Friday, August 3, 2012

Oasis Does Classic Rock . . . With Mixed Results

The Good: Very different sound from other Oasis works, Most lyrics
The Bad: Very different sound from other Oasis works, music, some lyrics, repetitive
The Basics: Oasis' new sound is psychedelic rock and it doesn't work for Oasis without the strong lyrics that have previously bound the band.

Despite what most people will say, I'd argue that the British rock group Oasis hit its stride on their 1997 masterpiece Be Here Now. Many would argue with me, but I like big and anthemic and if nothing else, Be Here Now is an album of sweeping anthems and bold sound. Since then, the group has booted drummers and guitarists and replaced them and tried to find a new sound. Their latest outing, Don’t Believe The Truth is the result.

Don’t Believe The Truth is, put mildly, a disappointment. There, I've committed the ultimate heresy as an Oasis fan; this album disappoints. Is it as lackluster and horrible as their live set Familiar To Millions? No. But it's not much better. The fundamental problem with Familiar To Millions was that all of one's favorite Oasis songs were presented in new lackluster format with lots of yelling in the background and incomprehensible statements from the band that robbed it of its remaining energy. The problem with Don’t Believe The Truth is that the band goes in an entirely new direction, one that does not entirely work for them.

This is an eleven-track album and it sounds more like a lost album by, say, The Doors than it does an Oasis album. The sound of the music is more varied than it has been on previous albums and while that is usually a strength, here it is a problem. None of the songs pop with a new sound. None of the tunes stand out as, well, tunes. Since I purchased the album some months ago, I've only found myself humming one song and that was more to remember the lyrics than because the melody was memorable.

The biggest liability to Don’t Believe The Truth is its repetition. So much of the album is guitar riffs or strong, repetitive bass lines that repeat over and over and over again. So, even the fun, jaunty opening notes of "Turn Up The Sun" - the album's first track - quickly devolve into repetitive guitars and bass overwhelming the piano. Track to track there is a lot of similarity as well. The band has caught itself on a limited sound and it is exploring that one niche to an uncomfortable level.

The first single from the album is "Lyla," an amelodic tune that seems more loud than interesting. It is something of a pointless, unpoetic number, so it was somewhat surprising to learn that Noel Gallagher was responsible for writing it.

For those who do not know, Oasis has always been Noel Gallagher and Liam Gallagher, brothers and comrades. All other members of the band Oasis have left or been fired, but those two always remain. Noel is the primary lyricist, Liam the primary vocalist. On Don’t Believe The Truth, though, the traditional roles are all out the window. Out of eleven tracks, Noel wrote only five and it shows. The only songs that have the distinctive Oasis sound outside his (and "Part of the Queue" does not) were written by Liam ("Guess God Thinks I'm Abel") and to a lesser extent, Andy Bell's contributions - "Turn Up The Sun" and "Keep The Dream Alive" - which lyrically fit Oasis, but musically push the band in new directions.

The fundamental problem with Don’t Believe The Truth is not that Oasis is trying something new and different. Indeed, many of my favorite artists manage to explode their musical repertoire with imagination and skill, like Sophie B. Hawkins' Timbre or Heather Nova's South. The problem is that this album so radically departs from the sound and lyrical quality of prior Oasis albums that there seems precious little to link this to their body of work prior. So, mixing the psychedelic sounds of "Love Like A Bomb" with the repetitive "A Bell Will Ring" creates some level of musical chaos. The band shoots off "The Meaning Of Soul" with lyrics that are anything but soulful and languishes on the near-tuneless "Guess God Thinks I'm Abel." The result, something that does not sound like Oasis, something that is not superlative. This is an album that could have held its own in the late '60s or early '70s, but its a devolution of sound from a band that has produced masterful songs and albums as Oasis has.

It's not all bad, though. The quirky "The Importance of Being Idle" is actually funny and clever and has a decent tune. And despite the dreadfully repetitive strummings of the strings, "Mucky Fingers" works well as a flat-out rock song in the prime Oasis tradition. Even the finale, a mellow number almost as subdued as "Champagne Supernova" was anthemic, "Let There Be Love" at least sounds like Oasis. Most of the rest of the songs are listenable (though "The Meaning Of Soul" is pretty awful), but they aren't up to the caliber of Oasis.

Even when sticking to a formula, a band may grow and expand and triumph musically. The problem here is that while changing the sound of the band to a radically classic rock/psychedelic rock sound while removing the anchor of the lyrics, the album and band lose cohesion and fails to hold the interest of the listener.

The best track is easily "The Importance of Being Idle," which is the new anthem to laziness, the worst track is "The Meaning of Soul" which is repetitive and meaningless.

For other Oasis works, please check out my reviews of:
Definitely Maybe
(What's The Story?) Morning Glory
“Wonderwall” (single)
“Don’t Look Back In Anger” (single)
Be Here Now
The Masterplan
Familiar To Millions
Heathen Chemistry
Dig Out Your Soul


For other music reviews, be sure to check out my Music Review Index Page for an organized listing!

© 2012, 2005 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.

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