By Melissa Fossum
By Lauren Wise
By New Times
By Amanda Savage
By Jason P. Woodbury
By Troy Farah
By New Times
But at this moment, they're superstar acts heading in different directions: All That You Can't Leave Behind is U2's best since, well, ever (less Pop, more pop), while Oasis' live two-fer is the worst best-of offered up by a major act since the Rolling Stones' Still Life emerged stillborn in 1982. Nine months after releasing the most turgid album of its fast-vanishing career, Oasis dishes out two more discs -- the live album (recorded July 21 at Wembley Stadium, the world's worst recording studio) that's like that annoying twit who recounts last night's party by explaining, "Guess ya had to be there." It's cheap filler, rock as Product: The first three songs ("Fuckin' in the Bushes," "Go Let It Out" and "Who Feels Love") showed up in the same order on Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (released in February), only without the deafening shouts of acolytes who feel the need to sing along with guitar solos. (And without Liam's constant demands for the lighting tech to "turn down tha fookin' lights," or something.)
The rest of the disc offers familiar hits ("Wonderwall," "Champagne Supernova," "Don't Look Back in Anger," "Supersonic," ad infinitum) performed proverbially; the only difference is that you can barely hear half of the songs, as the crowd seems intent on drowning out the music (depending on your generosity, it reminds one of either the Beatles' Live at the Hollywood Bowl or KISS Alive, or just split the difference). Fact is, an album like this sort of breaks your heart, if only because it serves as a reminder of a time when Oasis seemed viable, even a little bit necessary. "Wonderwall" was, easily, among the handful of great rock singles of the 1990s; turning on the car radio and stumbling across it (every five minutes, but who cared?) was to get swept up in its sing-along chorus, to find yourself immersed ass-deep in its melancholy groove until you'd all but convinced yourself FM was once again safe for melodies that lived beyond the next commercial break. It broke your heart and healed all wounds at the same time, but it promised more than it could ever deliver. Radio was not, in fact, a safe place, no more than Oasis was, in the end, a great band. It's merely a good one, which is enough only when you start thinking rock 'n' roll will be saved by the mediocre. Oasis could have been heroic, 'til it fell on its own sword.
U2 has its own brilliant single on the radio and MTV right now (no, seriously -- right now), and "Beautiful Day" will no more shape the landscape than "Wonderwall" did five years ago (or, for that matter, U2's own dazzling "Hold Me, Thrill Me, Kiss Me, Kill Me," released on the Batman Forever soundtrack in 1995). Funny how critics have latched on to "Beautiful Day" because it allegedly sounds so much like old U2; references abound to The Joshua Tree or The Unforgettable Fire, as though the new record is some lazy step backward -- a sort of homecoming, henh henh . . . ungh.
Fact is, the new record all but dwarfs its predecessors, simply because it doesn't pretend to stand for anything or say much of anything; it's nothing more or less than an album "trying to find a decent melody, a song that I can sing in my own company," as Bono utters in the gorgeous, insistent "Stuck in a Moment You Can't Get Out Of," but one of a handful of would-be singles on the disc ("Elevation," "In a Little While" and "Wild Honey" will soon enough make their way to the airwaves). Having boiled down its discography to a single, unrelenting whole, the band should have titled the new disc The Best of 2000, as it's far more listenable (and playful) than 1998's double-disc best-of-and-rest-of.