Monday, July 25, 2011

Evolving A Band With Chemistry: Oasis Is Still Figuring It Out On Heathen Chemistry!

The Good: Return of Oasis sound, Evolution of music, Strong lyrics, Inventive instrumentals
The Bad: Some non-Noel songs with inferior lyrics, The gap!
The Basics: On Oasis' album Heathen Chemistry, the entire band has the opportunity to write and with mixed results, they shape the new Oasis, where epic is still best.

I've never heard the Beatles album Revolver but some time back, Noel Gallagher bragged that the next Oasis album was so solid that each track was better than anything on Revolver. After a horrible live album (Familiar To Millions), I was ready for something new and great. Heathen Chemistry was that album and overall, I was not disappointed.

Heathen Chemistry marks the return of the phenomenal lyrics of Noel Gallagher. And it's pretty easy to pick out the tracks he wrote. "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" is classic Oasis, pleading and begging with emotion. Noel's strength has always been in creating intelligent rhyme schemes and emotive lyrics. Take his magnum opus on the album, "Little By Little" which combines the desperation of a person with the instability of their partner: "Little by little, / I gave you everything you ever needed, / Little by little, / The wheels of your world are slowly falling off." Noel has an uncommon gift for making great, memorable lines and it is his distinct style that has been the defining sound of Oasis.

And in some ways, it still is. While Heathen Chemistry marks the debut of contributions by all members of Oasis, it's obvious which ones are Noel and which the other band members contributed. Andy Bell's "A Quick Peep" is a fine instrumental, but does nothing to add to Oasis' sound. Liam's three tracks still exhibit a lyrical immaturity that make him vastly inferior in the writing department to his brother. In fact, only his "Born On A Different Cloud" sounds remotely like the known Oasis style. His "Songbird," in fact, shocked me. It seemed far too pop for the usually harder edge of rock that Oasis has portrayed. Moreover, "Songbird" utilizes comparatively simple rhymes and its up tempo, joyful feel seem horribly out of place between two such beautiful and lamentful songs as "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" and "Little By Little."

In fact, the only one - outside Noel- who adds to and evolves the sound of Oasis is their new guitarist Gem Archer. His song "Hung In A Bad Place" is not classic Oasis, but it has the sound and feel of an Oasis song. It quite effectively takes the Oasis we've known and loved and moves it forward a step on the musical spectrum.

That's not to say I was entirely satisfied. When I put in the disc, I was overjoyed to see that it was 76+ minutes long. I thought that this would be the next Be Here Now and Oasis' best chance for another perfect album. Imagine my disappointment at the tracks whittled away and "Better Man" came on and then ended. And there was silence. For almost thirty minutes, there is silence on this disc separating "Better Man" from an instrumental that might have just been one of Oasis' warm-up sessions. The length of the silence and that it is present on the disc at all is infuriating.

On the plus side, this album opens big. Putting away the failure of the first track on Standing On the Shoulder of Giants, Heathen Chemistry opens with the strong guitars and drums of "The Hindu Times." It also helps that this track has some snazzy lyrics to go with those fine instruments.

Heathen Chemistry is a great album for anyone who likes rock music. Oasis pulls off another album that fails to be a pop music piece of garbage and continues to push the envelops on what pure rock has become. These are tracks that use guitars, drums and, as most great rock seems to do, the piano. This new combination has talent and the album illustrates that with an increased diversity on the instrumentals.

While better than most music out there, Oasis undergoes a renaissance of mixed results, producing wonderful ballads with great lyrics and opening itself up to the lyrical ineptitudes of Liam Gallagher. The strongest tracks are "Little By Little" (which rocks with emotion!) and "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" (which has all the makings of a powerhouse single). The weak link is "Songbird."

For other Oasis works, please check out my reviews of:
“Wonderwall” (single)
“Don’t Look Back In Anger” (single)
Be Here Now
The Masterplan


For other music reviews, please be sure to visit my index page on the subject by clicking here!

© 2011, 2002 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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