Wednesday, 15 August 2012

Oasis "Don't Believe The Truth" (2005)

“I carry a madness everywhere I go, it’s over the border and back to the show” “I know that you think you deserve an explanation for the meanings of life, but what you think you heard slipped away out of the back of your mind” “You found your God in a paperback, you get your history from the Union Jack, and all your brothers and sister have gone – and they won’t come back!” “Calling on the stars to fall and catch the silver sunlight in your hands, come for me and set me free, lift me up and take me where I stand” “Hey Lyla the stars are about to fall, so what do you say Lyla? The world around us makes us feel so small! If you can’t hear me when I call then I say hey Lyla that heaven’ll help you catch me when I fall” “She’s the queen of all I’ve seen and every song and city far and near” “I’m seeing a whole other world in my mind, girl I’m feeling, I’m weeping in love all the time” “I sold my soul for the second time ‘cause the man don’t pay me” “I don’t mind, as long as there’s a bed beneath the stars that shine, I’ll be fine, just give me a minute, a man’s got a limit, I can’t get a life if my heart’s not in it!” “Let’s get along, there’s nothing here to do, let’s go find a rainbow, I could be wrong, but what am I to do? Guess God thinks I’m Abel” “you could be my enemy, I guess there’s still time, I get close to loving you, is that such a crime?” “no one could break us, no one could take us if they tried, come along let’s make it tonight!” “the names on the faces in places mean nothing to me, it’s all they can do to be part of the queue in this town” “Every night I hear you scream, but you don’t say what you mean, this was my dream and now my dream has flown” “I’m at the crossroads waiting for a sign, my life is standing still but I’m still alive, every night I think I know, in the morning where did it go?, the answers disappear when I open my eyes” “I’m no stranger to this place, where real life and dreams collide, but even as I fall from grace I will keep the dream alive” “Come on baby blue, shake up your tired eyes the world is waiting for you, may all your dreaming fill the empty sky” Oasis “Don’t Believe The Truth” (2005) Turn Up The Sun/Mucky Fingers/Lyla/Love Like A Bomb/The Importance Of Being Idle/The Meaning Of Soul/Guess God Thinks I’m Abel/Part Of The Queue/Keep The Dream Alive/A Bell Will Ring/Let There Be Love Most Oasis fans will tell you that there’s no point in owning anything the band made from third album ‘Be Here Now’ onwards and that the band were only a pale shadow of themselves once the 1990s turned to the naughties. They’re wrong. Time and again on albums three to seven Oasis wrote the best music of the decade, pertinent emotional songs that dug a little deeper than anything on the two knock-out albums from their youth. The problem for fans is, none of these five albums hit the spot all the way through and that all of them, to some extent, represent two steps forward and one step back. Time and again in the Oasis canon a song will get you excited, make you cry, make you dance, make you learn something about the band you never knew before – and then fail to follow it up. Time and again each Oasis album was greeted as ‘their best since Morning Glory’ – but the reason they all fail, to some extent, is that between 1994 and 1996 Oasis were the most consistently brilliant band on the planet; after that time period they simply couldn’t keep up their own good work. But you ignore the highlights of all of these albums at your peril, with each album containing at least one nugget of gold that even the superlative ‘Definitely Maybe’ can’t match. Songs like ‘Fade In-Out’ ‘Gas Panic’ ‘Little By Little’ ‘Falling Down’ and this album’s ‘Keep The Dream Alive’ are as good as music ever gets and had they all been put on one album Oasis would have my favourite record of all time. ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ , their sixth record, has more gems than most, with at least three other absolutely classic Oasis moments (‘Lyla’ ‘Guess God Thinks I’m Abel’ and ‘Love Like A Bomb’) and its no surprise that this album in particular seemed to win critics and audience over in a way the band had never quite managed since 1997. But, as all buyers of the later Oasis efforts know, there’s an awful lot of dross to sit through too, with ‘Turn Up The Sun’ and ‘Mucky Fingers’ especially the weakest songs Oasis ever recorded until...erm...album number seven (when ‘Get Off Your High Horse Lady’ beats anything off this record hands down for sheer awfulness). What’s notable now with the passage of time (well, seven years – that’s nothing for our site I know but bear with me) is how much evidence is here about the band’s split a full three years early and how, even more than final album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’, you can hear the different worlds that became ‘Beady Eye’ and ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ competing for space on the same LP. The ‘rest’ of the band – Liam, Gem and the ever-underrated Andy Bell – get much more say into the album than normal and Noel gets just five of the album’s eleven songs to himself (a far cry from the all-elder Gallagher songs on the first three albums). Neol said in interviews of the period that it was ‘about fooking time’ the others got their fingers out and started writing, but I think the situation goes further than that. Most of Oasis albums one to three were written by Noel long before the band ever got a recording contract and even his own solo album dips heavily into his outtakes and ideas from the band’s early period. Together with Noel’s lack of songs on last album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ is this evidence that Noel hit something of a writer’s block in the mid naughties? (You may notice that the gap between Oasis albums was getting longer and longer by the end, although that’s not unheard of in bands). Certainly there seems to be a crisis of confidence in his songs, which either re-work his old ground (‘Mucky Fingers’ is the fast and ‘Let There Be Love’ the slow versions of what any semi-talented fan would churn out when asked to write a song for Oasis) or that of others (the much-lauded ‘Importance Of Being Idle’ is so close to The Kinks’ work that Ray Davies should probably sue). Only ‘Lyla’ (note the closeness to another famous Kinks single...) really adds to his repertoire, a stunning production number about the toughness of femininity that may well be the best Oasis single since ‘Wonderwall’ (as opposed to song: ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ is a drop-dead gorgeous piece of music that’s among my all-time Oasis favourites, but it’s not a ‘single’ like these two songs are). Instead it’s the Beady Eye-type numbers that work best, adding a poignancy and fragility unusual for Oasis at the time but one that makes sense now that we fans know the ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ album (despite what the critics say it’s one of my favourite albums from the past five years – see news and views no 94 if you’re curious to read more). For all his air of bravado arrogance there’s a sweet heart beating in the soul of Liam Gallagher and it’s to his credit that he was brave enough to let it show so early on in his songwriting (after all, whatever rock and roll star would write his first published song about his son on ‘Little James’?) All three of his contributions are superb for this record, building on the fine ‘Heathen Chemistry’ song ‘Born On A Different Cloud’ with the delightful 60s pop of ‘Love Like A Bomb’, the raw rock and roll of ‘The Meaning Of Soul’ and the gorgeous ever-so Beady Eye tale of traitors and friendship ‘Guess God Thinks I’m Abel’. Gem only gets one full song but his ‘A Bell Will Ring’ is easily the best traditional-sounding Oasis song on the record (astonishing for someone who’d only been with the band three years at that time). Finally Andy Bell blots his copy book with the tired Oasis pastiche ‘Turn Up The Sun’, but excels like never before with the album highlight ‘Keep The Dream Alive’ (the predecessor to Beady Eye song ‘Kill For A Dream’. Moodier and more ballad-filled than the average Oasis album, ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ is still quite an angry album. The title of the record is one that’s confused many since the record’s release and is notably free of the bravado of titles like ‘Be Here Now’ and ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’. There’s a feeling of deception in the air and a cover-up somewhere and I’m tempted to think that the band are trying to cover up the cracks already showing in their relationship here, although frankly the only wayyou’d know for certain is if you were a member of the band. Note this, though: longterm drummer Alan White quit early on in the album sessions (good as replacement Zak Starkey is, he’s no match for White’s sensitive-but-loud percussion that made so many good Oasis songs sparkle in his ten odd years with the band), songs like ‘Abel’ and ‘Let There Be Love’ speak openly about searching for peace after a heavy conflict and ‘Keep The Dream Alive’ all but admits that a lifelong dream is ‘over’ (and what bigger dream could there be than playing in the best rock and roll group of modern times?) Oasis weren’t talking and have suggested since the split that it came suddenly in 2008 after a single argument (involving Liam’s clothing line and fruit thrown in a dressing room), but I wonder – did the band come close to breaking up during this album’s early sessions? (I know some of you are sighing that the band came close to breaking up every album – but generally the arguments happened on tour, usually ending with Liam storming off stage; it never really happened during recordings). It’s notable too that the band discarded a whole album’s worth of sessions recorded in Las Vegas, admitting amongst themselves that the album simply ‘wasn’t working’ (four of them were re-recorded for the record, none of them the best – everything else was discarded). Things probably weren’t helped by label Big Brother (the buyers of Alan McGee’s Creation label in 2000) ticking the band off for not recording anything ‘commercial enough to be a single’, leading to the band hastily re-recording ‘Lyla’ with Liam on lead to cover the fact (in actual fact all three singles taken from the album were amongst the band’s biggest sellers and all three are highly commercial to my ears, albeit with ‘Let There Be Love’ a ‘grower’ rather than an obvious hit). If the band really were close to calling it a day, uninspired and disillusioned with what they’d written then it’s amazing that so much of the final album is as bouncy and upbeat as it is. Even though ‘Abel’ and ‘Dream’ (and B-side ‘Pass Me Down The Wine’ with its pained couplet ‘What you got tomorrow? Only pain and sorrow’; notably all three songs were written after the Vegas sessions) talk about irreconcilable differences, the rest of the album is largely upbeat, full of lyrics about having paths still to travel and experiences still to enjoy. In short, this album could very nearly have ended up like ‘Let It Be’ but in the end became ‘Abbey Road’, a last hurrah of getting together and remembering everything that came before with a last gasp of the old working spirit before the end finally comes. If there’s a theme on this album then it’s one of redemption: ‘Be no tomorrow they say – well I say more’s the pity’ runs ‘Part Of The Queue’; ‘The sun will shine on you again’ goes ‘A Bell Will Ring’; ‘Come along, let’s make it tonight!’ ends ‘Abel’ in an eerie coda; ‘Shake off your tired eyes, the world is waiting for you’ goes the ‘new’ section of unfinished song ‘Let There Be Love’; ‘Love one another!’ runs the chorus of opener ‘Turn Up The Sun’. It’s as if the final dying embers of everything that drove Oasis on are re-igniting, with the band eager to make up for lost time and realising how special the experience of being in this band is. If that little synopsis is anywhere near the ‘truth’ then the praise for the record’s greatest moments should go firmly to producer Dave Sardy. A close friend of Oasis manager Marcus Russell, he heard what a torrid time the band had been having in America and urged the band to give up their half-hearted sessions in London and travel to Los Angeles to work with his ‘team’. The band could have said no or given up – they hadn’t worked with a producer in some years – but instead a fresh pair of ears seems to have brough the band out of themselves and given them fresh impetus about how worthy their records still were and how much they still had to bring to the table. After all, by 2005, all of Oasis’ Britpop rivals were dead and buried, long forgotten in a sea of boy bands and girl bands and faceless pop – no one else from the 1990s had forged so hard for so long and the band’s skewered take on the music of the 2000s from the eyes of representatives from ten years before was pretty much unique (like much of the music around in 2005, this album is softer around the edges but with a harshness and directness in many of the lyrics despite the gentler music setting; think Muse and Kasabian). One thing I don’t understand though: why is the front cover a bunch of garage doors with the title written on them?! Considering this is the band who’ve given us flying globes, limousines in swimming pools and a classroom full of pupils studying the band’s lyrics, it seems a bit of a let down. One comment made at the time, only half jokingly, was that at last the band has created something as good as the B-sides casually thrown out during the first two albums. Now unlike most fans I still believe that the band’s greatest work comes on their B-sides where the band don’t try quite as hard (‘Cigarettes In Hell’ ‘The Masterplan’ ‘Headshrinker’ ‘Going Nowhere’ ‘Heart Of A Star’ ‘Just Getting Older’ and ‘Talk Tonite’ are among my most loved songs of all – and none of them even made an album barring compilations). So even though that comment was meant to be a sort-of put down, it’s actually spot on for me. There’s certainly more adventurous here than there were for large passages of ‘Shoulders’ and ‘Chemistry’ and I say that as a fan who loved both albums (with a couple of reservations). Played back to back with the arrogant powerhouse of youth that was ‘Definitely Maybe’ and you can hear much the writing has changed: songs about power, need and knowing winks to the audience have been replaced by guilt and uncertainty, as if the dodgy future laughed at on album closer ‘Married With Children’ has now become a reality. ‘Dreams’ are hard fought for and fading, not the certain dream they were on ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’. There’s also that sense of worry that time might pass before the narrators get a chance to put their point of view across – something unthinkable for the unshaken belief that ‘you and I are gonna live forever!’ What’s curious is that Noel (and to some extent Liam) are writing these uncertain and fragile sounding songs at a time when they were still part of the biggest act on the planet (even with less of a following from the glory days of the mid 90s this album still became one of the fastest number one albums of all time on release); by contrast the early Oasis standards was written when Noel (and to some extent Liam) had nothing; on the dole, dismissed by all and sundry and relegated to a life of clinging on, waiting for something to happen. Oasis effectively end their career in a complete mirror opposite of where they began (bare the stuttering attempt at re-starting over as a psychedelic band on ‘Dig Out Your Soul’), with the world a troubled and uncertain place. Sadly that’s the main reason why the songs on this album weren’t (on the whole) taken to heart by fans the same way their earlier work was – but it’s to their credit that Oasis should have gone on such a journey and ended up by seeing the world through quite different eyes. Or almost different eyes. Back in the day Oasis B-side ‘Acquiesce’s calls for brotherly love became one of the band’s best loved songs, not least for the fact that Noel seems to have written the song after a blazing row with Liam that saw the elder Gallagher brother walk out and declare ‘Oasis are over’. In it the narrator, though frustrated, reaches out an olive branch because ‘we need each other...we believe in one other...and I know we’re gonna uncover what’s sleeping in us all’. Ten years – almost to the week – Liam finally agrees with his elder brother on ‘Guess God Thinks I’m Abel’ declaring ‘Let’s get one else could break us, no one else could take us if they tried’. It’s as if Liam has just realised how important everything Oasis stood for really was – and how much he doesn’t want it to end (even if Noel is already looking to wash his hands of it all). It’s a special moment and a neat reflection of what didn’t change during all the years Oasis were around – that together the brothers were unbeatable. Last album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ is, reportedly, a hurried album where Noel recorded his songs early on and Liam only did his vocals in the final days (the ones originally put aside from mixing). If true, then that makes ‘Truth’ the last real collaborative Oasis album and ‘Abel’ is a nice place to leave the band, whatever you make of the rest of the album. A short note: when I first got to know this album it was thanks to a copy very kindly made for me by my friend Rob (who managed to beat me into the shops to buy it, a rare occurrence!) Alas his computer of the time was almost as weird as mine and copied the songs for the album in completely the wrong order. Believe it or not this running of the order – with ‘Keep The Dream Alive’ first and ‘Abel’ last – works an awful lot better than anything Oasis came up with and I still occasionally programme my CD player to play this record ‘the wrong way’; the one-two start of ‘Turn Up The Sun’ and ‘Mucky Fingers’ is just awful, with all the good stuff hidden away towards the end. My guess is that this album would have been better received still with a superior track listing closer to what my first copy randomly gave me! ‘I carry a madness everywhere I go’ is a great opening line for a song (and album), but somehow ‘Turn Up The Sun’ never quite gets going. Written by Andy Bell in Oasis style, its full of the power and the noise and the slight threat inherent in the lyrics, but it sounds like too many songs stuck together (it’s hard to imagine another Oasis song ‘declaring ‘love one another’ so openly either). That said, this piece of hippie philosophising does work in the way that the Stones’ flower power stuff worked so well (for me at least their greatest period), offering an edginess and fear that most ‘brotherly love’ songs don’t have. There’s a lovely instrumental section, too, where the band drop the usual wall of noise for a lovely melodic piano part that offers a fine contrast to the eerie march of the threatening verses. Liam sounds oddly uncomfortable with this song though – whether it’s the ‘Oasis by numbers’ feel of the music or the peace and love lyrics troubling him I’m not sure. Andy Bell has a great harmony voice – the band should have let him use it a bit more on his own songs. In the context of the album’s theme of fall and redemption it sounds as if this is a song written at the heart of the troubles of the band (lines like ‘back to the snow’ hinting at the drugs that slowed Oasis down somewhere around 1997) – if true then that would make this second song’s close resemblance to ‘Acquiesce’ striking. It’s tempting too to see this as Andy Bell’s take on the dynamics in the band – arguably the band’s most sensitive soul in the later years, he bemoans the pressures of fame and success (‘the boys in the bubble they wanna be free’ – note that Liam wrote a B-side actually called ‘Boy In The Bubble’ a couple of years later) and how is powerless to stop the raging hurt between the brothers (‘I’m not your keeper, I don’t have a key!’) Hmm, actually this song is a lot more interesting than I’ve ever given it credit for before studying it, I just wish a slightly more melodic riff had been found for the main part of the song and that the ‘turn up the sun’ chorus line had been added to a separate song (its theme of making things brighter and bigger is at odds with a verse lyric about how much damage pressure and fame can do). Traditionally Oasis albums always start with a bang: while no match for ‘Rock and Roll Star’ or even ‘The Hindu Times’, this is still a good attempt at summing up what’s to come on this difficult album. Alas ‘Mucky Fingers’ is no way to progress. A rather boring one chord stomp from Noel Gallagher, its the only song from this album that he’s continue to play in concert suggesting he’s quite fond of it. I’m not quite sure because, by Noel’s standards, the song is quite juvenile, with its faux Dylan harmonica, its lack of variety and a lyric that while memorable and cleverly paced ultimately means nothing. Noel seems to be venting his anger at someone nameless– unusual for Oasis who only record out of anger when it’s a row between themselves, but this song sounds more like a dig at the band’s fanbase to me. Its opening line about how ‘you think you deserve an explanation for the meanings of life’ but that the narrator has no idea how to give it is remarkably similar to the Moody Blues’ kiss off ‘I’m Just A Singer In A Rock ‘n’ Roll Band’ (their last song before a six year split). ‘You get your truth from the lies you were learnt’ – a line pretty close to the odd album title – sounds sarcastic, especially the way Noel sings it here, as if he’s laughing at fans (like me) who’ve poured over his lyrics for meaning when it was all a ‘game’ or a ‘con’. The result is uncomfortable, partly because of the relentless riff that simply won’t move off its boogie woogie bass line but mainly because our idol appears to be shouting at us. That said there are some good moments in this song: I love the line about fans ‘finding God in a paperback’ (a very Cat Stevens line that, about how spirituality should by definition be hard fought for and difficult to find, not passed on from one finder to the next) and ‘get your history from a Union Jack’, a spot on line about all those idiots who see the past as a series of wars and empires, not the struggles of real people who may speak different languages but have the same drives, fears and experiences as everyone else. (You do tend to see lots of UK flags flying at Oasis gigs – possibly from the Britpop days – which never fitted the idea of Oasis as a ‘world’ band singing for everyone regardless of colour, creed or gender). There’s a good song in here, then, but its struggling to get out and by letting his darker side show against the very people who love him most its Noel who gets his ‘mucky fingers burnt’ here. Fans have been puzzled why Liam didn’t get to sing this song as it would on the surface suit his bravado style well – it may well be that the lyrics bothered him (most of his songs on the first Beady Eye album seem openly written to fans and are supportive and concerned for them for the most part) but may simply be band politics. ‘Lyla’, the album’s most famous song, is a second stomping number but gets everything ‘Fingers’ got so wrong so superbly spot on. The song flowers up verse by chorus by middle eight, gaining in momentum with each segment despite being stuck to a chord pattern almost as monotonous and relentless as the song before. Lyrically this is a rare return to ‘Wonderwall’, with Noel writing about the strength of the female character and how she has the power to protect the narrator (you could almost add the wall metaphor to the song). The lyrics get a bit muddy after a sterling first verse, but if the music video is anything to go by Lyla’s bravery comes from nothing more than standing up to her peer group and refusing to follow their petty ideals (before having her dink spiked and rushing home ill). The chorus of ‘Lyla’ is a thing of beauty, cascading harmonies that show off how well Liam and Noel’s voices go together and more Oasis space imagery that dates back to their earliest period (‘The stars are about to fall’). The difference between then and now is how humble some of these lyrics sound: ‘The world around us makes me feel so small’ is hardly something the narrator of ‘Rock and Roll Star’ or ‘Live Forever’ would have sung and yet it fits perfectly into this song, when life revolves not around the singer but the powerful woman holding him up and keeping him going. The band turn in their finest performance on the record too, especially Zak Starkey’s best drumming for the band during his brief year with them (I’m going to get letters I know but nothing his dad Ringo did ever lived up to the power-with-subtlety shown here except perhaps for ‘Rain’). Oasis even end the song with a fine piano part that seems to nick the riff from ‘A Bell Will Ring’ (‘A bell will ring inside your head and all will be brand new’) – whether intended or coincidence its a neat mirror of the album’s sister song about inner strength and gives the album a ‘structured’ rock opera type feeling that would do Ther Who proud. Noel’s demo for the song – later released as a B-side – is if anything even more stunning than the final track, building up power at an even slower rate and clearly chiming with its creator who sings with all his heart (good an interpreter as Liam is, he doesn’t ‘feel’ this song quite as vividly it sounds to me). One of the highlights of the album and easily the best of the late period Oasis singles, this is up there with the very best they ever made. Liam’s ‘Love Like A Bomb’ continues the love theme, although whereas the last song was all about strength and comfort through difficult times this short song is about the excitement and energy of the first flush of life. The lyrics aren’t up to Liam’s other work (as we said ‘Born On A Different Cloud’ from ‘Heathen Chemistry – possibly a song written about Noel as we’ll be looking at when we write that album review – may well have the best lyric of all Oasis songs for me) but the melody-line is. Rushes of powerful energy give way to sweet melodic moments a la ‘Songbird’, with a melody that seems to be ‘laughing in the sun’, darting this way and that quite apart from the darkness most Oasis songs deal with. It’s actually quite a 60s song, what with the tambourine and tinkling piano parts and the sheer joy of the recording, and could have happily sat on any 60s Beach Boys album (even though Brian Wilson is unlikely to have ever used ‘bomb’ as a metaphor). More evidence of what an empathetic and romantic soul Liam is under his facade, it’s a sweet song that’s another of the highlights of the album and easily up to the standard set by his brother. It’s actually quite a Beady Eye-ish song this, too, what with the acoustic backing and light touches in composition and performance. For most fans ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’ is generally regarded as the album’s greatest moment, but try as I might I really don’t get this song at all. The song’s theme of being lazy and not caring puts it rather too far for comfort into Kinks ‘rip off’ rather than ‘tribute’ (see ‘Sunny Afternoon’ ‘Sitting In The Midday Sun’ and many more) and the comparisons become laughable if you compare ‘Sunny Afternoon’ directly with this song (the verses are virtually the same chords and you can sing one song over the other by changing hardly anything). Noel’s decision to sing falsetto is also an odd one and the novelty of it wears off long before the end of the song – he has a great voice when he sings straight so why not use it; all we’ve had on this album from him so far is this and the shouting on ‘Mucky Fingers’! No, what made this song a hit was the powerful band performance, with another strong performance from Zak Starkey, and a classy video which only featured the band in cameo (its the one and only Oasis video Noel actually seems to have liked given his hilarious commentary on the band’s ‘Time Flies’ set – his lines about being gradually replaced in them to the point where he becomes a ‘gruff Mancunian shaving’ had me in stitches). As a song, ‘Idle’ simply doesn’t work, with only the urgency of the chorus and the memorable line ‘I can’t get a life if my heart’s not in it’ original and memorable. Ironically for a song about the joys of being lazy, it desperately needs more work. Then again, it became the band’s first number one single in quite a few years so what do I know? I do urge, though, every Oasis fan who lives this song and has come to read this paragraph especially to go out and buy a Kinks album – Ray Davies did this stuff a lot better 30 years earlier. ‘The Meaning Of Soul’ is a welcome burst of energy from Liam that’s the third stomping song on the album, hardly varying the chord structure throughout. The lyrics are pure filler, sounding more like ‘rock’ than ‘soul’ and offering little insight into the hidden meanings of life either – its merely a list of great attributes the swaggering narrator has. It’s as if Liam wrote his other two songs for the album and came up with this title and thought – oops my reputations slipping! There’s enough happening musically to keep things interesting, though, with a sturdy acoustic guitar riff that rocks as hard as any of the band’s electric songs, some fine band harmonies, a superb harmonica solo (uncredited sadly, though it sounds like Mark Feltham playing with the band for the first time since ‘Masterplan’ and ‘Whatever’) and some terrific overdubbed percussion during the chorus that sounds like the whole band stomping their feet. Not up to Liam’s two other songs on the album, perhaps, but still a pretty interesting song and featuring a grand performance. I just wish there had been an extra middle eight or something to keep the song going – although at 1:42 this song doesn’t exactly outstay its welcome either. ‘Guess God Thinks I’m Abel’ is Liam’s third song and easily one of his best, right up there with ‘Different Cloud’ and Beady Eye’s ‘Wigwam’ . It’s song of bitter betrayal and yet of coming to terms with the fact that you’re destiny lies with your enemy somewhere along the line and shows a real depth and warmth fans weren’t expecting from Liam. The title – which the rest of the band assumed was spelt ‘able’ until Liam dictated the spelling for the album sleeve – is a glorious pun, suggesting on the one hand the upbeat message that God must expect the narrator to cope with the challenges he’s sent or he wouldn’t have put him through it and on the other the betrayal and murder of Adam and Eve’s sons in the Bible. Cain, the elder brother, is a farmer who murders his younger brother Abel after God chose to accept Abel’s sacrifice and not Cain’s. You don’t have to five in too far to see the symbolism of two brothers jealous of each other, but the rest of the imagery here is striking too: are the ‘sacrifices’ Noel’s jealousy over Liam’s songwriting? (We did speculate earlier that Noel was having something of a writer’s block at the time – it can’t have been easy watching Liam churning out so many good songs whatever he said in the press) Cain and Abel were rivals too – one growing crops and the other looking after sheep that eat them – give them a guitar each and they too could have been Oasis, hinting that nothing has really changed down the years. I simply love this song, from the quiet moody opening to Liam’s glorious vocal, a unique blend of attack and olive branch. But its the lyrics that make this song, trying to show how complex the relationship with his brother really is (the lines about falling out with a lover aren’t fooling anyone given the title) and saying ‘you could...’ before every line, picturing the pair as friends staying up all night listening to music, a ‘railroad’ (because their paths together ‘go on and on’) and nastily hinting that the pair could be enemies (‘I guess there’s still time’). After all, its different when a band that’s family breaks up to any other band who never have to see each other again – The Kinkis had the same problem because, without causing a family rift, its hard not to peak to your brother; not speaking to a bass guitarist you barely knew, that’s OK, but someone you’ve known your whole life (in Liam’s case) clearly makes the split difficult. By and large, though, and in keeping with the redemption theme of the album, Liam wants to let bygones be bygones, urging his brother that there are still ‘rainbows’ to discover and asking, hurt, why loving his brother ‘should be a crime’. The closing flurry of middle eights (which unusually come at the end) is superb: remembering how Oasis took on the world Liam urges his brother to keep working, arguing ‘No one can break us, no one could take us if they tried’). The ending, though, suggests conciliation is only a pipe dream: the track, so light and cautiously breezy up till now, slows down under the weight of the Oasis wall of noise and gorgeous feedback, while Liam drops his gentler side and barks ‘Come along, lets’ make it tonight!’ One of my favourite Oasis songs of all time, it makes for interesting comparison with the Beady Eye song ‘Kill For A Dream’ (also largely by Liam) with the lines ‘Life’s too short not to forgive, you can carry regrets but they won’t let you live...I’m here if you wanna call’ – clearly this song is about Noel too. If ‘Abel’ is a Beady Eye song a few years early, then ‘Part Of The Queue’ hints at the kind of descriptive story-song with surreal tinges that Noel will be writing with his ‘High Flying Birds’. It’s better than any of the six ‘new’ songs on that album (the other four being Oasis outtakes re-recorded) without hitting the heights of ‘Lyla’ or its close musical cousin ‘Falling Down’ from the next album. Noel’s clearly been listening to lots of Ray Davies because this song is a dead ringer for the ‘other’ Kinks theme – the idea of a ‘star’ facing up to the fact that he’s no longer anything special and becoming a ‘face in the crowd’. Whereas Ray went to his destiny quietly, across the space of many many Kinks albums, Noel’s not going without a fight and the generally acoustic song soon becomes a sea of stinging electric guitar, echoey vocals and urgent piano riffs. The middle eight (‘There’ll be no tomorrow – more’s the pity’) sounds like this is Noel’s response to the band’s possible break-up and having to come to terms with the fact that the great Oasis adventure might be over. A scary closing round of ‘keep on trying...trying on’ suggests that he, too, is trying to offer the olive branch in the hope of getting the band over these obstacles , but the sheer terror of the surroundings suggests that he thinks it’s a lost cause already. Noel’s best vocal on the album by some margin, it’s a shame it’s ducked so low in the mix compared to all the effects and it’s a shame too that the song simply ends so suddenly, resolving to a very Beatlesy unexpected major chord at the end of a song that sounds like it has no resolution at all. Is this symbolic of the band patching up their differences? (Was it added on after the recording?) Or was it simply a coincidence? Either way, it makes for an odd and unconvincing end (it speaks volumes that oasis split for good a few years after this recording). ‘Keep The Dream Alive’ is the other album highlight along with ‘Abel’, a simply glorious pop song from Andy Bell that’s everything Oasis are at their best: reflective but triumphant, battling but determined and with a killer pop chorus that’s as memorable as anything the Gallagher brothers wrote. Lyrically this is clearly another song about the band’s impending split and sounds very like a Beady Eye song again (‘Kill For A Dream’ is a dead ringer for it and may well be a sequel). No one seems to have told that to Liam, who declared in interviews ‘I’m just the singer, an interpreter...the dream’s always been alive for me’. Surely that was just bluster because Liam excels himself here, that great angry strident vocal now teeming with guilt and regret. Andy couldn’t have wished for a better interpretation of his finest song to date on this song that’s a true anthem for anyone whose ever tried to do something extraordinary and important, only to have it ignored and ridiculed. A classy solo from Noel (rare for this record) suggests that the song chimes in with his feelings too – in fact this is a strong band performance all round and sounds like the band playing everything live for once, without any overdubs. The lyrics on this song are extraordinary too: ‘Every night I hear you scream, but you don’t say what you mean’ is the perfect song for a bandmate caught between the bitter rivalry between the Gallagher brothers and the line ‘Every night I think I the morning ‘where did it go?’ will ring a bell with anyone whose ever tried to write words, music, paint a picture or any other ever-shifting mercurial artform you can only get a glimpse of before the inspiration vanishes forever. The chorus, too, is incredible: ‘I’m no stranger to this place where real life and dreams collide’ is real poetry, something that everyone can relate to and so well formed – why the hell aren’t schools adding song lyrics to their English curriculum, I’ve always maintained their brevity makes them the hardest and most impressive art form; Shakespeare never wrote a line anything like that good! The song ends ominously with the narrator ‘waiting at the crossroads’, wondering whether his future is still with Oasis or elsewhere...Simply superb. Talking of ringing bells, ‘A Bell Will Ring’ is Gem’s contribution to the band and despite the fact that he only joined in 2002 its by far the most Oasisy sounding track on the album. Its a gloriously upbeat message of hope and being a winner and must, surely, be a fourth straight song in a row about the band’s troubles. Seemingly written when the band got together it starts ‘A little space, a little time...see what love can do’ and is basically a hymn to the powers of music to overcome everything, even rows between brothers (the ‘bell that rings’ is surely that unspoken piece of inspiration that comes from really great playing from musicians on top of their game). The narrator is speaking to someone else, telling them that as they helped him through hard times (‘You pulled me through my empty nights, lying sleepless on your floor’) so he’s going to re-pay the compliment and back them up to the hilt. Its a lovely breath of fresh air and hope on this often troubled album and Gem’s guitar work in particular shines like anything after so many rock-free songs. Again, its very Beady Eye and that’s no bad thing, although the song is frustratingly short and like so many others on this album really needs another middle eight or something to make it truly first class. The album then ends with ‘Let There Be Love’, a song Noel had been trying to finish since writing early in the ‘Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants’ sessions in 1999. What he wrote then is pretty much what Liam sings here: wordy, not very meaningful lyrics common to most Oasis songs of the period together with a slow, stately piano riff that doesn’t sound a million miles away from John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’. Liam tries hard but the song’s not really in his style. Instead its Noel’s new part, sung by him, that makes this song sparkle. Clearly relating to the band’s problems (and perhaps in reply to ‘Abel’), Noel sings a gorgeous second verse of comfort, urging a depressed character to get back into the fight of life because ‘the world is waiting for you’. Adding that he’ll always ‘be by your side’ its a lovely redemptive moment, very similar to the Liam-Noel vocal passages on ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’. This song doesn’t work quite as well as that masterpiece sadly, perhaps because the song runs out of inspiration and rather shamefacedly simply goes back to Liam’s opening passage for a straight repeat, with none of Noel’s more upbeat optimism seemingly having an impact. The chorus also needs a few more words in it than simply ‘Let There Be Love’ repeated four straight times, but still – for a good 30 seconds or so (the bit where Noel takes over) this is another superb and moving addition to an album full of little bits and pieces like that. Sadly the moment of reconciliation didn’t last long before Oasis called it a day in 2008, just two gigs from the end (although similarly sensitive songs from both Noel and Beady Eye make a future reconciliation hopeful). Never mind – after reaching the highs of this album there really wasn’t anywhere else to go, the band sounding older and wiser than ever before. Even though not everything here is great and two songs (‘Mucky Fingers’ and ‘Idle’) are easily among the worst they’ve ever done, there is a real sense of moving forward and covering new ground on this album, where brotherly love and hope for the future are the key themes. After this it really was all over by the shouting, of which there’s an awful lot on final Oasis album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ where only Noel’s ‘Falling Down’ comes anywhere close to the peaks of this album. Even hidden by smokescreens and bravado interviews at the time fans could tell something was up when this album came out (‘Don’t Believe The Truth’, remember) and it’s a shame in many ways that this wasn’t the last Oasis album as there’s a real sense of finality in these grooves. When the band get this album right, as on ‘Abel’ and ‘Dream’ especially, they really were so much more than simply a relic from the 1990s – they’d gone back to being the leading rock and roll band in the world, showing the way to all the ‘newcomers’ who’d got stuck the same way they had circa 1997. Brave and bold, forthright and apologetic, real and heartfelt, but still with the power of old, Oasis’ legacy deserves nothing less and there’s only really the uncomfortable taste in the mouth of ‘Mucky Fingers’ to prevent this album being a true unbeatable classic. Overall rating: ♫♫♫♫♫♫♫ (7/10). Other Oasis/Beady Eye/High Flying Birds reviews on this site you might be interested in: 'Definitely Maybe' 'The Masterplan' (B sides compilation) 'Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants' 'Definitely Maybe' (DVD soundtrack) 'Dig Out Your Soul' 'Different Gear, Still Speeding' 'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds'

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