Oasis - Dig Out Your Soul

"The first time I heard "Kid A" I went 'OK, I have no fucking idea what kind of music this is but it's moving me. It sounds like a revelation.' That's what the new Oasis stuff sounds like. They have entered into some strange uncanny spiritual crazy door and have just lost themselves completely to it and it is marvelous."

-Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams couldn’t have said it better. Dig Out Your Soul is a revelation of an album coming from a band which has no business make such an album. It’s the kind of album that impresses at first, but grips and takes a hold after a few listens; the kind of album which remains in your CD player for months, only to be replaced by live versions of the same songs, only to be replaced by the album once again. It should never have really been possible, either, considering this is Oasis we’re talking about. Despite some of the shit that Oasis have produced over the years (though it is often lovable and enjoyable shit) there is a reason allmusic.com, a relatively respectable music review site, gave the album 4.5 out of 5 stars, not to mention all of the other extremely high marks given to the album by media (other than pitchforkmedia.com, which for some reason refuses to give any band which has released more than two albums anything higher than a 4.9, calling every album thereafter ‘stale, derivative, boring, nonsense, etc.’).

For some reason it seems that at a certain point in any long-lasting band’s career things start to become a bit stale. The fresh take on music with which they originally captured your heart begins to feel dated, worn, and unexciting as they are unable to take the steps necessary to keep themselves and their music stirring and original. It takes a truly talented band to evolve and stay even somewhat relevant.

It is a difficult thing for any devoted fan to stomach: the band they have followed for years, the band they have talked up to friends, the band they have sweated buckets for at a concert now can’t make an album which is in any way interesting or good. Not every band falls into this trap, though. The Beatles and Radiohead, obviously, are perfect examples, bringing in new sounds with every album and allowing their song-craft to truly grow and become something which transcends the usual band/listener relationship of “this sounds good to me”, making it “this touches me”.

Oasis are a band who have struggled in recent years; treading water with Be Here Now, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants and Heathen Chemistry. Though each pushed the band in slightly new directions, giving at least a bit of hope for them to begin to grow and become a band which was still important and relevant, each album was unable to truly propel the band into a new phase. After Heathen Chemistry, an album which is extremely good and which contains several masterful tracks, it seemed impossible to believe that Oasis could ever truly move themselves in a new or fresh direction. Then came Don't Believe the Truth, an obvious step in the right direction, showcasing a stripped-down sound which had more in common with the crunch of The Who than the clean, Penny Lane-ish pop and rock which was the trademark of What's the Story, Morning Glory. Don't Believe the Truth, however, was weighted down by attempts to recapture the old magic with obvious singles placed between solid album tracks, resulting in an uneven flow throughout what was actually a very strong album. It failed, though, to truly put the band in a new position, though it certainly laid the groundwork. Actually realizing the potential seen in Don't Believe the Truth was another thing altogether, though, and after three years and several uneven leaked demos (which, it turns out, were Don't Believe the Truth throwaways) Oasis finally made their return to music.

Dig Out Your Soul, released on October 3rd, completely changes everything. Just when hope had run out that Oasis would ever be relevant again, they release an album not so different from Howl from Black Rebel Motorcycle Club: a stripped-down, blues inspired affair which re-energizes both themselves and their fan base. However, whereas BRMC took a folksy, quiet approach to their album, Oasis have stolen the heavy blues of Muddy Waters and injected it with crunching riffs and an immediateness which grips the ear from the very start and refuses to let go until the last, fading chords are strummed.

It is pointless to attempt to describe Oasis, a band most remembered by Americans as the creators of Brit-Rock anthems “Wonderwall”, “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, and “Champagne Supernova”, to any casual American because most Americans see Oasis as a one or two hit wonder and are only vaguely acquainted with their catalogue. It’s a shame really; there is a reason that Oasis continually scores on an even playing field as The Beatles in popularity and importance polls in the UK.

Still, though, even the most fervent fan has to admit that the last few efforts from Oasis have been disappointing, although steadily improving. It was always impossible to recreate either Definitely Maybe or What’s the Story, Morning Glory, but Oasis were spinning their tires, much like Bono and company continue to do with their latest derivative labors.

On Dig Out Your Soul Oasis have changed the game. They are a better band musician-wise than ever before; writing in the studio and approaching things in a collective, organic way (Andy Bell didn’t even play a note on his songwriting contribution to the album) and it is obvious. Dig Out Your Soul is a heavy, immediate album which takes the listener on a blistering trail from the heavy bass and stomp of album opener “Bag It Up” to the droning ends of “Soldier On”. This is not the usual, stadium anthem rock which has defined Oasis’ highs and lows since their inception, it is straightforward rock n’ roll with a 60s British blues verve. This is The Who joining forces with Led Zeppelin and deciding to play “Helter Skelter” with overdriven guitars until they blow their speakers.

Oasis still manage to tone it down on occasion and deliver a spiritual experience through song, however. Liam’s “I’m Outta Time” is a touching exercise in a Lennon-esque ballad which could easily have become a recycled attempt at creating a Beatles epic. Liam’s direct vocal delivery and its unique structure (no second verse?) allow it to transcend attempts by bands like Jet to capture the freshness and beauty of a Lennon-McCartney composition.

This is an album which is difficult to ingest in one take: a labyrinth of interwoven strands of influence and sounds, but never an album which drags on or is inaccessible. Even the honky-tonk and “Bron-Y-Aur-Stomp” drums of “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” melts in perfectly with the hard nose pub-rock which the Manc boys tear through on each track.

Of course, no great album can be a truly great album without a once-in-a-lifetime song. Noel’s “Falling Down” is just such a track, though it is an injustice that the extended version is not included on the album. “Falling Down” is among the greatest songs Noel has ever written, rivaling both “Wonderwall” and “The Masterplan”, despite the fact that it is a completely different kind of beast. A rhythmic drum and bass section provides the bed with which Noel lays his strongest vocal performance ever, allowing an intensity to build which is quite rare. “Falling Down” is quite simply a masterpiece and Dig Out Your Soul, despite a throw away track like “Aint Got Nothin’”, can be called the same.

-Luke Barnard


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