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Track-By-Track

Oasis' New Album 'Dig Out Your Soul' Reviewed Track-By-Track
Luke Turner , September 23rd, 2008 15:15

Noel Gallagher has made his usual protestations that the new Oasis album a) is good and b) is not Britpop. Luke Turner's got his cynical hat on, but will he be forced to eat it?

Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul

'Bag It Up'

This opening salvo isn't a cover of the Geri Halliwell song or a "No Diggity"-esque chorus, but something to do with tea: the first two lines of this, Oasis' seventh album, contain a reference to pouring yourself a cup of lady grey, which all seems a little la-di-da for a band you'd imagine are more at home with a brew of PG that you could stand a spoon up in. Anyway, it's a solid start that'll do nothing to scare the Oasis faithful, sturdy blasts of chest-out noise, the bros G in duet on vocals, and ringing Noel Gallagher guitar lines that end in a suitably bombastic crescendo. So far, so expected.

'The Turning'

The first signs of a more adventurous Oasis appear here. The track opens with a drumbeat and a melody that, I jest not, isn't a million miles from a speeded up take on Radiohead's 'Everything In Its Right Place'. Perhaps the normally crackers Ryan Adams had a bit of point about the album sounding like Kid A? Let's not get ahead of ourselves, though. Liam's vocal begins and a whopping chorus drops in - so it's not the eureka moment when God's white beard appears on the computer screens of the Large Hadron Collider boffins, but in Oasis terms it's something of a progression. There's a fair amount of religious imagery present in the lyrics, the rapture and angels all putting in an appearance before the track fades into the sound of sea and sirens.

'Waiting For The Rapture'

Lyrically again, this has Big Themes, though they're doing that dangerous thing of the God/Love equation that Jason Pierce always gets in a muddle about. It's a pugnacious stomper, with a cracking chorus to boot, this time with Noel Gallagher at the vocal helm. Liam's voice might sound a lot better than his Brit Awards live bellow, (the five AM jogging sessions on Primrose Hill clearly getting some quality pre-rush hour London air into his lungs), but getting his older brother to do these higher parts on this one was certainly a wise move. Again, it does seem to represent a little more thought and breadth than Oasis' recent albums seem to have had - this all makes for a rather promising start.

'The Shock Of The Lightning'

Dive bomber sounds give way to a sharp rat-at-ating from whoever fills the drum stool on these recordings (it seems unclear), before one of those battles between blugeoning guitars and Liam Gallagher's voice that marked Oasis' 1990s arrival begins. It's the sound of the band going back to where they began, bombastic and aspirational - "love is a time machine / up on the silver screen" - with a Beatles tic thrown in for good measure. There's a good keyboard breakdown before a fill you'd never have got from Tony McCarroll or Alan White, and we're clobbered with the full force of the track's core yet again. This sounds like it could have fitted in on Definitely Maybe or What's The Story, an assured, ballsy stodge for men in raincoats to swagger down the road to. Actually, it is quite a lot like 'Rock & Roll Star'.

'I'm Outta Time'

And then, oh dear, a ballad. By Liam. Dedicated to John Lennon. This has been produced to within an inch of its life, the musical equivalent at that shockingly airbrushed NME cover of last week. Not really much to say more than that, except that it keeps trying to become 'A Day In The Life' and the overall effect is that of Jeff Lynne's re-imagining of the Beatles. Oasis can do two ballads - the sort for blokes to hug to after a they've had a skinful, and the sort that said blokes use to apologise to their missus the morning after, and this fits neither. It's telling that this is the track that Liam penned in tribute to his hero John Lennon, a man more than capable of mawkish platitudes and balladeering insincerity.

'(Get Off Your High Horse) Lady'

Yet another shocking title (what's it about, those who criticised Noel's Best Groups Ever list for its lack of female artists?) for a track that sees Oasis strip things down to a rattle and a-handclap and slamming draws, a flick of bluesy guitar and Noel singing through effects… so he sounds like Liam. You get the impression Oasis probably think that this is their take on Tom Waits. It isn't, of course, it sounds like Phil Collins 'That's All', which is an interesting way to innovate, for sure.

'Falling Down'

Fucking hell, this one starts off sounding like Ride. Part of the great shame of Andy Bell spoiling late period Ride by turning them into an audition tape for Oasis was the instant demotion of the natural guitarist to bass as soon as he joined the ranks of the Mancs. He's not credited as a songwriter here, but still, it's even got some proper shoegazing lyrics, "catch the wind that breaks the butterflies", things like that. Noel calls this "krautpop" and says it's the song that he's been wanting to write for years. Why didn't you then, Parker? It displays Oasis' canny knack for hiding a good chorus amidst the skittish drums and strings, far better used here than the usual Oasis trick of bunging them on as an 'emotive' afterthought.

'To Be Where There's Life'

Gem Archer (formerly of Heavy Stereo) channels George Harrison's patchouli ghoul via the sitar for this slow-burner. An Oasis track without guitars? What's the world coming to! The result is actually a lot less hackneyed than you might expect, creating the kind of burbling under-the-surface epic atmospherics that The Verve used to manage before they, er, tried to be Oasis. To be where there's life? For once, it can be found in a new Oasis album.

'Ain't Got Nothin''

Another humdinger of a title with that double negative, and a fairly standard Who-influenced rocker penned by Liam. There's some harmonica and furious bluster here and there, while the melody takes a bit of a strange wander. There's also the problem that rhyming "fuse" and "lose", "groove" and "prove" always provokes a cringe when delivered in Liam's taut whine.

'The Nature Of Reality'

Oasis get philosophical, though the music hardly aspires to intellectual heights. It starts with shaken maracas before settling into a bit of a blues plod, one-two drums and a vaguely glammy riff as Liam muses that "the nature of reality / is pure subjective fantasy". Someone on an Oasis messageboard isn't happy about this, though; "the one thing great about Oasis is that they aren't poetic saps like Bono or Chris Martin, and keep things simple and write songs that people can easily relate to," thunders one Notorious L4E. Could this be a problem for Oasis in Dig Out Your Soul? While their attempts to push their envelope might tickle the ears of a few post 1997 defectors, one imagines they're unlikely to win any new converts. Moreover, does the distinct lack of beery rockers or lighter wavers on this album risk alienating the more dunderheaded elements of their fanbase?

'Soldier On'

Don't be put off by the fact that The Coral found this on a hard drive at a studio used by Oasis, and none of the band could remember writing it until Andy Bell found it on his iPod. 'Soldier On' is a sinuous and languid affair with melodica and multi-tracked echoing vocals, a pleasing counterpoint to the bluster of 'Bag It Up' and a neat finish to a surprisingly good album.

I had expected, if truth be told, that getting through Dig Out Your Soul enough times to review it might have required the perseverance of a porridge taster. There's no shock of the new, of course, more a shock that Oasis have managed to climb up the wall at the end of their cul-de-sac to see what interesting pastures might lie beyond. Even if you can't help but wish they'd done this ten years ago after What's The Story Morning Glory, credit where credit is due: by and large, Dig Out Your Soul is a refreshing listen, both the sound of Oasis rediscovering some of the spirit that made them great, and attempting - finally - something different.

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