Oasis

Standing on the Shoulder of Giants
(Epic)

I suppose the question on everyone's minds with this latest Oasis opus is "how the hell are they going to survive without 'Bonehead'?" Magically, the opaque void that was always Bonehead hasn't been filled so much as decorated around -- after all, how do you replace a presence so aggressively nondescript to begin with?

With the departure of Oasis' resident receding hairline comes other new wrinkles to contend with -- a new logo, a new front line to stand beside the Gallagher brothers including Andy Bell (formerly of Ride, Hurricane, and Erasure), Liam Gallagher's first songwriting attempt and the first Oasis lyrics that don't resemble analyst-couch word associations and actually contain some linear narrative. Considering that the first Beatles songs that told a story began with album number four, Oasis' coming of age with songs about disillusionment with wealth and fame washes up right on ssssschedule(English pronunciation, please).

The title of this new collection embodies most Yanks' biggest qualms in accepting the group in full embrace -- Oasis is the tiny David trading off the Goliath Beatles myth, long thought to be the domain of Paul McCartney alone. It's as if Noel Gallagher figured out the way to sustain press interest in the group after his feuds with Liam died down was to piss off the surviving Beatles. It's worked, too.

Here's a Noel nugget from the current media kit describing "Who Feels Love?" sure to piss off Sir Paul: "It's a bit 'Dear Prudence,' a bit 'Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds,' very Oasis . . ." Does anything strike you odd about that sentence? The Beatle allusions of the past few albums seemed like lazy crutches rather than anything approaching genuine inspiration, and more the pity since it's always superfluous to the enjoyment of this talented band's music. When you go back to Definitely Maybe, you hear plenty of other British rock influences besides the Fabs screaming just as loudly.

Oddly enough, the first clean and sober Noel and Liam album is the druggiest-sounding one to date. Yet it connects with a focus and a sense of purpose that its narcotically stimulated predecessor, Be Here Now, seemed to lose in its desperate quest to perpetrate as many milelong fade-outs as possible. The healthy change for the unpredictable is apparent with the opening instrumental experiment "Fucking in the Bushes" (which necessitates the first-ever "clean version" of an Oasis album for the Kmart set -- guess no one bothered counting how many times the word "shite" has appeared on previous discs).

One part "I'm a Man" to two parts "Voodoo Chile," it's the first time Oasis seems intent on throwing its audience for a drum loop or two on its own records instead of the Chemical Brothers'. Even better is the snotty E drone that permeates "Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is," which tips a lyrical hat to the Doors by exhorting you to put "your hands upon the wheel" while reactivating the kind of massive scary background vocals that made every Slade 45 a call to smash up theater seats.

A rather different anarchy in the UK is conjured up in "I Can See a Liar," Liam's best Johnny Rotten séance yet. No punk, past or present, would object if this snarling number were to suddenly turn up on the flip of every cherished "Holiday in the Sun" 45.

With the UK single "Go Let It Out!" sitting at No. 1, Oasis' stature in the homeland is secure after much "Are they on the wane?" speculation. America, which sent Morning Glory quadruple platinum, lost the plot last go-round, and while Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is four times better than their breakthrough album, it probably won't even go zinc.

Such are the laws of supply and demand in a fickle America where people are sufficiently satisfied owning the first impression of a band rather than seeing its career through. Bloody cads! Since when has music become the proverbial one-night stand? Not to bring up the Liverpudlians again, but if this kind of "one-hit wonder" mentality had been in effect way back when, the Moptops would've probably spent the rest of their career playing "Love Me Do" at state fairs. How can you be sure that Oasis won't go beyond backward guitars and actually reinvent the rock song as we know it? Definitely, maybe not! With that in mind, march yourself out right now to buy this album, I don't care which frickin' version, the clean or bollocks one. And keep up the patronage for all the subsequent American singles Epic deigns to throw down, even if you have to trade in your entire Oasis collection to afford such a venture. Just think, for every Oasis song you help break into the Top 40, you may be crowding the next Marc Anthony wanna-be out.

 
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