Put simply, Oasis will never again match the magnificent, ground-breaking splendor of Definitely Maybe or (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. Period. The sad lot (which includes this reviewer) incessantly looking to the band’s material from 1997 onward as a means of recapturing the emotions evoked by those incredible premier releases has been, and will continue to be, disappointed.
The real shame of that mindset is that, while much of the music of the brothers Gallagher has tended to be rather mediocre since their heroic heyday, it’s quite possible to overlook the following: Don’t Believe the Truth was pretty damned good, and so is their latest, Dig Out Your Soul.
Their most recent work has been a renaissance of sorts for the Manchester extraordinaires, with new material representing a welcome return to form for the group.
The foundation of the new record is the throbbing, rambunctious rock with which we fell in love over a decade ago. Combine that with hints of blues and psychedelia, along with subject matter ranging from drugs to love, fisticuffs to solidarity, as well as atheism to apocalypse and you have a rather diverse array of tracks that effectively displays the band’s renewed musical focus and proficiency.
The album brashly swaggers out of the gate with the phenomenal opener Bag It Up, the melody for which draws inspiration from The Pretty Things‘s Baron Saturday. It’s an acid rock trip, laced with hallucinations, Patti LaBelle-like cries of “more, more, more,” and an outro that’s akin to an incredibly dramatic and heavy rehash of the waning moments of Strawberry Fields Forever.
Oasis have always been a little heavy-handed with their inclusion of Beatles-related material, though, and sure enough, the Fab Four references are laid on a bit thick. Dear Prudence helps round out The Turning, I’m Outta Time (Liam’s Little James do-over) lifts an ascending piano line from A Day in the Life, Magical Mystery Tour is noted in the charged single The Shock of the Lightning, and a sitar engulfs the meandering To Be Where There’s Life. Needless to say, while this is to be expected, the throng of insinuations can be a bit overwhelming.
Thankfully, the Beatles tribute does not dominate the entire record. Noel provides the pipes for the excellent (Get Off Your) High Horse Lady, whose pace is set by a bull-legged, bluesy saunter, as well as the simple, yet striking, Falling Down. Meanwhile, prior to the acoustic ending of the raucous track The Turning, Liam ponders whether he’ll have company on Judgment Day while Noel hammers out a chorus and solos allusive to Derek and The Dominos‘s Layla.
You can never go home again, to turn a phrase. Liam nicely encapsulates this idea on I’m Outta Time with “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 keepin’ on.”
In truth, their first two records, as well as the multitude of remarkable B-sides from that era, while certainly classics, are albatrosses around the necks of the Gallaghers. It is the successes of the two most recent releases, as opposed to the failures of the three before them, which prove this point. It’s considerably more difficult to spotlight relative accomplishments as opposed to debacles when one contemplates memories of such amazing heights for the band.
To that end, and overabundant allusions to The Beatles aside, Dig Out Your Soul is a feat in its own right. Complete with some terrific songwriting and noteworthy performances, the album holds up well, and shows flashes of brilliance from a band both blessed and cursed with having helped trail-blaze an essential part of modern British rock.
Oasis wish to soldier on. We should be content to do the same along with them.