2000 / Music

Review: Oasis Looks For Pop Paradise After Drought

Group Returns With New Album, New Band Members

Photo: Sony Music

Photo: Sony Music

As an American looking at what’s happening with British pop music, the typical result is a lot of head scratching.

With as much musical kinship as we share, the U.S. and Great Britain really are separate worlds. The artists that are all the rage in one nation are often unknown or ignored in the other.

A good example is a British group like Bush, who, with their Nirvana posturing, are established names in the U.S., while they’re allegedly unknown in England.

The same could be said for the countless British groups — all looking like they just graduated from art school — that dominate their charts, but remain invisible in America.

Maybe it’s that punk rock took more of a hold in the U.K., or that American music is more genre-centric.

However, one noticeable exception to the trend is Oasis, who achieved public acclaim and platinum records on both sides of the Atlantic only a few years ago. (The group has sold 25 million records around the world.)

But while the group’s following in Great Britain has remained rabid, their new record, “Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants,” is poised to reawaken American interest.

The Machester, England-based group is infamous for its fueding brothers — guitarist and songwriter Noel and singer Liam Gallagher — and for their liberal “borrowing” from the Beatles and the music of the 1960s.

Though the group’s sound owes as much to the distorted guitars of British “shoegazer” bands like My Bloody Valentine, the Beatles are their cornerstone.

Trying to remove the Beatles’ influence from Oasis is like asking James Taylor to not play an acoustic guitar or to not be sensitive.

And Oasis wears their influences on their sleeves better than anyone in pop music.

But putting all this aside, the band does have its own sound, and their fuzz guitars and doodle-like lyrics are just plain catchy.

The group first appeared on the U.S. public?s radar in 1994 with singles like “Live Forever” and “Supersonic,” from their first album “Definitely Maybe.” Interestingly, their early efforts seemed to draw more on their “shoegazer” influences.

A year later, “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory” and its neo-psychedelic singles “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” and “Champagne Supernova” helped to break the group through in America.

That’s thanks, in large part, to the band’s videos, which looked like a cross between the mini dance sequences in “Austin Powers” and mod home movies, were on heavy rotation on MTV and VH-1.

Hyped simultaneously as the next big thing and rock’s new bad boys, the Gallagher brothers scowled on magazine covers and talked up their off-stage antics in interviews.

Over in Great Britain, however, the group’s success was universal — where they really were something more than pop stars.

The British papers reportedly played up a musical rivalry with British band Blur, as the two attempted to outdo each other on the charts.

These last couple of years haven’t all been peachy for the group. Their last record, “Be Here Now,” effectively tanked in the U.S., with no singles successfully cracking the charts.

Around the time the group was finishing recording its current record, the band received a rough one-two punch when band members Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs and Paul “Guigsy” McGuigan decided to leave. (You remember those guys. They were in the background of the videos, looking like after the shoot was over, they could sell you insurance over a pint).

Amid rumors that the band would hire members of the Verve (another Brit group that’s mostly unknown here) or ex-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr, the group settled on guitarist Gem (formerly of Heavy Stereo) and bassist Andy Bell (former guitar player for Ride and Hurricane #1).

Listening to “Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants,” you’d never hear any of the unease that is no doubt going on behind the scenes, except in some of the song titles: “Where Did It All Go Wrong?” “I Can See A Liar” or “Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is.”

The record isn?t a comeback, but rather a statement that Oasis is still here. They?re still writing infectious pop songs, still playing crunching guitars and still stealing from the Beatles.

And half the fun of listening to the group is listening for those Beatles snippets. (I’ve cited some of the more obvious ones in the songs. If you buy the album, feel free to play along at home and e-mail me what you hear.)

Right off the top, “Go Let It Out” is the best song on the album. Liam Gallagher’s vocals, an Anglo-sounding whine, wrap around the wall of snarling guitars. Underpinning everything, you can hear a “Strawberry Fields Forever” pipe organ prancing about.

“Who Feels Love?” is a slow, mesmerizing tune, complete with music being played backwards (the Beatles’ “Tomorrow Never Knows”).

“Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is” is as close to the blues as any British pop group has attempted in two generations. “I Can See A Liar,” with its driving melody and distorted vocals, is like a Gallagher shouting into a hurricane.

There are some special surprises on this one too. The instrumental track, “F**kin’ In The Bushes” starts everything off. Another is the song “Little James,” written by Liam Gallagher. This marks the first Oasis song not penned by brother Noel. The song, a paint-by-numbers ballad, opens with Lennonesque piano and doesn’t really stick out among the other songs. In fact, it’s a pretty decent pop song.

Another departure is the taunting “Where Did It All Go Wrong?” This time, brother Noel takes vocal duties and basically shows himself to be a more compelling and emotive singer than his brother.

What?s interesting about all these songs is how big they sound. Every thing is awash with echoes and reverb. If you close you eyes, you can almost imagine you are at Wembley Stadium in London watching them.

As to whether this album will reestablish the group in America or maintain their popularity in the U.K., it’s hard to say (VH-1 is playing their first video). They write catchy songs and they copy the Beatles: What’s not to like?

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Note: David’s nationally syndicated music column, Soundbytes, appeared in the Entertainment section of all Internet Broadcasting websites. This column was originally published there.

©Copyright 2000 by David Hyland. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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