The Good: Good lyrics, Great sound, Decent vocals
The Bad: Shorter than I'd like!
The Basics: Easily one of the best Oasis albums ever and - by a longshot - the best Oasis album since shaking the band up, Dig Out Your Soul reminds listeners that Oasis still rocks!
"The best album from the band in years" is a backhanded compliment if I've ever heard one. Loaded in that little phrase is the implication that the last few albums have not been all they could be but the band is doing much better now, thank you. As I happily set aside James Taylor's c.d.s for a moment (I have a cache of reviews of his works that will be appearing in the next few days!), I have the opportunity to listen to and review the latest outing by Oasis, Dig Out Your Soul.
Dig Out Your Soul is not the best album from Oasis in years; it is one of the best Oasis albums period. The thing is, I don't go back and re-rate my previous reviews, but in preparing my list of reviews by Oasis (see bottom), I am probably forced to admit that I went a bit lighter on Heathen Chemistry than I ought to have (if I were to get rid of any Oasis studio album, it would be that one). Dig Out Your Soul, though, is the Oasis album I have been waiting for since Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants or maybe even their superlative Be Here Now. Dig Out Your Soul is all big, all rocking and has a quality that Oasis has not achieved since it nixed everyone but Noel and Liam Gallagher.
With only eleven tracks, clocking in at a somewhat anemic (especially for Oasis) 45:56, Dig Out Your Soul finally gels Oasis as a cohesive musical band as a collaborative unit. Early Oasis was defined by the lyrics of Noel Gallagher and the vocals of Liam Gallagher and since the shakeup, Oasis has slowly been evolving to let the two "new guys," Gem and Andy Bell contribute in such a way that their works are as distinctly Oasis. On Dig Out Your Soul, the lyrics from the other three finally come up to the quality of Noel's writing and the music is of such a homogenous quality that there is no doubt who and what Oasis is at this point.
The eleven tracks are still dominated (slightly) by Noel Gallagher's writing. Noel wrote six of the songs, Liam gets in three (including his best-written song to date, "I'm Outta Time"), and Bell and Gem get one apiece. Stick with this formula and maybe you'll retake America, men! Liam provides primary vocals still (and no instruments), though Noel is given a vocal credit as well. Noel expands his instrumental credit to drums on three of the tracks (Zak Starkey picks up the others on his own), keyboard and "electronics." He also takes primary electric guitar, though Gem and Bell also play electric guitar. No one from Oasis is given any production credit, which seems surprising because this is one of the band's more produced albums. Given their level of involvement in every other level, it seems like this is very much the musical vision of the band.
And Oasis rocks on Dig Out Your Soul! Each and every track has the sound and quality of a song that would play over the closing credits to a major Hollywood motion picture. The songs are not anthemic (like on Be Here Now), but they all have that big, bold, "we're making a statement" quality to them that is common among soundtrack closing songs. That is the very best way to define the sound of the songs on Dig Out Your Soul. These are drums and bass-driven rock and roll tracks that have an emphasis still on the vocals and lyrics that make it clear that there is a statement to each song. But still, every song sounds big and brash in a way that makes it seem like the group is sealing some larger work off with their presentation.
Liam Gallagher finally comes into his own as a writer on Dig Out Your Soul. Liam's early songs were entirely lame singsong tracks that made fans of Noel's lyrics cringe. Literally. We wondered what the rest of the band was smoking when they let Liam write for them. But on Dig Out Your Soul, Liam actually has something to say. He still has a slightly less sophisticated rhyme scheme, but he actually muses well on "I'm Outta Time" when he writes and performs, "Here's a song / It reminds me of when we were young / Looking back at all the things we've done / You gotta keep on / Keeping on / Out to sea / It's the only place I honestly / Can get myself some peace of mind . . ." He actually presents lines with genuine emotion like loss and desire going into the refrain which very simply asks who will stay with him to the end. It's smarter than anything else Liam has written and it's nice to hear him grow as a writer.
Similarly, Andy Bell's track sounds like distinctive Oasis. Bell muses about perspective on "The Nature Of Reality" and it is hard to deny that the track sounds like something Liam could have written (he wrote the two songs that surround it). As far as the writing goes, only Gem is still playing with the old conceits. His song, "To Be Where There's Life" has a few good lines, but is mostly bogged down with repetition. To his credit, it is his song from which the title of the album is derived so some points to Gem.
Lyrically, though, the bulk of the album is still carried by Noel and on this album he reminds the listener that he can write! Noel has often had the ability to muse on the nature of existence in a way that still made rock and roll. He does that here on songs like "Falling Down," one of the more mellow tracks on Dig Out Your Soul. There he wrote, "A dying scream / Makes no sound / Calling out to all that / Have ever known / Here am I, lost and found / Callin' out to all / In time we'll kiss / The world goodbye / Fallin' down on all / That I've ever known . . . We live a dying dream . . ." ("Falling Down"). He expresses his absence of faith in a way that makes sense and is musical and compelling.
This is not to say Noel Gallagher has gone all philosophical or dull on the listener. Songs like "Bag It Up" and "The Shock Of The Lightning" rock, both in terms of sound and in their lines. I'm one for whom repetition does not survive my scrutiny well. However, on "The Shock Of The Lightning," Noel writes some more simple lyrics and sells them with the presentation. After all, the obvious and repetitive "come in - come out" and rhymes like "Love is a time machine / Upon the silver screen / It's all in my mind / Love is a litany / A magical mystery . . ." ("The Shock Of The Lightning") could fall flat, but with the overall statement made by the song and the instrumentals backing it, it holds up well over multiple listens.
Musically, the songs are mostly distinctly Oasis. In fact, only "Soldier On," which closes the album sounds like it could have come from anyone else. That song sounds like a track by Gorillaz. While the emphasis on percussion - especially the way drums open "Bag It Up" and "The Turning" - is a bit stronger on this album, the songs still sound like Oasis songs. The guitars and bass are still sublimated just below the lead vocals, which is where much of the distinctive Oasis sound comes from.
On "The Turning," for example, the distinctive drum beats that open the album have an emphatic rest thrown in that shakes the sound up delightfully. Oasis does continue its expansion as musical artists on Dig Out Your Soul, though. They play with a Mellotron on "Falling Down" and there's a tamboura as well. This adds a richer more diverse sound to the songs on the album. In other words, this is not just a simple guitar, bass, drums band. Every song has something added to it be it the emphasis on percussion, different instruments or sampling, like using a clip from a John Lennon interview on "I'm Outta Time." And the band even gets funky with a very rich sound augmented by clapping beats on "(Get Off You) High Horse Lady" and it works for the group!
Vocally, Oasis isn't exactly stretching into new territory on Dig Out Your Soul, but the lyrics are very clearly presented and song to song, the tracks rival the quality of the smash album (What's The Story) Morning Glory? Indeed, the musical scope of the tracks exceeds most of what was on that album and presents a balance that makes Dig Out Your Soul one of the easiest to recommend straightforward rock and roll albums I have heard in quite some time. The songs are hardly monotonous (the psychedelic quality to "I'm Outta Time" breaks up more straightforward rock and roll tracks, for example) and the effort holds up remarkably well on constant replay (which I've had it on for the last two days now!).
Anyone who loves rock and roll will enjoy Dig Out Your Soul, an album that reminds listeners just what Oasis can do and should have been doing for the last few albums!
The best track is "I'm Outta Time," the least memorable track is "To Be Where There's Life."
For other Oasis works, please check out my reviews of:
(What's The Story?) Morning Glory
“Don’t Look Back In Anger” (single)
Be Here Now
Familiar To Millions
For other music reviews, please visit my index page by clicking here!
© 2011, 2008 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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