Oasis Reviews Archive

Reviews from as many Oasis albums, singles and concerts as I can fine. Hopefully in the future incorporating pictures, audio and video.

Monday, February 28, 2000

Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants

1. Fuckin' In The Bushes
2. Go Let It Out
3. Who Feels Love?
4. Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is
5. Little James
6. Gas Panic!
7. Where Did It All Go Wrong?
8. Sunday Morning Call
9. I Can See A Liar
10. Roll It Over

LA Weekly
Jay Babcock

Not Fade Away - Oasis, three bridges shy

WHERE DID IT ALL GO WRONG? WAS THE NEW OASIS album's original title, and they shoulda kept it. It was an especially apt one, because for a while it all went so right: a bedenimed songwriter, Noel Gallagher, with hooks in hand by the seeming dozen; a singer, Liam Gallagher, who knew precisely how good he was (very); a series of A and B sides ("Cigarettes & Alcohol," "Supersonic," "Whatever," "Roll With It") that were, across 18 fabulous mid-'90s months, pure rock & roll cockiness, melody and muscle, recalling the Kinks, Slade, T. Rex, the Sex Pistols and the Stone Roses as much as the Gallagher brothers' beloved John, Paul, George and Ringo.
Even if you didn't appreciate the music -- and American classic-rock fans seem obsessed with dismissing Oasis as mere Rutles imitators -- there were the escapades: the onstage fights, the in-flight fisticuffs, the outrageous interviews. There was a drunken Liam dumping cigarette ashes on Mick Jagger's oblivious head at an awards show, and a year later calling out Keith Richards for some mano a granmano. There were the class-conscious Noel's benefit shows for striking dockworkers, and the improbable spectacle of Noel and the wife taking tea with the Blairs at 10 Downing after the Labour Party rode to Britpower on Britpop's Union Jack(et) coattails.

With all that going for this band, how did we arrive where we are today, when Liam's answers in a recent NME interview ("There's no place for baldness in rock & roll. How can I go onstage with a slaphead and get a point across?") provide more entertainment value than most of the "proper rock" twaddle that makes up Standing on the Shoulder of Giants' 48 minutes? The easy answer is, of course: $ucce$$ -- 25 million albums sold worldwide since 1994. The accounts fatten, the belts loosen, the vacations drag, the tempos relax, the studio tinker-time lengthens. Noel mislays the key to the sonic lodge under the cocaine mirror; the triple-platinum dreams of this ex-Inspiral-Carpets-guitar-tech-done-good fade to snow. And thus 1997's Be Here Now fiasco: a career-low .583 batting average in tunes, endless mid-album guitar wankage, Johnny Depp (?!) on slide guitar (!?!) and, fittingly, a ho-humbling critical and commercial response.

Ignoring, perhaps unwisely, the Foghat Principle ("The fourth album should be a double-live"), Oasis opt instead to shake things up for a new studio album: new producer, new musicians, new in-studio sobriety and, yes, new logo. For good measure, Patricia "P.P." Arnold (the former Ikette who sang on essential cuts by the Small Faces, Humble Pie, Nick Drake, etc.) and the neighborhood multi-instrumentalist get called in. Problem is, Noel forgot to finish actually writing the tunes. So the album opens with a Chemical Brothers simulacrum featuring Isle of Wight voice-overs and some Noel finger doodles. Nice, but not a Song. "Go Let It Out!" is more like it, a Mellotronic, sturdily strummed, steady builder that reaches some sort of police-whistle ear-bleed resolution despite being a bridge short of classic Oasis. With "Who Feels Love?" the boys come on like glazed masters of the tablaverse via reverse-reverbed guitars and half the "psychedelic" tricks in the Book of Rock. It's a beautiful chrysalis of a song, but lacks conviction. "Put Your Money Where â Yer Mouth Is" has a fantastic guitar riff that gives the song a bit of snarl, but leaves your ear hanging for the snaky, clinching hook that marked Oasis' Mach One tunes. The phantom-menacing "Gas Panic!" is reminiscent of one of Morning Glory's slower-burning beauties, but never catches flame -- again, one chorus melody shy of making first cut for the canon.

"LITTLE JAMES," LIAM'S BALLYHOOED songwriting debut, is fine for what it could've been -- a lunk-headed but genuine ode from Liam and his guitar to his stepson. Instead, after two verses we're in completely inappropriate "Hey Jude" swing-for-the-terraces territory when the comparative demo-like modesty of, say, Paul and Linda McCartney's Ram would've been just fine. By the seventh track, "Where Did It All Go Wrong?" (the first of a Noel-sung twofer), we have an answer to the song's titular question: When you started recording songs like this -- plodding midtempo sourness à la half of Be Here Now, anemic trifles only the Gallaghers' mother could love. The closing "Roll It Over" -- a massive, gentle creature of a rock lullaby, featuring Liam's most affecting vocals in some time, in the Spectorsonic tradition of George Harrison's All Things Must Pass -- is likewise foiled by bad decisions. Why no bridge? Why all the massed guitars, instead of cascading strings wrapped 'round this beautiful, cloud-scraping vocal? And when you have a singer this good, why on Earth would you limit him to seven songs on your new album?

Which leaves the penultimate track, "I Can See a Liar," a cut that five years ago would've been a slight C-side, as the record's key song. Here is some of what made Oasis so great in the first place: charming, solid, riffing garage rock, delivered with equal parts vinegar and sugar. Stoopid lyrics ("I can see a liar/sitting by the fire"). Unglossed basics, without a glance at the Beatles Rulebook. There's still hope.

Andy Battaglia

The current issue of British culture magazine the Face features the sardonic headline, "Daddy, who were the Stone Roses?" To a Brit-rock fan, it's a pointed blast at both the Roses (onetime British superstars who haven't been heard from lately) and at a past littered with hyped-up bands who ultimately folded under the weight of history. Oasis, the one group of its class to have become worldwide stars, must be feeling the sting more than any of their peers. The group has always balanced its pose as crotchety old souls with its nose-thumbing, fuck-all attitude to the weight of rock history. But the band members aren't getting any younger, and such confrontational charm can only wear thin.

The matter of age pokes at Oasis' fourth studio album, "Standing on the Shoulder of Giants," like a needling young punk ready to write off the band as gray and gone. It's a strange matter to raise about a band that released its first album in 1994, but pop music moves fast, especially at the grand level Oasis tries to operate on. Given their self-aggrandizing histrionics, brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher would look silly the day they fail to be at least a candidate for biggest band in the world. Even if it could be argued that such a day came and went after the underwhelming "Be Here Now" (1997), the same result applies even more so when Oasis starts to sound like the parents of kids who don't know the Stone Roses from the Big Bopper.

To Oasis' core audience of unwittingly aging wanderers, one of few prospects more terrifying than child rearing is the idea of Liam Gallagher as parent. There's something to be said for the joys of irresponsibility; indeed, Liam built a career saying it before he got married, had a baby and started to mellow out. But nobody wants their rock stars, particularly their bombastic larger-than-life rock stars, to be straight and sober. So reconciling the idea of a daddy Liam (not to mention the chilling effect of imagining a kid brattier than his father) presents itself as a profound struggle. If Liam owes his star status to clowning around in a perennially regressive stupor, what happens when he grows up?

"Standing on the Shoulder of Giants" includes a Liam ode to his boy, "Little James." It's not exactly a terrible song, but it does represent the band's slow fade into obsolescence. In typical Oasis fashion, Liam files through a series of wobbly couplets before gliding into the chorus, milking his peculiar vocal ability to slide over words like a wilting violin. In atypical Oasis fashion, though, the chorus feels stuffy, choked, disconnected: "I'm singing this song for you and your mom, and that's all/Because it won't be long before everyone is gone." He's trying to evoke his past flirtation with soulful nihilism, but sounds about as dangerous as James Taylor singing "Sweet Baby James."

This unwelcome coming-of-age is draped all over the new record. "You know that feeling you get/You feel you're older than time?" Noel Gallagher sings on "Where Did It All Go Wrong?" On "Sunday Morning Call," Liam sings, "You can dance until the morning light/At what price?"

It's never advisable to read too much into Oasis lyrics, but a similarly unwelcome weight bears down just as heavily on the music. In the past, the band's sound revolved around essentially one thing: plangent, heavy rock that summoned the '60s forebears whose thrones they desired. Brother Noel has spoken of a newfound devotion to stylistic experimentation, but that says more about their strict adherence to formula in the past than any new dramatic advances. There are trip-hop touches on "Gas Panic!" and "big beat" breaks on the instrumental "Fucking in the Bushes," but these references amount to cursory nods to contemporary culture rather than open-armed acceptance of genre-mixing. Much more attention went to better articulating the language of rock's past: the woozily psychedelic backward guitar on "Who Feels Love?"; "Roll It Over's" space-gospel homage to Pink Floyd; and the puzzlingly AC/DC-like crunch of "Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is."

Mostly down-tempo and totally devoid of choruses that might deliver dumb but pleasurable catharsis, the music quite simply fails to breathe. And while there's room to debate the intent of the band's words, the message delivered by the dragging guitars and uninspired melodies comes across clearly. Oasis sounds like a band not so much ravaged by time as knocked off-balance by its sneaky accumulation.