There’s a prevailing narrative about Oasis’ career. It begins with the meteoric rise, the one-two punch of dual classic albums, Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? in 1994 and 1995, respectively. The years where Oasis rapidly became the rock ‘n’ roll stars they sang about, the years where Noel Gallagher appeared to be an unstoppably prolific and masterful songwriter. The narrative ends with something of a long sigh. Oasis’ second act, the ’00s, can be perceived as a series of middling releases only existent for a core (yet still rabid and quite large) fanbase. No longer garnering effusive critical attention, no longer standing as international pop juggernauts of the same scale — the sort of act that was always highly visible when they were up to something, but could still be figured as a relic of the ’90s. With 1997’s Be Here Now functioning as a pivot point, the most common way to sum up Oasis’ career is in essentially two halves: the effervescent burst of their first two albums followed by the flare-out of Be Here Now, and then a second half characterized by an abrupt fall and subsequent plateau, with the group steadily and more quietly plugging along to their inevitable conclusion. When that conclusion hit in 2009, it wasn’t that the band once incapable of a whimper didn’t go out with a bang. It was just the most trivial and expected of bangs. One more spat between Noel and Liam Gallagher, one in a career full of sibling drama, this one finally rupturing a band that, to many people, imploded more than a decade beforehand.
This is the prevailing narrative about Oasis’ career, because it is, more or less, an accurate one. There’s no real getting around that Oasis released two of the iconic ’90s albums, two rock LPs worthy of the genre’s classic canon, and very quickly found themselves, in the grand scheme of things, ignorable as artists while still ubiquitous as entities. In terms of the wider music landscape, this is true — even if you’re a diehard and you love everything the Gallagher brothers ever touched, or if you’re a less sycophantic fan yet still prone to defend the riches of latter-day Oasis, or if you’re a fan who feels betrayed after the highs of Oasis’ early work defined your youth and the band failed to deliver on the same level afterward, or even if you’re a listener who can’t really stand these guys and writes off most of what they did anyway. Even if you’re writing an article like this one, about the many gems to be found in the second half of Oasis’ career, there is no real objective argument to be made that the ’00s albums hold up to the ’90s albums. The people who start as stratospherically high as Oasis and keep it going are the legends. History has plenty of other legends that burned right out after their untouchable album or two, as well. The difference is Oasis burned out and faded away, further muddying their legacy as Noel became a suddenly fallible songwriter, or as Liam increasingly became a cartoonized embodiment of arrogance. So, what happened?
In hindsight, Be Here Now is the clear turning point. Though released to off-the-scale feverish anticipation and, at first, wild adulation and record-breaking sales, the reputation of the album has suffered over the years. It came at a point where everything was fraying — fame and excess going to the band’s heads, tensions ever-rising between Noel and Liam, fatigue and drama within their inner circles due to the magnitude and rapidity of their success and factors like the British tabloids’ fixation on Liam. At this point, nobody could really say no to Oasis, and the album symbolizes the moment where the group gave into their worst selves. The two most frequent descriptors you’ll find for it are “bloated” and “coked-out,” and those are both plainly accurate ways to summarize the thing. It’s classic-rock excess dialed way up into a modern key, with ludicrous amounts of overdubs and a collection of songs that, in most cases, could’ve and should’ve been cut by two or three minutes. Only three years earlier, Oasis had brought elements of British alternative to the mainstream with Definitely Maybe. By 1997, the arc had closed at a blinding speed, the band leaping the trajectory of rock greats — from desperate and wild-eyed upstarts to indulgent pop-star establishment — before them in a fraction of the time. It was part of Britpop’s decline; it was most certainly part of Oasis’ decline.
But even with all that, anything Oasis released in the ’90s looms over anything they released after those years. Be Here Now is one of those flawed and fascinating successors to the masterpiece, the album where someone with too much money and too much ego thought they could get away with anything. Or, rather, that there was nothing to get away with — this stuff was just simply genius, obviously. (Although Noel began criticizing himself and the album not too long after its release.) Its over-the-top qualities are part of what still makes it great, though. It’s the logical endpoint to what had occurred on Morning Glory between ’94 and ’97, the strained would-be opus. And it still has the classic Oasis sound, the classic Oasis songwriting style. In this case, it’s just all over-driven to what now looks like the inevitable Spinal Tap destination. Despite or because of all that, the cocaine-driven madness here still feels essential amongst the band’s work, and more inherently Oasis than anything that followed.
You can almost count 1998’s B-sides compilation, The Masterplan, as another full ’90s Oasis release. In terms of quality, you justifiably do have a whole other classic Oasis record there. In terms of flow, the Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory outtakes sit well alongside each other, and you’d just have to do away with the live track (their cover of “I Am The Walrus”) in the middle. (There are only two outtakes from Be Here Now, one of which is “Going Nowhere,” which is also better than most of that record.) Starting with “Acquiesce” and ending with its title track, The Masterplan is book-ended by two of the bands finest (and, considering they were B-sides, very iconic) songs; and between the two there’s the same kind of journey that occurs over the course of Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory.
If you look at it that way, Oasis’ career splits evenly in two. Four releases in the ’90s, all boasting the sound we immediately identify with the band, and four releases afterwards: 2000’s Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, 2002’s Heathen Chemistry, 2005’s Don’t Believe The Truth, and 2008’s Dig Out Your Soul. In a broad sense, you could call everything that happened in the new millennium distant and uninspired compared to the band’s heyday. But that’s never been a totally fair estimation. Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants is widely considered the band’s disastrous nadir, somewhat unfairly written off as an experimental shift after the eventual fall-out of Be Here Now, that prized textures over songwriting, a quality that is entirely foreign to Oasis’ catalog otherwise, before or after this record (even on Be Here Now). (It also features the much-reviled debut of Liam’s songwriting contributions, “Little James.”) After that, Heathen Chemistry felt like something of a reset button, an attempt to get back at a classic, straightforward Oasis ethos, shedding the excess of Be Here Now and Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants alike, and re-contextualizing the heavy psychedelia of the latter’s turn-of-this-century electronics into a full-on ’60s mellotron-driven aesthetic. Neither album is as weak as they seem, though they are also the obvious two low points of the band’s career, despite the several excellent moments that can be found on both.
But if Heathen Chemistry had to work as a stepping stone of sorts, so be it. Oasis’ last two releases are drastically underrated. True, neither Don’t Believe The Truth nor Dig Out Your Soul reach the impeccable highs of their first two records, but both stand as a return-to-some-kind-of-form for the group as they approached a mellowed middle age. Far removed from the frenetic peaks of the Britpop era, Oasis had aged into something that would have seemed impossible at almost any preceding point in their career: solid, workmanlike classic rockers, offering up more lived-in interpretations of their psychedelic classic-rock template. There was more self-awareness at this point, less grandiosity, but a renewed sense of purpose. They had reclaimed the ability to stack an album with anthems, whether in the twilit chimes of Don’t Believe The Truth or the post-apocalyptic landscape of Dig Out Your Soul’s psychedelic-blues. In the ’00s, the worst crime Oasis could commit was that of being a steadfast rock band in the oldest of frameworks amidst a rapidly changing musical landscape. Given, Oasis were still Oasis. Liam’s brashness looked more and more like petulance when the band were no longer reigning hitmakers, and it was one last aforementioned clash between him and Noel that finally broke Oasis. Sadly, it occurred not too long after Dig Out Your Soul, an album that saw the band carving out new directions and sounds for themselves.
Maybe that was never enough. The second half of Oasis’ career may be wrongly maligned and underrated, but there is still the inescapable fact that there’s something about their story that makes them one of the glaring “What if” examples in rock history. Storming out the gate as they did, the long 10 or 15 years that followed can’t help but often feel like a story of untapped — or over-tapped too early — potential. Noel’s songwriting settled into a respectable (but no longer overwhelming) groove at too young an age. Liam, who had the makings of being one of the great rock frontmen, became one-note as a personality, and also destroyed his voice. (I mean, some examples here might have been cherry-picked for comical badness, but still.) Last month, we marked the 20th anniversary of Morning Glory — and thus, if not the anniversary of the end of Oasis’ peak, the anniversary of the moment right before beginning of the end. Now, we’re looking back at everything that happened through the long process of the dust settling, the drawn-out hangover to Oasis’ untouchable ’90s. These records aren’t perfect, often sounding like one long burned-out transmission. But, like the overblown flaws of Be Here Now, that’s often what makes them special in their own way, and there are a lot of highlights to discover.
18. “Force Of Nature” (from Heathen Chemistry, 2002)
Just as “The Hindu Times” would wind up being mirrored by “Turn Up The Sun” on Don’t Believe The Truth (more on that later), both Heathen Chemistry and its follow-up featured a thudding Noel-led song as the second track. (That’d be “Mucky Fingers.”) Where “Mucky Fingers” would later nod to the Velvet Underground, the pulse created by the piano and beat in the beginning of “Force Of Nature” has more in common with Iggy Pop’s “Nightclubbing,” oddly enough. Of course, this is still an Oasis song. So before Noel gets too decadent, he adds a whole bunch of glam muscle to the track and one of those lower-gear peals of a chorus that he can write in his sleep. Too much of Heathen Chemistry feels somehow forced or leaden. Ironically, the song that could’ve been one of its most plodding — the one with the chunkiest rhythm — is one of the album’s moments with the most badass bravado.
17. “Love Like A Bomb” (from Don’t Believe The Truth, 2005)
Like “Turn Up The Sun” followed “The Hindu Times,” “Love Like A Bomb” is the “Songbird” of Don’t Believe The Truth, with Liam this time being assisted by Gem Archer on the songwriting. It captures the same kind of simple beauty for another straightforward love song, but this time the arrangement is a little fleshed out. One characteristic that separates Don’t Believe The Truth from a lot of Oasis’ other work is the fact that several songs hinge on instrumentation built on acoustic guitar, softly tumbling percussion, and stray psychedelic touches. It wouldn’t be hard to imagine a version of “Love Like A Bomb” on Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, loaded up with half a dozen backwards guitars instead of that one sublime embellishment that comes in a little after the 2-minute mark here. It might not be a pivotal Oasis offering, but it’s a Liam track where the charms are hard to deny, and a key example of how Oasis’ distillation of their sound on Don’t Believe The Truth resulted in their finest ’00s material.
16. “Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is” (from Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, 2000)
There aren’t a lot of uptempo, rock-oriented tracks on Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants. There’s loping, trippy pop stuff; there’s stuff that swirls with intensity. But, like, a proper, heavy groove? You have the dated, pastiche-y intro “Fuckin’ In The Bushes,” and the perfunctory and/or anonymous “I Can See A Liar.” “Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is” isn’t the cleverest or most revelatory of Oasis’ ’00s output, but it was the one moment on that album where the band married their inherent swagger with the churn of effects and electronics they were experimenting with. Riding along a keyboard figure that repeats itself as if its incessantly chipping its way into your brain, “Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is” eventually accrues the kind of stomp that the band wouldn’t display again until Dig Out Your Soul; here, it’s just layered in glittery decadence as opposed to Dig Out Your Soul’s more haggard riffs. Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants could’ve used a few more like this one: It might be kind of dumb, but it gets stuck in your head a lot more than anything from the album’s somnambulant second half.
15. “Guess God Thinks I’m Abel” (from Don’t Believe The Truth, 2005)
One thing that emerged in ’00s Oasis was the fact that Noel’s ballads were, unfortunately, often becoming heavy-handed and inert: in-it-for-the-money retreads of past glories that had previously felt so natural. Who would’ve thought that the sibling who behaved more brutishly would come around with some of the band’s prettiest songs on their last two albums? “Guess God Thinks I’m Abel” is another Liam composition, this time an unhurried and introspective track that features that same acoustic guitar and percussion base as “Love Like A Bomb.” It feels like a grainier cousin to the Morning Glory track “Cast No Shadow” — the Oasis ballad that feels impactful while itself musically drifting by, with no concern for a swelling chorus. And it’s hard not to read into the symbolism referenced in the song’s title, especially when you consider Liam would probably be grandiose enough to compare himself and Noel to Cain and Abel. Who knows whether the song actually offering any real glimpse into the Gallaghers’ lives (especially considering the opening line is “I could be your lover,” and you could take the title as a pun), but it’s another one of those humanizing moments in the arc of Oasis.
14. “Bag It Up” (from Dig Out Your Soul, 2008)
After Heathen Chemistry and Don’t Believe The Truth back to back, it seemed like Oasis had settled into something: a calmer approximation of where they’d been before, a devout classicist rock that didn’t shock but, by Don’t Believe The Truth, was yielding riches for fans. The follow-up to Don’t Believe The Truth could’ve held that course, and it would’ve probably worked really well. “Bag It Up,” and the album it introduces, are not that. Gone are all the floaty acoustic pop songs; gone, on some level, are the starry-eyed reclamations of Oasis choruses of the past. There’s a confidently ramshackle mood that runs through Dig Out Your Soul; fried electric guitars kicking up daytime squalls in the desert. The qualities that had defined Don’t Believe The Truth — that weathered, lived-in sound — are still apparent, but with a focus on groove and a heaviness that had never dominated an Oasis album from start to finish as it does here. And, sure, this is still not some wild left turn — “Bag It Up” and the rest of the album still draw from the ’60s, still draw heavily from psychedelia. But the stomp of “Bag It Up” was a more pugnacious descendent for stuff like “The Hindu Times” and “Turn Up The Sun,” the sound of Oasis swinging their fists again.
13. “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” (from Heathen Chemistry, 2002)
After Oasis’ ’90s peak, there were certain new archetypes in their music they developed, and certain ones they took with them into the ’00s. One of the latter is the flagrantly Beatlesque ballad, which, after Morning Glory’s “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” became a standard throughout their career. The results of this were all over the place. “Let There Be Love” was a fitting closer to Don’t Believe The Truth; people still loathe “Little James”; “I’m Outta Time” is nice but an also-ran distraction from Dig Out Your Soul’s aesthetic otherwise. Out of any of these, though, one of the best examples (and strongest latter-day Oasis efforts) is “Stop Crying Your Heart Out.” It has all the trademarks, beginning with that piano pattern and unfurling into a big chorus and string arrangements. It just uses all this in a way, or has a melody good enough, to stop it from becoming as ponderous or forced as other attempts at this kind of thing by 21st century Oasis. It’s a poignant ballad that complements their ’90s work, even if it can’t ascend to “Champagne Supernova” levels of universality.
12. “The Turning” (from Dig Out Your Soul, 2008)
Most of Dig Out Your Soul sounds arid, like these songs are cruising or fighting their way across some kind of drained, blood-red wasteland. “The Turning” might be the quintessential song from Oasis’ last record in that regard. The drumbeat, the entrance of the keys — it’s another Oasis track that uses an intro to suggest something on the horizon, something maybe foreboding. It’s the moment where the world of this album is coming clearer into view, propelled forward into the shaggy sunburst of its chorus — Liam’s ragged vocals, those choir-ish backups, that single piano note trick that immediately makes a song feel more intense. Situated right after “Bag It Up” on the album, “The Turning” makes for a duo of songs thrashing their way into the beginning of a record in a way that Oasis never really did elsewhere.
11. “Keep The Dream Alive” (from Don’t Believe The Truth, 2005)
What’s sort of shocking about the anthemic “Keep The Dream Alive” is that it wasn’t written by either of the Gallaghers, because more than anything else on this album — or, perhaps, on any of their ’00s albums — the song sounds like the realization of a promise made on their ’90s albums. Instead, this one was an Andy Bell composition. Bell had been in Ride, a British band that put out their great record four years before Oasis were a concern; he and Gem Archer had joined Oasis as something of hired guns, but their touch became important on the band’s last two albums. The two of them were the sort of collective George Harrison in the ’00s Oasis equation — they might only contribute some songs on the albums, but they often wound up becoming either standouts or tracks that added some diversity to the records as a whole. Musically, “Keep The Dream Alive” harkens back to Oasis’ classic work in a way that maybe only “Lyla” matches. It’s all the more evocative for otherwise having smaller-scale counterparts in songs like “Love Like A Bomb” and “Guess God Thinks I’m Abel.” By the time this rolls around toward the end of Don’t Believe The Truth, they’ve more than earned this kind of reaching earnestness. And, with a sentiment like the need to keep a dream alive, they’re delivering it in a tone they’ve aged into well.
10. “The Importance Of Being Idle” (from Don’t Believe The Truth, 2005)
At this point in Oasis’ career, there were plenty of songs that Noel sang. He sang “Don’t Look Back In Anger”; he’d wanted to sing “Wonderwall.” You can find rougher recordings of him running through “Go Let It Out!” and “Gas Panic!”; there were his handful of ballads across Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants and Heathen Chemistry. But what really only started to emerge on Oasis’ last few records were the songs that felt like Noel had to sing them rather than Liam, songs written in a way where it was hard to imagine Liam’s voice singing these melodies. “The Importance Of Being Idle” is one of the signature Oasis tracks from the ’00s, and it’s one of those quintessentially Noel songs. Which, maybe, you could partially attribute to the fact that it doesn’t necessarily sound like an Oasis song. It makes sense on Don’t Believe The Truth, but its measured lope, the plaintiveness in Noel’s delivery — in a lot of ways, you can look back on the song and hear a prediction of Noel’s post-Oasis solo releases.
9. “Who Feels Love?” (from Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, 2000)
Coming on the heels of “Go Let It Out!,” “Who Feels Love?” completes the one-two that could totally fool you as to the quality of the rest of Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants. It’s a disproportionate high, a moment where the sound Noel was chasing clicked perfectly compared to the other songs on the album. Like “Go Let It Out!,” “Who Feels Love?” cribs a ton from ’60s psychedelia and tweaks it with little updates. The song glides on a bed of loops and backwards guitars, sounds that pile up on top of each other so that the song is perpetually in the process of cresting while never forcing any chorus or outro too large for its mood. Instead, it stays in it’s gloriously blissed-out lane for its duration. The dreamy melody might not be the most original thing in the world, but it’s a great one, and something that makes “Who Feels Love?” the less-common Oasis single that’s incredibly catchy in sneakier ways than the arena-conquering choruses of their earlier years.
8. “Falling Down” (from Dig Out Your Soul, 2008)
Here’s another Noel-penned song clearly meant for Noel to sing. “Falling Down” has as much fixation on groove, as much forward momentum, as any of the other uptempo tracks on Dig Out Your Soul, but it comes from a detached, dreamier place. The way Noel’s voice floats along within the maelstrom of the track’s arrangement — those drone-y synths punctuated by demanding piano chords, the clattering drum patterns, the occasional distant keen of particular guitar lines — is perfect for it. It’s hard to picture Liam’s voice sitting amidst it all without piercing through. But Noel’s delivery is ideal, as if he’s just letting himself ride out on the currents of the thing. It’s a song that was written with, theoretically, no notion that the end of the band was nigh. But the way it floats off into some hyperreal sunset gives it an undercurrent of elegy. It’s the sound of a band we now know were reaching the end of the road, and it’s a song that seems gripped equally by pain and wonder and experience. Fourteen years after it all started and with the cracks finally widening to unsalvageable places, there couldn’t have been more fitting sounds for Oasis.
7. “Turn Up The Sun (from Don’t Believe The Truth, 2005)
Here’s another one from the ’00s Oasis George Harrison Equivalent: “Turn Up The Sun” is the song that follows in the footsteps of “The Hindu Times” — part glistening, part big rock stomp, part triumphant chorus to kick down the door of their respective albums. This time around, it was another Andy Bell composition, not a Noel track. In the instance of “Turn Up The Sun,” Bell added another strong entry into the band’s history of impeccable openers. (We’re just going to go ahead and count “Go Let It Out!” as the actual opener of Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, not “Fuckin’ In The Bushes.”) First swirling then churning, there’s a hazy autumnal push-and-pull to “Turn Up The Sun,” making it a perfect introduction to the world of Don’t Believe The Truth. Between this and a “Keep The Dream Alive,” Bell is really underlining the idea of contributing carefully and becoming a total MVP on Don’t Believe The Truth.
6. “Songbird” (from Heathen Chemistry, 2002)
While many fans might not have been overly psyched about the idea of Liam contributing more songs after “Little James,” his songwriting got better over the subsequent three albums. Similar to “Little James,” “Songbird” is a simple and direct song — a mode that would define a lot of Liam’s most notable tracks. But it’s also not as weighed down by inscrutably amateurish lyrics, and it’s also a plain and beautiful melody presented in a context that favors it — two minutes, a basic acoustic guitar progression with some piano embellishments. There are few other examples of songs in Oasis’ catalog that are this delicate, this comparatively sparse. And where there are other examples of it in their catalog, they aren’t as sprightly and joyful as this. “Songbird” is a simple pleasure amongst the more well-known ’00s Oasis material, but it’s also one of the greatest pleasures amongst the more well-known ’00s Oasis material.
5. “Gas Panic!” (from Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, 2000)
At just around six minutes, “Gas Panic!” isn’t all that much longer than most of the other songs on Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants. But the song feels so much more immense than that. Sitting as the towering centerpiece on the record — after the “Little James” enters the race for most-hated Oasis song, before the album gets pretty boring for most of the rest of its running time — there are few other things like “Gas Panic!” in Oasis’ catalog. It has all the density of Be Here Now’s instrumentation, but a much more modern tone, one built on a cinematic mixture of guitar drones and a beat in the beginning, the kind of thing that makes it hit that much harder when the live drums and big, effects-drenched guitars kick in. The entire thing is a relentlessly throbbing track, sounding equal parts paranoid and cathartic. Like any Oasis song that veers too far from universal sentiments on love or dreams, who knows what the hell “Gas Panic!” is about. The way Liam sings “My family don’t seem so familiar” is one of the more distraught moments in Oasis’ catalog, the refrain for one of their darkest-sounding songs. Given the personal strain their careers had begun to take on Noel and Liam — the excessive drug use, the recent departure of founding members Bonehead and Guigsy — it might also be a hint of vulnerability, a humanizing moment in post-’90s Oasis. (Of course, the rest of the chorus goes “When you hear me tap on your window, then you get on your knees, and you better pray,” so it has some of that “these words don’t make any sense but sound good together” Oasis lyrical approach.)
4. “The Shock Of The Lightning” (from Dig Out Your Soul, 2008)
Dig Out Your Soul might start with “Bag It Up,” but “The Shock Of The Lightning” was the lead single, and as such, the opening salvo. And it’s a hell of an opening salvo. It was one of Oasis’ final singles, but it has an energy that could let it sit amongst their earliest just fine. Related to that, “The Shock Of The Lightning” is a more important pinpoint in the legacy of Oasis than the other Dig Out Your Soul highlights showcasing the band’s new fervor. It didn’t only have the energy of those key Definitely Maybe tracks, it also had their propulsion, that pull that rips you along for its four-minute duration without letting up for a single moment. There’s a sense of something coming full circle here. Melodically and structurally, there’s a lot here that feels like the highest points of Oasis’ early days, but invigorated with an older and more carefully deployed hazardousness than in ’94 or ’95. Much of Dig Out Your Soul made sense with Oasis’ name on it, but nothing else sounded so inherently them while also situating itself so thoroughly in the aesthetic of that album. Like “Falling Down,” it’s not as if “The Shock Of The Lightning” was written with knowledge that their break-up was forthcoming, but it sounds like it was. It’s like one more triumphant victory lap, one more defiant mug from Liam. It says: “Yeah, we’ve still got the goods.”
3. “Lyla” (from Don’t Believe The Truth, 2005)
There isn’t a song that sums up Don’t Believe The Truth better than “Lyla.” For that matter, there might not be a song that sums up what ’00s Oasis could be capable of in terms of discovering a new, more aged approach to the Oasis archetypes they’d established a decade earlier. Or, in a way, maybe there isn’t a song that sums up what could have been had Oasis stuck around. Don’t Believe The Truth felt like the start of a new phase in their career: that more lived-in sound applied to songs that felt like more of a direct continuation of the first two albums, and had the hooks to back that lineage up. (A smaller tragedy than Oasis burning out too quickly at a young age is the fact that they finally splintered in 2009, right when it felt like they were hitting a new kind of stride.) Liam’s voice doesn’t have that same power, that sound of a storm bottled up into a human’s body, but that’s OK — this is a different Oasis, a little bit more weathered, and yet reconnecting with their ability to stuff an album with anthems and infectious rockers and universal ballads. There are days where I’m tempted to argue Don’t Believe The Truth is the third best Oasis record, ahead of Be Here Now. And on those days, I’m thinking of something like “Lyla” — the sound of a songwriter and his band rediscovering the kind of effervescence and starpower they had wielded so casually (and, to an extent, carelessly) when they were 10 years younger.
2. “The Hindu Times” (from Heathen Chemistry, 2002)
After the blown-out Be Here Now and the out-of-character Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants, Heathen Chemistry was a more direct offering, coming off like an attempt to get back at some kind of stripped-down essential quality of the band’s identity. Even if it plays better front to back than its predecessor, the songs are a bit all over the place, with some very high points and some very dull moments. Part of what sinks the album is how strongly it begins relative to what follows. “The Hindu Times” is hands-down one of the best Oasis songs from the ’00s, with an earworm of a lead guitar riff that’s up there with Noel’s finest, and one of Oasis’ prime choruses that don’t really mean anything but gesture at the transformative powers of music in some vaguely generic way. That doesn’t matter too much, though — the song’s evocative alone for that riff, and for the size of the chorus and how well Liam sells it. In hindsight, Heathen Chemistry feels like a dry run for Don’t Believe The Truth, establishing patterns and approaches that the band would better in a few years. But while there’d be echoes of the chiming swagger of “The Hindu Times” later on, this was one thing they couldn’t top in the years they had left.
1. “Go Let It Out!” (from Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, 2000)
The Oasis album quickest to be dismissed by fans and band alike, or outright vehemently hated by the former, Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants gets a worse rap than it deserves. Sure, it’s uneven, with a handful of uninspired songs bogging down its second half in particular. But it was a rare moment that saw Oasis trying to engage with modern textures and sounds — Noel dove headlong into psychedelia in a way he hadn’t before, but mixed up old-school melodies with experimentations in electronic textures and loops. The album flags when the band played it too close to old Oasis. (“Sunday Morning Call” and “Where Did It All Go Wrong” are repetitive interpretations of songs they’d done better elsewhere.) But, when they committed to the new approach, great things happened. “Go Let It Out!” was the album’s lead single, easily its best song, and one of the latter-day Oasis songs that can seriously hold its own alongside the ’90s material on any best-of compilation. Noel became more harshly self-critical as Oasis’ career continued, admitting to a lack of investment or energy in the process of this record, but he’s also rightfully praised “Go Let It Out!” in the past as a bright spot from the period. The music is dense but infectious, with one of the more effortless vocal melodies to pop up on any of Oasis’ last four records. It’s something of a misleading mission statement for the record — seamlessly blending its different sonic approaches, and boasting the kind of quality that aligns it with Noel of the past, the guy who was seemingly tossing this stuff off like it was nothing. “Go Let It Out!” is its own kind of classic Oasis song. If only the rest of the album had followed suit — or if Noel had had more songs like this up his sleeve — there might be a very different story for Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, and for Oasis in the final decade of their career.