October 3, 2008
CD Of The Week: Oasis: Dig Out Your Soul: A Band Parched of Ideas
By Fiona Shepherd
OASIS: DIG OUT YOUR SOUL **
BIG BROTHER, GBP 13.99
NOEL GALLAGHER has made it quite clear that he doesn't care what anyone apart from Oasis thinks of Oasis - a healthy enough attitude for any artist and an easy enough position to maintain in the cosseted realm of the rock star. With the forthcoming Oasis tour selling out in nanoseconds, why should he have any concerns about others' opinions?
But while Noel appears happy to treat 'em mean, the fans remain bewilderingly keen, despite the commonly held notion that Oasis have never again been as vital as they were on their first two albums. The nature of keeping the Oasis faith is that you don't stop believing they can recapture the magic. And the reality is that you will be perpetually disappointed.
After years in the creative wilderness, there were actually hopeful signs on their 2005 album, Don't Believe The Truth, that they could heave themselves out of their chronic songwriting rut. Now a whole bunch of crazy fools are proclaiming Dig Out Your Soul to be even better than that not-bad offering, including their one- time mentor Alan McGee, a man who, like Noel, can be relied on for an inflammatory quote. McGee has already compared this seventh album to the seventh albums by The Beatles and The Rolling Stones, which conveniently happen to be the all-time classics Revolver and Beggars Banquet.
For the benefit of any suckers out there, let's be clear: this is just mad talk, otherwise known as incontinent promotional hype. The (more temperate) basic line on Dig Out Your Soul is that it is a return to rocking out after all the sissy tune stuff on the last album. In short, sod the songs, let's turn up the guitars (maybe even distort them a bit if we're feeling clever). And so, yet again, we find Oasis slopping out their trough of threadbare ideas, nicking all their best moves - and some of their worst - from The Beatles.
As on Don't Believe The Truth, all the core band members contribute - there's one track apiece from Gem Archer and Andy Bell (don't want them getting too big for their boots), three from Liam and the rest from Big Brother Noel, who kicks things off with four numbers on the trot, bound together by little bits of connective musical tissue.
Bag It Up starts with swampy guitar and a reference to Lady Grey tea - and we have known what that is Noel code for ever since he proclaimed that taking drugs was his generation's equivalent of a morning cup of tea. Sure enough, Noel has admitted he has nothing left to write about so has been revisiting some "psychedelic trips" of yore for this album's lyrics. "Got to get me a doctor with a remedy, gonna take a walk with the monkey man" runs a typical line. Yup, it's their rewrite of I Am The Walrus all over again.
The low-slung psych soul of The Turning boasts some nice, fluent MOR piano touches while it is revving up for the chorus. But it's not a great song, composed as it is from Charlatans/Paul Weller leftovers and references to the Rapture, the Messiah and fallen angels, strung together with the Primal Scream-style invocation to "come on, shake your rag doll, baby".
Current single The Shock Of The Lightning is urgent, but formulaic, with more of those drug trip references, while Waiting For The Rapture is a call for a good woman to liberate him from his drug hell, which steals its riff from The Doors' Five To One and its disdainful vocal style from John Lennon.
Lennon's voice is then sampled for Liam's first contribution, I'm Outta Time. Lyrically, it is fairly trite, but at least he bothered to write a melody - albeit one that quickly becomes repetitive and ploddy. His other songs are even less noteworthy. Ain't Got Nothing, written about one of his more notorious brawls, in a Munich hotel, is defiant, rollicking and simplistic, while his closing Soldier On gets no more insightful than "shine a light for me tonight".
The non-Gallaghers' tracks actually manage to lower the bar further. Bell's hoary, arthritic, would-be psychedelic blues offering, The Nature Of Reality, bows out on a trail of feedback in lieu of an ending, while Archer's lumpen To Be Where There's Life was presumably only included to provide the album with its title, drawn from the hippyish lyrics.
Noel's (Get Off Your) High Horse Lady ("I don't need a ride tonight") might raise a smile for some, but is bereft of any imagination, being little more than a stripped-back bluesy stomp.
The only sign of potential anywhere is Falling Down, which layers a subtle Hammond organ sound, distorted guitar and clattering rhythm, like a less intense version of Tomorrow Never Knows and actually makes an effort to express something with a desolate lyric which comes from the opposite end of the emotional spectrum that inspired the exultant Live Forever. Oasis really are that far adrift.
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