Friday, August 5, 2011

Oasis Strikes Out With Familiar To Millions

The Good: Some good songs, I suppose . . .
The Bad: Even the best Oasis songs don't seem well presented here.
The Basics: Don't buy Familiar To Millions unless you're a real big fan of the covers or have never heard "Step Out;" this is Oasis' first loser, a big let down.

A live album, at its best should showcase the vocal range of the artist and at its worst at least be intelligible. Familiar To Millions fails at even that. Despite my great love of the music of Oasis, Familiar To Millions made me sorry I buy Oasis discs on sight. Out of all of the Oasis albums I own, this is the one I listen to least and I am someone who wants very much to see Oasis in concert.

On the plus side, there are two new songs, covers of "Hey Hey, My My (Into the Black)" and "Helter Skelter" and if one did not have the c.d. single to "Don't Look Back In Anger" this is an opportunity to hear Noel Gallagher sing "Step Out" which is a good enough song. "Hey Hey, My My" is a Neil Young song and it's a decent song and the Oasis cover of the track is good enough. "Helter Skelter" isn't a terribly good Beatles song and the cover adds little to it.

The majority of the album - or double album - fails on two levels then. One, the producers of the album seem far more concerned with making the audience screams and cheers louder than the music and thus drown out most of the vocals. Second, the song selection is fairly lame. While it showcases work from all of their previous studio albums, tracks from Be Here Now are noticeably absent (or, more accurately, under-represented as "Stand By Me" is the only one from that album here). The majority of songs are from Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants (fortunately only one of lame ones from that album appears here, not helping this album by leading it off!) and Definitely Maybe with five singles from each.

Even the great songs come across as listless. That is, the anthems don't even sound grand. Liam sounds tired and bored and when they're not sounding bored, the brothers are swearing pretty heavily. I can deal with the language, but this album touts being a live recording of two of the biggest concert nights in world history. But the presentation from that concert comes across as listless. The band sounds bored at being there and the recording accurately portrays that.

The strength of the album is in the lyrics of Oasis. However, as all of the tracks appear on other albums in vastly more coherent forms, it makes little sense to let this album be where you hear the emotive lines of Oasis. So on Familiar To Millions the truly great lyrics of such songs as "Don't Look Back In Anger" and "Acquiesce" are underscored by the sounds of the crowd. As well, the mumbling curses the brothers Gallagher throw at the audience are at best mildly amusing, at worst offensive and pointless.

The best live albums utilize the strengths of a group. Here, the benefits of the lyrics and music of Oasis are drown out by screaming fans. Some of the best live albums also use the medium for the singers or songwriters to tell stories about their songs, how they were written or what they mean. The between song banter here is nowhere near as insightful; instead, we get the bandmembers pointedly avoiding talking about the songs and instead yelling at the audience.

The brightest spot is the live version of "Gas Panic!" which is even more comprehensible than the studio version. The weakest track - outside the pointless recordings of intersong banter - is the always pointless "Fuckin' In the Bushes."

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


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

© 2011, 2003 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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