Monday, October 13, 2008

Godspeed to the sound of the pounding

Oasis's 7th studio album, Dig Out Your Soul, is out and it's great. Though Oasis left behind so-called Brit-Pop nearly a decade ago, DOYS is even further removed from the sounds that made Oasis the biggest band in the world in the mid to late 90's.

This is a heavy guitar rock album with lots of feedback and electronic noodling. If you think of music as a wall -- thanks Mr. Spector -- Oasis has built a monster of brick and mortar, the brick heavy, crunchy guitars, the mortar slapped on electronic effects and reverb. But it's straight-forward rock. No games. No gimmicks. Just rock and roll.

Noticeably absent from this Oasis work is any sort of anthem a la "All Around The World." As has been the trend on Oasis albums of the new millenium, Beatle-isms -- blatant Fab Four rip offs -- are rare. Don't Believe The Truth had "A Bell Will Ring," which was a purposeful attempt to recreate the sounds on Revolver. There's nothing like that on DOYS. The closest they come to nicking from the Beatles is the (fabulous) outro to "The Turning," a near carbon copy of the guitar intro to "Dear Prudence."

Tired of stealing from the greats -- or perhaps having left no classic song un-pinched -- Oasis has borrowed bits and pieces from their own catalog. To their credit, most of the re-treading has been quite subtle and probably only noticeable to people that pay close attention to their the "deep cuts." With each album, Oasis continues to expand on its own sound. Fourteen years after their debut album, they sound like...well...Oasis. If you doubt this, pick up a Jet album and look for all the bits and pieces they've swiped from the Gallaghers (and others.)

DOYS opens with "Bag It Up," a medium tempo grungy bit with a stomping back beat. It has the energy to kick open the door to the album.

"The Turning" is equal parts "I Can See a Liar" and "Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is" from Standing On The Shoulder of Giants, though stronger lyrically than either of those two numbers. It's one of many big guitar songs and the first of two songs about "the rapture." I wonder if Noel has some interest in the Christian notion of "rapture" or if the word simply appealed to him. The outro, as mentioned, is great. It's a 90 degree turn from the body of the song, reminscent of "Cry Baby Cry" ending with McCartney's "Can you take me back where I came from, can you take me back...?"

Noel sings "Waiting for the Rapture," which, on first listen, I almost mistook for The Doors' "Five to One." Here, Noel dreams of a girl that has come to save him from "the rapture," or, perhaps, he is saving her from it. Probably meaningless.

"Shock of the Ligtning" is the most obvious "hit," a big guitar, three chord sock in the nose. Liam's on top of his game vocally, a great counter-point to the rather repetitive guitar riffs. It has a pinch of "Hindu Times" (from Heathen Chemistry) flavor. Shock is as good of a rock song as Oasis has put out in years. The best line in the song: "So godspeed to the sound of the pounding." Mega!

If you're familiar with "Let's All Make Believe," you'll get the vibe of "I'm Outta Time." This is the more intelligent, less cliche child of "Stop Crying Your Heart Out." It's something of a power ballad, the only truly "poppy" song on the album. For the first time since "Song Bird," Liam actually sings! He sounds great, too. The last few albums have hinted at the toll years of smoking and drinking were taking on his voice. On Outta Time, he sings falsetto like a castrato. (OK, maybe not quite that high.) EDIT: I originally overlooked that Liam wrote this song. Very nice work. It excuses the weaknesses in "Ain't Got Nothin' on Me." See below.

The second it starts, you'll be tempted to sing, "Ev'rybody's talking about Bagism, Shagism, Dragism, Madism, Ragism, Tagism..." as (Get Off Your) High Horse Lady opens with that familiar stomp-and-clap. Noel takes the vocals on a tune that just feels like it would fit well somewhere on Ram or McCartney. Unfortunately, Noel's vocals are run through a garbage mic or with a bit of reverb. Whatever the effect, it sounds like he's singing into a tin can. Still, the song has a nice little groove to it.

"Falling Down," another Noel-sung bit, is driven by bass, drums and strings. Underneath that, listen to the sweet little guitar hook. Songs like this are reminders of what a good singer Noel can be. There are a lot of little things going on in this song. I'm tempted to say "Falling Down" has bits of "Roll It Over" and "Who Feels Love," but that would be misleading. It's something of a new sound for Oasis.

"To Be Where There's Life" opens with sitar and funky bass riffs. Imagine a trip-hop tune with vocals by Liam and some psychadelic mists swirling around it all. It might be Oasis's biggest departure from their more classic sound. One might call it "experimental," but that's too cliche and a perhaps a slight exaggeration. Different (for Oasis) certainly works.

"Ain't Got Nothin' On Me" is a Liam-penned song and very obviously so. Even with a few years songwriting practice under his belt, Liam would do us all a service by leaving the song writing to his big brother. This is one of the songs that leaked last spring. Noel's "I Wanna Live A Dream (In My Record Machine)," which was leaked at the same time, should've made the album in its place. It's the worst song on the album but, yet, not horrible by any stretch.

"The Nature of Reality," Andy Bell's contribution, is feedback laden. It's a bastard child of "Helter Skelter" as done by the likes of U2 and Oasis themselves. It's a heavy hitter, with in-your-face guitars, big, banging drums, and pseudo-spiritual lyrics.

Liam's other song, "Soldier On," is better than Ain't Got Nothin'. The intro sounds almost exactly like "Who Feels Love," and Liam's vocals sound trippy. It's a three chord song. To his credit, Liam's vocals do most of the work.

In all, this is a pretty impressive album. As much as bits and pieces are familar, Dig Out Your Soul is its own work. It pays homage to the band's more recent past without repeating those mistakes. It's new and fresh(which should be expected after a 3 plus year break since Don't Believe The Truth.) Oasis have proved, once again, that they are a high octane rock band, British cousins of great guitar rock groups like the Black Crowes. Two thumbs up. Five stars. Run, don't walk, to your nearest music retailer to pick up this one.

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