none are truly memorable in the way the best early Oasis could be.

“Don’t Go Away” is one of the better songs, a relatively scaled back slower piece with some of Liam’s best singing to date and one that points the way the band’s music would eventually take from Heathen Chemistry onward.

The album closes with two epics this time around. The first is “All Around The World,” which starts slowly and continues to add on layers of sound (guitars, strings, brass Liam’s increasingly higher voice) for nine minutes, creating a soaring effect that sounds wonderful, even if it doesn’t have much to say or fails to create a mood the way “Champagne Supernova” did.

It would have been a fine album closer, but the seven minute “It’s Getting Better (Man!!)” gets that honor. Instead of a slow build, this one starts off loud and refuses to relent, even though it stays pretty safely hidden behind a wall of guitars the entire time. A change of dynamics would have helped, or some more chords, or maybe cutting out a couple of minutes and moving it up in the track listing.

The main problem with Be Here Now is not that it’s too much of a good thing, but that it’s similar to an Easter egg in that the delicious chocolate shell opens up to reveal a hollow inner core. Oasis didn’t have a lot of songwriting to do, so they instead piled on the sound to make what little they had sound good. It succeeds, but it leaves you feeling empty, and that ultimately keeps this from being the classic it so badly wants to be.

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Be Here Now | | Leave a comment

Oasis (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (1995)


With (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Oasis build off the success of their sterling debut album, Definitely Maybe. Though less of a guitar-rock record than Definitely Maybe, Morning Glory boasts a more melodic, introspective quality with several spectacular ballads serving as album highlights. Oasis have never been shy about wanting to be one of the biggest bands in the world, and with Morning Glory, they’re well on their way.

Relationships Gone Wrong

Oasis are led by singer Liam Gallagher and his songwriting brother Noel. And while Noel’s lyrics aren’t particularly strong or memorable, the muscular power of his music, matched with Liam’s endearingly nasally vocals, help push the album’s themes across. Morning Glory deals largely with relationships, but rather than the typical lovey-dovey sentimentality of pop bands or the furrowed-brow angst of grunge, the group’s songs are wistful and melancholic.

If Definitely Maybe felt bratty and exuberant, like a fun-filled night out on the town, then Morning Glory sounds like the morning after, suffering from a hangover and assessing the damage done. Morning Glory may seem less exciting than its predecessor at first, but its rewards are deeper and more profound.

Beautiful Ballads

A trio of superb ballads form the heart of the album, and they offer three different viewpoints on the difficulties of making love last. “Wonderwall” is a nervous assessment of a relationship at a crossroads. Singing his brother’s words, Liam wonders aloud if love can ever heal the void within himself and whether his girlfriend still feels anything for him. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” is grander musically, conjuring comparisons to John Lennon’s “Imagine,” but its mood is much more downcast. With Noel taking over lead vocals, the song addresses a lover who has already abandoned the narrator, and now there’s only the wreckage of the breakup to piece through.

Finally, “Champagne Supernova” stretches past seven minutes for a psychedelic rumination that calls to mind what the Beatles achieved with their trippy “Tomorrow Never Knows.” The lyrics may be maddeningly vague – something about cannonballs and landslides – but the music creates a powerful mood of regret but also acceptance. As the last track from Morning Glory, “Champagne Supernova” ends the album on a note of reconciliation – even if the lovers can’t remain together, maybe there is still hope for a better day tomorrow.

A Song for Every Mood

Morning Glory’s hushed vulnerability may be the album’s most noticeable quality, but Oasis are just as comfortable in other modes as well. “Morning Glory” is a fierce rocker about drugged-out recklessness that’s compelling in its furious abandon, managing to make the jet-set lifestyle both frightening and weirdly exciting. And showing a droll sense of humor, “She’s Electric” rides a rollicking beat for a tale about one unusual gal from a “family full of eccentrics.”

More so than on Definitely Maybe, Morning Glory demonstrate a band that can easily transition across different genres, and consequently the album breezes from one fantastic track to the next.

An Oasis Triumph

(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? delivers on the promise of Definitely Maybe, proving that Oasis can write both propulsive hard rock songs and heartbreaking ballads. Beyond its great set of songs, Morning Glory is alive with the spirit of being young, celebrating the highs and mourning the lows with equal aplomb.

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Oasis (What's The Story) Morning Glory? | | Leave a comment

Oasis Dig Out Your Soul (2008)

Oasis-Dig_Out_Your_Soul-FrontalFrom The Guardian

It’s hard not to be impressed with the way Noel Gallagher has managed to turn Oasis’ apparently permanent state of musical stasis into a matter of class pride. “It’s a working-class thing … I’m not an experimenter,” he recently remarked, as if making interesting music was an unacceptable capitulation to bourgeois mores, like joining a snooty golf club.

I’s a smart bit of doublethink, but there’s something depressing about this not-for-the-likes-of-us attitude, not least the sneaking feeling that Noel Gallagher – clearly a sharp and intelligent man – doesn’t believe a word of it, that it’s bluster designed to hide fear, the knowledge that the one time he did try to experiment, the result was Oasis’s catastrophic 2000 album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants. The millions of records and tickets Oasis sell must come as consolation, but you wonder if Gallagher occasionally steals a rueful glance at his former Battle of Britpop nemesis – wistfully noting, say, the critically acclaimed Mandarin opera – before going back to dutifully promoting the new Oasis album with a single that goes “love is a litany, a magical mystery” and assurances to the press that it sounds like the Beatles.

At least he can console himself that he’s never going to get sued under the Trade Descriptions Act: Oasis’s seventh album arrives bearing Helter Skelter drum fills, a sample from John Lennon’s final radio interview, a coda to The Turning stolen from Dear Prudence and lyrical references to Lennon’s Gimme Some Truth and Ian MacDonald’s Fabs book Revolution in the Head. Complaining about Oasis’s lyrics seems rather like shooting fish in a barrel, or as Gallagher would doubtless have it, shooting fish in a barrel/ with a man called Darryl/ singing a carol/ in American Apparel. Suffice to say there’s a chorus that advises you to “shake your reptile” – Crocodile? Snake? Tortoise? – and that the younger Gallagher brother has developed a weird tic of continually reminding you that you’re listening to a song, as if concerned you might think you’re listening to a lecture on particle physics: “Here’s a song,” he offers on both I’m Outta Time and Ain’t Got Nothin’.

That said, both are among the album’s highlights, the former an effective exercise in shamelessly button-pushing balladry, the latter a two-minute brawl of a song, driven by an off-kilter drum pattern. It’s one of a handful of moments when Dig Out Your Soul works because it does precisely what Noel Gallagher says it doesn’t and experiments, at least a little, with the Oasis formula. The opening Bag It Up offers an impressively grimy, low-rent brand of freakbeat, while Falling Down is, by Oasis’s standards at least, opaque and oddly delicate.

Nevertheless, the other Liam contribution, Soldier On, highlights Dig Out Your Soul’s biggest problem: the mid-tempo plod that has become Oasis’s default rhythmic setting. There’s something trudging and weary about it, redolent of gritted teeth and furrowed brows, of labour rather than effortless inspiration. It’s further compounded by a surfeit of lyrical references to having a go, sticking with it and not giving up – “You’ve got to keep on keeping on”, “My head’s in the clouds but at least I’m trying” – and by the straining mannerisms of Liam’s vocals, which at their most affected sound less like bracingly abrasive sneering than the dogged exertions of a man who’s a little backed up.

Oasis can still occasionally produce songs suggestive of the breezy insouciance that marked their early years – the new single The Shock of the Lightning among them – but more often on Dig Out Your Soul, they sound as though they’re killing themselves trying to come up with something that’ll do. And sometimes what they come up with won’t do at all, as on Gem Archer’s To Be Where There’s Life, a song that signifies its mystical, psychedelic bent by opening with a sitar going sprrrrrroinnnnng. It’s the kind of hackneyed gesture that seems to underline Oasis’s reductive view of music, the nagging suspicion that, far from being steeped in the nuances of classic rock, they’ve only actually heard the Greatest Hits.

For more than a decade, Oasis have continued to sell millions of records while stuck in a musical holding pattern. It’s a perversely impressive feat, partly down to their fans, who, depending on your perspective, are either remarkably loyal or risibly undemanding. But it’s also down to Oasis’ willingness to graft, dutifully touring, never declining to play the hits. Neither masterpiece nor catastrophe, more experimental than Noel would allow but no one’s idea of adventurous, a lot of Dig Out Your Soul sounds like hard work, and not in the latter-day Scott Walker sense of unorthodox or avant garde. Perhaps that’s fitting.

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Dig Out Your Soul | | Leave a comment

Oasis Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants (2000)


In 1995, Oasis’ sophomore album, (What’s the Story), Morning Glory not only became one of the biggest records of all time in the band’s home country of the United Kingdom, but it also successfully crossed the Atlantic and produced two legitimate hits in the United States.

This is a feat that, even with the advance of technology and the internet, is rarely achieved to this day for many bands from Europe. After the massive success of singles like “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” and “Some Might Say,” and riding a wave of cocaine and sonic noise, the band returned two years later with Be Here Now in 1997. While it was initially praised as the best album since Sgt. Pepper’s, Be Here Now was a bloated, loud, obnoxious mess of an album that clocked in at a clunky, and somehow almost insulting 72 minutes, and has been blamed in large part for the death of Brit-Pop. A musical era that had ruled Britain for more than four years had abruptly come to an end.

Oasis largely disappeared for the last part of the decade they had once ruled with an iron fist. Facing constant rumors of their break up, publicity from harsh tabloids, and the eventual negative reaction of their latest release, a break was certainly in the offing. As the millennium rang in, and it became time to release a follow up, expectations were still high for the band to see how they would adapt to the changing musical landscape that they had once unquestionably stood on top of.

As it turns out, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, their fourth release, plays through like the sound of a band beginning to change its ways, albeit slowly. Unlike its predecessor, which had seven long songs, only three of the songs on this album break or come close to six minutes, and the majority fall within the high four minute range, bringing the total album length to a reasonable, but still long 52 minutes.

For many die-hard Oasis fans, the album features some of the best songs that the band had made: “Go Let It Out” features a rolling bass line that triumphantly picks the song off its feet, “Who Feels Love” is a George Harrison-esque, bongo infused zone out that successfully combines melody with experimentation, and “Where Did It All Go Wrong” is a classic anthem sung by Noel Gallagher that does not have the lyrical mastery of some of their previous anthems, but gets the job done anyways.

Finally, “Let’s All Make Believe.” a bonus track on the album, like many of Oasis’ b-sides, should have been included on the main release, and gives the listener a taste of Oasis combining their accumulated strengths, instrumental simplicity and experimentation, and a great melody.

However, for every step forward on this album, there is a step backwards. The album suffers from poor tracking, the most notorious example being “Sunday Morning Call,” which sounds like a subtle rewrite of “Where Did It All Go Wrong,” and happens to follow it in the track listing, essentially stalling the listener and dragging the album on.

Both “Roll It Over” and “Little James” have interesting sounds to them, playing with echoing guitars and affected choirs, but the former suffers from repetition problems, and the latter suffers from terrible lyrics. And while the sonic noise of Be Here Now is almost completely absent from this release, “Gas Panic” brings some of those terrible memories back.

Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is a solid effort that absolutely a step up from the cocaine romp that was Be Here Now, but it is in no way anywhere close to the sheer brilliance of their first two albums. It features some mild experimentation in the musical arrangements, some solid and distortion free melodies and some decent anthems, but in the end, it suffers from many of the same problems (tracklisting, excess track length, some truly terrible lyrics), that Be Here Now exemplified.

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants | | Leave a comment

Oasis Definitely Maybe (1994)


Review Summary: Founded by the legendarily smug Gallagher brothers, Oasis was one of the key bands at the epicenter of the Britpop craze that swept over Europe in the early 90’s. Definitely Maybe was their debut album, and remains a fan favorite despite its arrogance.

“Rock and Roll Star,” shows us just how arrogant and flamboyantly brilliant the Gallagher brothers really are. The guitars are loud, the drums are ferocious, and the egos are enormous. Noel Gallagher, doing his best rendition of a Sid Vicious-Paul McCartney hybrid voice, is already screeching out lyrics about how he is a star before anyone outside of a Manchester pub even heard of the band. The song is a loud, gaudy, obnoxious tribute to excess and underachievement, and, yet, Noel Gallagher still manages to sneak in some lyrics touting his unrecognized genius and how he is destined for greater things.

And, yet, they’re only getting warmed up.

Liam takes up vocal duties in “Shakermaker”. Hearing Liam churning out drug-addled lyrics in a rough Manchester accent is strangely endearing even though it sounds like he’s reading a nursery rhyme on acid. The song itself is a sweet little drunken lullaby backed up by a steadily swaying guitar and bass riff that makes it meant to be sung as a drinking song.

The album gets serious with “Live Forever.” European fans cite this song as one of the greatest rock songs ever written, and it’s easy to understand why. Noel’s talent as a songwriter shines through here. He manages to write lyrics about alienation, love, youth, and disillusionment that actually come off as honest. The chorus is the best: “Maybe you’re the same as me/We see things they’ll never see/You and I are gonna live forever.” It’s a chorus that became an unofficial manifesto of the Britpop movement, a movement that ran contrary to the negative attitude of the Grunge phenomenon that was sweeping America at the time. Ultimately, it’s why Britpop never made a huge dent in the U.S. market.

“Columbia” borrows a lot from the shoegaze sound of the time. Noel most likely took some inspiration from Ride since the sound in “Columbia” is strikingly akin to the soupy, heavily layered sound of Oasis’ British contemporaries. “Supersonic” makes a nice follow-up and comes off as a stripped down version of its predecessor. By now, Noel has shed all seriousness and his lyrics reflect a how little words really matter to him as long as there was a good rhythm guitar to carry them. The whole thing could really be written off as a coke fantasy considering some of the absurd drug references involved: “I know a girl called Elsa/She’s into alka-seltzer/She sniffs it through a cane on a supersonic plane…” Ugggh…

“Bring it on Down” is the album’s hidden gem, a guitar throwdown that every pub crawler and soccer hooligan should be proud to call “their song”. The whole thing is basically a raucous shout-out to the thrill of the Manchester nightlife, but that’s all it has to be. “Cigarettes and Alcohol” is the underachiever’s anthem and a champion’s the blue collar life of the young and unemployed, a drinking song for the ages. It’s safe to assume that this is the only song on the album Noel wrote based off of real life experience.

When the album is finally over, it feels like the end of a story. Looking back, the tracks could be connected to form a tale of a stereotypical rock star who lived fast and ended up back in the real world with responsibilities like everyone else. His days of partying and boozing are now long behind him. I don’t think that Noel intended for this to be, but it’s interesting to think he made an unintentional concept album. It’s a thought made all the sweeter when one listens to the chorus of the final track, “Married With Children,” and imagines the supposed hero as a tired family man going through all the pains of married life: “Your music’s ***e/It keeps me up all night, up all night”

The only real pitfall this album falls into is a lack of any real content. Noel seems perfectly content to hack up old riffs from bands like the Buzzcocks and pass them off as original, most of his lyrics sound like a collection of drunk nursery rhymes. After the album was released, the band was even sued by Coca Cola for ripping off their theme “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” for the song “Shakermaker.” In later interviews, Noel admitted to writing the lyrics for some songs in the car on the way to the studio before recording. But, you could easily turn that sort of behavior on its head and compare Noel to a dj chopping up beats to make something fresh.

Definitely Maybe is a beautiful mess.

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Definitely Maybe | | Leave a comment

Oasis Don’t Believe The Truth (2005)

dont-believe-the-truth-4e7570335abe0From The Observer

Do you remember the first time? The leathered sneer of Liam Gallagher that only a smack in the gob from his brother could silence, and his songwriting genius, and the swagger of their band (the ‘Sex Beatles’ is how a magazine called The Face heralded them) and the early records like ‘Supersonic’ or ‘Live Forever’ – quite possibly ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ – that announced the aspirations of an era with such a rip-roaring snort that a young Prime Minister wooed them. Shortly into the Blair presidency, Noel found himself at Number 10, asking Tony how he had managed to stay up through election night. ‘Probably not by the same means as you,’ the PM quipped, and that was 1997 all over.

Little is the same as it was back then, for all parties concerned, but this is where Oasis start to mend some broken promises. It feels like a lifetime since a new album from the Gallaghers justified the hype and rhetoric spun on its behalf, but this is so good, it makes you want to pour not one but two glasses of Jack-Daniels over your head.

Not so with the album that appeared three weeks after the Downing St party, Be Here Now, which was all bombast, or the successive disappointments of Standing on the Shoulder of Giants and Heathen Chemistry (bonus points if you can remember more than three song titles from that 2002 set); or the desultory showing at Glastonbury last summer; or the performance on I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here of Liam’s sister-in-law, Natalie Appleton. These could be seen as more than failures of will or of imagination – rather as acts of cultural betrayal.

So a touch of cynicism seems quite in order when it comes to Don’t Believe the Truth – a title that might disguise a message but is probably just more of Noel’s gobbledegook in the band’s own grand tradition.

(And the sleeve – surely Oasis hold the record for the worst album sleeves of all time, and in this respect, their latest is no disappointment.)

Perhaps the band have come to a realisation of why some people feel like throwing crockery – Noel strikes a contrite note when he says: ‘Someone said to me my songs sound like B-sides from 1994. I take that as a compliment.’ What’s more, where once he ran the band as an autocracy – booting out anyone who didn’t toe the party line – these days he’s started to listen, to share responsibility. So it is that he’s only written five of the 11 songs, with bassist Andy Bell contributing two tracks, second guitarist Gem one, leaving Liam chipping in with three.

Let’s not get carried away, but only two of those last are in the ‘Little James’ category (where he essayed the rhyme ‘live for your toys/ even though they make noise’). One good Liam song immediately elevates this sixth album above the status of its two immediate predecessors, and everything else reaches a new target in quality control.

Noel is right to seize on that comparison with the band’s early output, because the most helpful way of thinking about Don’t Believe the Truth is to ponder what’s not there: there aren’t any of those coked-up guitar workouts, for instance, when the songs long outstayed their welcome. In fact, this is a record that doesn’t sound at all druggy, but alive to possibilities. The bluster, the straining for effect, the attempt to live up to a grandiose reputation of their own making – all these are absent. Indeed, for the past few years, Oasis have been trying to emulate the sound of the old Oasis, rather than ripping off their peers, which is what they once did, as if they were politicians nicking rival policies. After taking their time with this record – its release was rumoured last year – that’s all changed now.

So first single ‘Lyla’ appropriates a riff from the Stones’ ‘Street Fighting Man’ before stumbling into the bar-room territory of the Faces; ‘Mucky Fingers’ is a one-chord homage to the Velvet Underground; ‘The Importance of Being Idle’ is very Kinks, which at least makes a change from the Beatles; while the way in which ‘Part of the Queue’ borrows shamelessly from the Stranglers’ ‘Golden Brown’ completes a process akin to ‘triangulation’, which makes you believe you have the best of all possible worlds on offer.

These songs of Noel’s apart, Gem’s ‘A Bell Will Ring’ is otherwise this week’s pick, but from Andy Bell’s slow-burning opener ‘Turn up the Sun’ onwards, you’re reminded of what genuine charisma means and your heart skips a beat, as it flares into life with the line ‘I carry madness, everywhere I geeeeeeaaooo’ – no prizes for guessing it isn’t stand-in drummer Zak Starkey fronting up the microphone.

We have all made mistakes. So just as Noel would seem to have taken a long hard look at the band, we might ask ourselves some questions. Is swapping Pete Doherty and Kate Moss and crack for Liam and Patsy and the naive optimism of 1997 all that we have done?

Don’t Believe the Truth isn’t a novel – or novelty – record but it makes you care about Oasis again, and makes you believe they can matter again. So our bond with them is renewed.

Burn it: ‘Turn up the Sun’; ‘Mucky Fingers’; ‘A Bell Will Ring’; ‘Let There Be Love’

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Don't Beilieve The Truth | | Leave a comment

Beady Eye: Different Gear, Still Speeding (2011)

beady_eye_album_sleeveFrom LA Times

On his first album since the breakup of Oasis, the megapopular English band he led with his older brother Noel for nearly 20 years, Liam Gallagher seems unfazed by the challenge of living up to such global hits as “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova.” Indeed, he’s hunting bigger game: “I’m gonna stand the test of time, like Beatles and Stones,” Gallagher sings not long into the song named for those legends on the Beady Eye debut, in which he’s joined by three recent Oasis alums: Andy Bell, Gem Archer and Chris Sharrock.

That “Beatles and Stones” rides a hurtling groove virtually indistinguishable from the one in “My Generation” by the Who provides some indication of Gallagher’s seriousness here. When it comes to carrying the torch for an earlier generation’s idea of rock ’n’ roll perfection, no one means as much business as Liam Gallagher.

Consider it a pleasant surprise, then, that “Different Gear, Still Speeding” — a late-model Oasis record in all but name — manages to sound as lively as it does. Opener “Four Letter Word” and “Bring the Light” bristle with punky irritation, while “Standing on the Edge of the Noise” lives up handily to its title. In the appealingly trippy “Wind Up Dream,” Gallagher even finds a suitable home for his uniformly dreadful refrigerator-magnet poetry.

Inevitably, things slow down in a handful of soggy ballads, including “Kill for a Dream,” in which Gallagher informs us, “Life’s too short not to forgive / You can carry regrets but they won’t let you live.”

But, hey, every guitar must eventually weep, right?

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Beady Eye Different Gear Still Speeding | , | Leave a comment

Oasis Heathen Chemistry (2002)

Heathen+Chemistry++PNGFrom The Guardian

They borrowed the Beatles’ haircuts and clothes, paraphrased their comments and copied their songs. So it seems fitting that Oasis have also appropriated the Beatles’ greatest dilemma. It was neatly summarised by the poet Philip Larkin: “When you get to the top, there is nowhere to go but down,” he wrote in 1983. “But the Beatles could not get down.”

For six years, Oasis have wrestled with the same problem. Nothing can remove them from the public’s affections, even though their career effectively stalled when they left Knebworth’s stage on August 11 1996, having played to the biggest crowd ever at a British rock concert. They failed to conquer America; they struggled through walkouts, divorces, fights; Noel Gallagher dismissed their albums Be Here Now and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants as “grossly offensive” and “a false start”. And yet Oasis releases still top the charts, regardless of quality, as if by rote. This leads to the nagging suspicion that people now buy their records out of the same sense of civic duty and misplaced nostalgia that packed the Mall during the Jubilee weekend. We’re British, this is what we’re meant to do.

Like Irvine Welsh novels, lads’ mags and New Labour, Oasis seem considerably less fantastic an idea now than in the mid-1990s. People in Britain, however, still want Oasis to be fantastic. And understandably, Oasis still want to be fantastic, too. Bolstered by Heathen Chemistry’s rollicking first single and opening track The Hindu Times, Noel Gallagher has confidently claimed that the album is a return to mid-1990s form. Your optimism lasts exactly three minutes and 46 seconds, after which The Hindu Times fades out and Force of Nature staggers grimly into view. Uniquely for an Oasis track, it evokes the future, but a grim one. It sounds like something recorded by middle-aged men, glittering moment long past, umpteenth reunion gig at Northampton Roadmenders looming. Everything about it is hoary: the dirgy melody, the lumbering glam-rock beat, Noel’s horrible bellowing. If it were any more workmanlike, it would turn up wearing overalls, ask if there’s any chance of a cuppa, then overcharge you for parts and labour.

Their last two albums have seen Oasis operating on reserve power, numbed by cocaine-addled hubris on Be Here Now, distracted by intra-band upheavals on Standing on the Shoulders. Heathen Chemistry is worse, precisely because it sounds like Oasis trying really hard. It is impossible to hear Force of Nature or guitarist Gem Archer’s fearful sub-Stooges thrash Hung in a Bad Place without picturing a band puffing and straining, struggling to locate whatever it was that made them great in the first place.

The more desperately they search, the colder they get. In the past, Noel Gallagher brazenly pinched from “classic” sources: the Beatles, the Kinks, T Rex. The results were audacious songs that assaulted the collective memory, cockily posing the question: remember when rock music used to be this good? Here, he is reduced to stealing from himself. Stop Crying Your Heart Out lifts its melody from Definitely Maybe’s Slide Away and hook from Don’t Look Back in Anger. The question it poses is not cocky, just depressing: remember when we used to be this good?

As a lyricist, Gallagher has always been more David Coleman than David Bowie, frequently giving the impression that English is his second language. Gallagherballs litter Oasis’s back catalogue (“Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball”, “Life is precocious in a most peculiar way”), and Heathen Chemistry has plenty: “Let me hear you smile,” demands (Probably) All in the Mind. But it also has Little by Little, knuckle-gnawing for different reasons. Part hideous state-of-the-nation address, part GCSE poetry project, it opens with the scarcely believable line, “We, the people, fight for our existence”, and ends with Gallagher pondering: “Why am I really here?” It sounds less like an existential crisis than a set-up in search of a punchline.

Improbably, nascent songwriter Liam Gallagher provides Heathen Chemistry’s few charming moments. Songbird is slender but pretty. Born on a Different Cloud is Lennon-by-numbers, plagued by a shudder-inducing inkling that the “clever, classless and free” individual in the lyrics is Liam Gallagher. Better Man, however, is great. Avoiding the standard Oasis cliches, its swaggering guitars, sneering vocal and rumbling breakbeat recall nothing so much as the Stone Roses’ Drivin’ South.

The more cynical among you may suggest that things have gone desperately awry when the best song Oasis can come up with bears comparison not to I Am the Resurrection but a track from the Stone Roses’ rubbish second album. The more cynical among you would be right. There is a finality about Heathen Chemistry, the band’s third hopeless attempt in a row. The last time Oasis released a decent album, John Major was PM, Nick Leeson was bringing down Barings Bank and Robson and Jerome were number one. Oasis got to the top and, with Heathen Chemistry, they have finally got down. As it plays, however, you can’t help thinking: there has to be a more dignified route than this.

March 31, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Heathen Chemistry | | Leave a comment