Thursday, October 14, 2021

Feeling Lost Inside

It is hard to imagine 1995 was over a quarter of a century ago, yet here we are simultaneously looking back at it as if it were yesterday and as if it were a whole other universe away from where we are now. Both are technically correct, but neither take into account just why we desire to go back to it as much as we do. There is something there that we have failed to take forward with us and we are scratching in the dirt looking for it.

One such thing is rock music. The genre is definitely dead now, with its last gasp sputtering to an uncharacteristically lowkey and silent end by the time the 2010s rolled around. Name a great rock album from the 2010 and it's almost certainly by an old band or a new band trying to relive the '90s or early '00s. There isn't much there.

Choked to death by post-Nirvana nihilism, post-Radiohead pretension, and the weaponizing of corporate songwriters and producers grooming mediocre singers with computers to be prepackaged pop stars, rock became locked to dying independent labels that vanished not too soon after they vanished from the majors. They aren't coming back, either.

Because the music industry is dead.

In the 1990s, however, rock was still a force to be reckoned with, and one of those forces was the Britpop band Oasis. Formed 30 years ago in 1991, Oasis quickly made a name for themselves with local shows and an unlikely frontman duo in vocalist Liam Gallagher and guitarist and songwriter brother Noel Gallagher. Their escapades in the media would soon become almost as famous as their songs. And for a moment they were inescapable.

Their first album, Definitely Maybe, released in 1994 and quickly became one of the highest selling and most critically acclaimed rock albums of the decade. And it was well deserved. Definitely Maybe is a hard rockin' good time with plenty of pop hooks that runs the gamut of modern alternative rock filtered through classic rock n roll songwriting. It was written and played by people who love music and respect its roots and traditions. In an era of Forward-Thinking alternative rock, Oasis was staunchly traditional but with a mixture of modern energy and youthful exuberance. With one album they had already become superstars in their native England.

1995, however, would prove to be the year that would truly define them for the rest of their career. That was the year they wrote and recorded their second album, (What's the Story) Morning Glory which would go on to be one of the highest selling albums of all time, and a worldwide hit of the sort an English band hadn't had since the 1960s British Invasion.

All of a sudden, English rock was back and it was here to stay. The surrounding movement called Britpop was at a fever pitch and it looked as if nothing could go wrong. For rock n roll aficionados, the early to mid 90s was definitely a high point. It still plays good today.

So why did Morning Glory blow up the way it did? In an era where dour grunge and gangsta rap were swarming the charts, how did a sunny movement like Britpop crack into the worldwide market when we were told that wasn't what people wanted to listen to? It's a mystery, but Oasis' second album blew up for a reason, and it was tapping into a zeitgeist no one really understood back then, or now. In short, it is a classic for a good reason.

And today we are going to see why that is.

You can find a track by track analysis for Morning Glory below that Noel Gallagher did last year for the album's 25th anniversary. He gives all ten pieces the attention they deserve. It gives some good background to the songs and general construction of the album.

Opening track Hello is a bit of an outlier on this album, and that's for two reasons. It wasn't actually written for this album, but for Definitely Maybe, therefore it has a very '90s alternative crunch to the album that the rest doesn't really contain, though it is filtered through the same sparser production the rest of the songs have. This makes it both a good rocker to pump you up, yet smooth enough to glide you into what's to come.

I used to think the B-side, Acquiesce, would have made a better opening track, but I've changed my mind in recent years simply for the fact that it is too energetic a song for opening Morning Glory. I think it was Paul that approached Noel about putting it on the album and he declined, despite thinking it is one of their best songs, possibly due to the fact that it would have radically changed the experience of listening to the album. It would have, too.

This is actually one of the album's biggest strengths, and one of Oasis' as a whole. They were one of the last bands to take the art of creating an album seriously. Even on Oasis' weaker records, they always had impeccable flow and knew how to keep you engaged the entire way through. Rarely is it that you want to skip a song for feeling off or out of place in sequencing. And such a feeling of excellent flow is perfected on Morning Glory. Starting with the Definitely Maybe-era Hello and transitioning into the next phase was paramount for setting the experience to come.

Bands used to know this. Unfortunately, it is now a lost art, especially with the death of the album format itself.

Now, I'll be honest and say one thing. The first time I heard Hello, I wasn't blown away or anything. I was a kid who had heard plenty of alternative rock, and wasn't even very aware of Definitely Maybe at that point (though I rushed to get it after this one), so it just sounded like 1995 to me. Looking back now, I can appreciate what the song was for and about, but back then it was just average. At least, that's what I thought.

Then track two hit, and everything changed.

I'm not sure if I can ever give proper due to Roll With It, for the simple reason that it has been one of my favorite songs of all time for over 25 years at this point. Being objective about it is going to be near impossible. I will try to do it, but as you can tell, emotional resonance is hard to separate from objective quality, especially when it comes to music.

The strongest part of Morning Glory, which is something Definitely Maybe didn't have, and the band itself wouldn't manage to replicate until Don't Believe the Truth and Dig Our Your Soul (their final two records), is a sort of timeless sheen to the songs. I don't just mean composition-wise, because all their best songs have that, but production-wise and the general choices surrounding instrumentation. It doesn't sound of its time.

Definitely Maybe sounds like the early 1990s. It just does, and there is no way around that. Be Here Now, their third album, sounds like 1997 Britpop in all its overindulgence glory. Standing on the Shoulder of Giants sounds like early '00s rock complete with the same electronic flourishes, and Heathen Chemistry sounds like typical mid '00s British rock music with slicker production. They all sound very much of the time they came out.

Morning Glory does not. You might equate the hit singles with the 1990s because you heard them there at the time they came out, but that is incidental to the larger point. Listen to them divorced from your memories or expectations and you wouldn't be able to guess when they were made. Roll With It is the perfect example of this, which contributes to why it stuck with me even as a fickle kid slipping through musical trends like a total poseur. It is a perfectly crafted rock n roll song.

One of the best songs of the '90s

Where the song succeeds is in how effortlessly it combines pre-metal rock music in a gumbo the band never really attempted before this. Psychedelic haze, traditional bluesy lyrics, country twang, power pop energy, all filtered through the band's hard rock edge (and yet masterfully softened in production to sound like a lost Kinks song from the 1960s) and a ramshackle garage atmosphere, all comes together to set a mood unlike any of that time. Where Hello sets the mood, Roll With It sets the tone and expectations going forward. It is the perfect second track.

But it turns out it was not the perfect single. It was released against rival band Blur's Country House where it infamously reached #2 instead of #1 and for years the band hated it for that. However, Oasis' album outdid Blur's The Great Escape album in both acclaim and sales and Roll With It aged much better as a track despite this. Nonetheless, this performance did start the early trend of the music press attempting to destroy Oasis at every opportunity and a strange obsession with rivalry they didn't have before.

However, most of us didn't know any of this at the time. The British music scene was a complete mystery outside of England, and here we just knew that this album was great. We couldn't really articulate why at the time, no one can for an album that was as big and influential as this one, even if the boomers and hipsters of the time didn't get it. The rest of us understood quite well.

Roll With It is essentially about learning to roll with the way the world pushes you around and how to find the strength to move forward, before beautifully twisting by the end about falling deep into yourself to recover a piece of your soul that you lost while steeling yourself to the way things are. It ends in a bit of escapism ("Take me away" say the background vocals as they drift off) showing the need for balance inside, and learning not to destroy yourself to deal with the world.

But how great was Roll With It for the band to play? The take they used on the album was only the second one they did. The only reason they did a second take is because they felt like it, and something was slightly better, so they used it.

For some reason, the making of this album went by really quick and all the pieces just seemed to fall into place.

And nowhere is this more obvious with the band's biggest song, and third track, Wonderwall. I don't even think I have to say anything about this since one listen tells you everything you need to know. It was a megahit. You've heard, I've heard it, everyone's heard it.

You even know this video

What can one really say about Wonderwall that hasn't already been said before? The band wasn't exactly known for trad rock, acoustic numbers, or pop, at the time. They were the heavy rock n roll guys for the cool guys in leather jackets. If anything, it was Blur who were known for the softer stuff. Then Wonderwall came out and blew everyone away.

It was written by Noel, who sat on an actual wall performing for a field of sheep when writing it. He even recorded himself playing it on said wall which you can hear a clip of at the beginning of Hello, the first track. This was a song which he had a strike of inspiration in both writing and recording, seeming to come out of thin air into his mind, and yet it ended up becoming their biggest tune. Inspiration is something odd.

What is Wonderwall actually about? The easy answer is that it is about nothing, but that isn't really how Noel wrote songs back then. As we've established, through to about 1996 or so when he fell deep into drugs, Noel had a very strong connection with his muse in a way he could never quite explain. You can hear it whenever he talks about the plethora of music he wrote back then. He doesn't know why things have to be that way but that he knows it has to be like that. Of course it lead to much conflict in the band and charges of large ego on Noel's part, but if one listens to him talk about how he made music back then it was obvious he put a large trust on something higher than himself when creating. I'm unsure if he would ever say it that way or in those terms, but it is clear he had a connection with something outside of himself that he knew how to perfectly filter.

This filter is essential in understanding Wonderwall. You can see the Beatles references in the lyrics, since the band were big fans of them, so you can process the rest through that. Wonderwall is the name of George Harrison's first solo work, a soundtrack, and it was a passion project that he loved dearly. Until the day he died he always held a soft spot for it and gushed to anyone who wanted to hear about it. Now that you know this, the rest of the song makes sense. What is the singer's Wonderwall? Not that hard to understand once you get where Noel was coming from.

It's also important to note that it was written for his girlfriend who would soon be his wife. This helps explain the tune's odd sincerity even more.

How would you even follow up one of their biggest songs ever? Why, with their second biggest song ever, of course. Don't Look Back in Anger is the fourth track on the record, and manages to be both a ballad and an energetic rocker at the same time. No simple feat.

What makes it work is how it always does--Noel taking inspiration from older artists and turning it into something better. Don't Look Back in Anger is the song that takes the basis for the evil and awful John Lennon song Imagine and turns it into a beautiful and touching ode to the process of grief and moving on to better times. It is a very effecting song, and very deservingly a monster hit. Again, from a band not known for material like this at the time.

How to spin straw into gold

Noel knew someone who had a tape of John Lennon in conversation with someone just before he died talking about "not letting your brains get to your head" which he used in the song, and is why he used the piano chords for Imagine at the start of the song. It is amazing how effortlessly he was able to package all this inspiration together into one track and make something better in the process.

This is what artists do, by the way. They take their inspirations, repackage and rearrange them, and look for new angles on what was already done before. No one works in a void, and much of the criticism of this album, and Oasis as a whole, comes from the fact that music hipsters always looking for a new fix do not understand this truth. Oasis was probably one of the last bands to really understand this outside of the '00s garage bands like The Hives, The Strokes, or The White Stripes. Music is a playground for inspiration, not a religious Cult of the New.

The video near the start of the post has Noel going into the equipment he used to record this song, which I recommend going into, since it emphasizes the above point. The reason the song sounds so good is because of the people who passed these things on to him. He then used them to create something new, and in this case, one of the best albums ever made.

We are almost halfway through this album and almost every song was a huge worldwide hit. I think it's easy to say that something was going on back in 1995. What it was, who can really say. But it was real, and it still sticks around to this day.

Listen to Noel talk about how he fumbled the first line of the song in a live performance and the crowd sang the entire thing while the band played along. This is the magic of music. You can really explain it, it's just something you experience and live through.

Hey Now, the next song, is more of a traditional rocker, but a break from the onslaught of anthems the album just set loose on the listener. You need breathers, but this song isn't satisfied just being a breather. It's five minutes of a good time. The song is about fame and how it can lead you by the nose into destruction, which was a lesson the band eventually heeded, though not at the best or most opportune time.

This is a good subject to cover since the first album was mainly about being a band that wanted fame, and the second is about after having achieved it . . . what's next? Hey Now, in other words, is the bridge lyric-wise between the brash confidence of Definitely Maybe to the more introspective thoughtful side of Morning Glory. Even the rocking going on during this track isn't as hard as it was on that album, being a more thoughtful composition and pared down like the rest of the songs. It could only have been made when it was. It wouldn't have worked at any other time.

And a weird tidbit about the song--there's a synthesizer on it and nobody knows who played it or where it came from since no one involved owned one at the time. There are lots of little weird things on this record like that.

For instance, there are excerpts from the B-side, The Swamp Song, on the album which tend to fade in and out to give breathing room and bridging to other songs. This is a kind of sluggish instrumental blues number which can be found in full on the excellent B-side compilation The Masterplan, but which adds a good flavor to this album. That undercurrent of pure savage blues is a good reminder of where this all came from.

Which is good because that first excerpt leads from Hey Now into the first single from the album and the first song on the second side of the cassette tape. That would be the heavy and inspiring Some Might Say.

Side 2 does not let up

Starting off with a heavy blues riff, making the earlier transition from Hey Now all the more welcome, the second side starts off with one heck of a bang. Some Might Say is one of the bands best songs with a craft most bands would die for. But how many times can I say that in regards to that album. All ten are this good.

There is no song here that is anything less than 10/10 material. It doesn't help that they've all actually improved tremendously with age, and sound even better than they did when the album first released. And they were already great back then.

Noel's explanation for this track is funny in how he admits he gets things stuck in his head, even from bands or groups he might not care about, but something inside tells him he has to let it out. Some Might Say is influenced from a song he heard from an old indie band no one remembers, but was one that stuck in his mind. He used that odd experience to write this tune.

It is interesting how he explains that he can hear one song and rip it off twelve times to write twelve different tunes out of it. Back in the '90s this was considered passé, but this is how it was originally done. Just look at the career of Led Zeppelin. Music is meant to repackage and reinvent. You need a tradition to pull from in order to do that, though.

"Everything that I do is a nod to something or other. I'm not a genius. I'm just a fan of music. Do you know what I mean? . . . Nothing is original. There's only 12 notes anyway." ~ Noel Gallagher

And this is the way it should be. We're all in this together, after all.

This leads into what might be the most overlooked track on the album, Cast No Shadow. This is the slowest track here, one inspired by Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here. It's a song about someone trying to make a difference while the world pulls and pushes him back and it eventually takes everything away from them. No matter what they do they never seem to cast a shadow or make their mark.

The album dedicated this track to Richard Ashcroft of the band The Verve (you might know them from the megahit Bittersweet Symphony) though it isn't clear why. Perhaps he was going through a rough patch at the time since the band was breaking up. Someone not casting a shadow means they are not leaving a mark or an impact, and perhaps Noel thought his friend deserved more than he was getting. Who knows? Nonetheless, these days The Verve is looked back on as one of the best bands from Britpop era of music, so at least there is a happy ending to that story.

Nevertheless, this is probably the least popular song on the record, even if it works well as a bridge between two of the most lively tracks on the album. But to hear that clear country influence again is nice and reinforces just how classical this album is.

The following song, She's Electric, is a classic pop tune that wouldn't be out of place on an old '60s British invasion recording, though there is way too much country twang on this one for that to be the case. For whatever reason the British Invasion wasn't much for blues or country outside of The Kinks, but this is another thing Oasis (and most of Britpop, actually) did far far better than the forbearers. While the old guard were more interested in pop and chart hits, this younger wave of bands were more in love with classic forms and abandoned styles the record companies were attempting to erase. It is a shame that said things disappeared not long into the 21st century, but they were well alive here when this album was made.

The placement of She's Electric here as a beam of sunshine after the thematic low point of the record prevents the energy from stalling and allows the band to keep it moving forward. Which fits with what the song is actually about and the overall theme of the album which is moving on with hope despite things not looking too great in the now.

This is another old song saved for Morning Glory, but it definitely would not have fit on Definitely Maybe. Once more, this has a more timeless feel than anything on that album. Yet again, Noel knows how the medium works.

We then reach the title track which is, oddly enough, the only title track Oasis has ever done. No other album they've made has ever been named after one of their songs. but then again, Morning Glory is just that good of a song. They wouldn't have released it as a single if it wasn't! It's a good old fashioned rocker with plenty of energy to spare.

Named after a phrase a woman he met in America used (and one nobody else ever used, apparently) this is a tune that had the phrase shoehorned into it and the album title as a result. But it was worth it because the pure energy of the song and the lyrics about waking yourself up from a dead life, which is essentially what the entire album is about. The world is a grand place. Don't waste your life stewing about in the dark and letting the world roll you over. Get out there and experience everything for all it's worth.

I can attest to the quality of this song because I had it stuck my head for years. I still remember walking to my first day of seventh grade in September and having this playing in my brain the entire way there and the entire way back. I did this for months and I don't know why. sometimes music just sticks with you like that. This despite the song not being fresh in my head.

This would have actually been a great song to end the album with, if it wasn't for what came next.

After Morning Glory fades, we return to the pulsating blues of another Swamp Song excerpt before it melts away into a cascading sea drifting in endless space where everything else washes away. The sweeping waves of water are eventually all that is left, swooping in and out of your brain before it too fades away into the final (and best) song on an album full of classic tracks.

I'll just come out and say it, Champagne Supernova is the song that actually made me an Oasis fan (seeing that music video on TV also added to it) and has stuck with me since the first moment I heard it back on my CD copy. This track remains eternally embedded in my brain and I consider it one of the best songs of the 1990s and one of the best ever written. So once again, I can't be objective about it. I apologize.

There's nothing to say . . .

While it starts with a small nod towards the otherwise forgettable '60s pop song For What It's Worth by Buffalo Springfield (a song used for activism that isn't even about anything like that), Champagne Supernova starts low and muted before slowly picking up steam and energy and exploding into a full-out anthem before slowly drifting back down for the finale. It is a rollercoaster of emotions and manages to encapsulate everything great about Morning Glory, which is saying something because there is a lot of great things about Morning Glory.

There isn't any way to do this song justice without just telling you to listen to it, but the fact that it is nearly 8 minutes long and never once feels like it is through its entire runtime is proof as to how economical and sharp this piece actually is. The song needs those near eight minutes to reach its full potential, and that potential is massive.

While the song was originally referenced to be about drugs (the first verse seems to imply it) that is actually not the case at all. In fact, the line "Where were you while we were getting high?" has a double meaning in the context of the song. The first is that the song is about getting high of a cosmic sort--enjoying what life throws your way with everything you have and wondering what happens when you miss it. "Where were you while we were having fun?" essentially. That's what the band used to mean when they said it since they said it all the time. Were you using your time better than us? Were we using it right? How does it all fit together? What's it all for?

Life is full of mysteries and the track is essentially delving into this stuff. While the lyrics seem obscure, they are really playing with the concept of time and meaning. "Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball" is a line few get (including the man who wrote it!), but describes a man out of time wondering what is fast and what is slow and where he is headed. Drifting in the "Champagne Supernova" and looking down on your position on life can give you a new angle on what we are actually doing. Are we living our lives to our fullest or are we wasting our time? There's only one way to know, and that is to do it.

Getting trapped in a landslide in the sky is a contradiction unless he is speaking as someone unaware of where he actually is. Which the narrator doesn't, in the grand scheme of things. Someday we will die in a way we probably won't understand. But when that finally happens, will everything have been worth it? Will we have made the right decisions and choices? Will we have made the best of what we had? Was "getting high" (in either context) the right call? Could we have done something different, something better?

You can say I'm overthinking it, but this is how Noel Gallagher wrote songs back then. He obeyed his muse 100% to deliver them the best he knew how. And as a final statement on an album about reassessing the world around you and finding your place in it, this is the invaluable final piece of the puzzle. It's a song no one else could have written, created at a time when nothing like it was being written. As a result, it is quite simply a perfect pop song.

What's weirder is how the band came into the studio with the song unfinished, because one listen to it and it all just sounds inevitable. Every solo, every break, and even the singalong gang vocals. Everything just merges into one long epic pop tune that ends note perfect, just like the album began--another strum of an acoustic guitar.

And this is how you end one of the best albums ever made, with one of the best songs ever written, sealing it as a classic album that will live on for a quarter of a century so far.

However, that was not the impression when it first released. There is a lot of revisionism now, but early reaction to Morning Glory was very polarizing among critics and fans for not being essentially more of Definitely Maybe. It was too soft, too poppy for the Gen Xer fans. Among boomers it was a Beatles ripoff. Among music hipsters it was not "experimental" or arty enough. Basically, it was just another generic rock record.

But for those of us Gen Y kids it hit a mark that was hard to define. Morning Glory's masterful mashup of past with the present was unlike anything we had ever heard before and was a gateway for many of us into new subgenres of rock.

For me, it was the first album I ever purchased. I still own that very CD to this day, and where other albums have come and gone since for various reasons, Morning Glory remains one of my favorites and the favorite of many others who heard it back in 1995. It would go on to be the third highest selling record in the UK of all time which no album since has surpassed despite a quarter of a century passing. The singles remain iconic, unable to be overplayed despite many attempts to do so. The production is pitch perfect. The compositions are note perfect. The art is basic, not flashy at all, and that is also what makes it perfect. It is what it is--honest. And we connected hard with it.

The album stood the test of time and has joined the ranks of the best ever made. Britpop would die only a few short years later, as would eventually the entire British music scene by the end of the '00s. In fact, the industry seemed to die with Oasis itself. There isn't really any scene anymore.

Now, Oasis weren't your typical one and done pop band. They kept the train going until 2009 when Noel and Liam finally had enough of each other and pulled the plug--but they weren't treading water that whole time. In fact, their career after Morning Glory is rather fascinating.

It goes without saying that Oasis was the biggest band in the world in 1996. Two monster hit classic albums, scores of top shelf B-sides, and very public figures, made them the center of the music world. It also led to a lot of bad decisions.

In late 1997, Oasis released their third album, Be Here Now, which was an instant success out of the gate and one of the fastest selling albums ever. Until it wasn't anymore. Because its sales tapered off. It did this because the album wasn't very good. In fact, it was bad. It remains to this day their worst album, and it almost killed their entire career. All in one fell swoop out of nowhere. It was actually stunning how fast it happened.

The best way I can illustrate the reaction to Be Here Now is my own reaction to it, getting it on a family summer vacation back in 1997 when I just happened to see it new at a music store. You have no idea how excited I was at the time to pick it up. Since we didn't have ways of knowing when new stuff came out at the time, I felt fortunate to be there when it first came out. It wasn't everyday when you were there for new albums when they came out.

So I put the album in the player and the very first song was a near eight minutes dirge of noise, shuffling drums, and no forward momentum at all and no real hooks to latch onto. It was like it was the anti-Champagne Supernova in how it got everything wrong that the older song got right. To this day I still can't listen to that song without wondering what Noel was thinking when he wrote it, why it was the first track, and why we needed 400 layers of over-processed distorted guitars grinding in my brain like a lumberjack saw without rhyme or reason. It goes without saying that it was bad.

Now, if this was just one song, then that could be forgiven and we could move on to the rest. However, like I said before, Oasis always used the first track to set mood, even if it wasn't the best song composition-wise. So perhaps the rest would be better. Hello was the worst song on Morning Glory, after all. But Hello was still a good song.

The issue with Be Here Now is that every single song except a small handful are like that first track. You can tell the band fell hard into drugs at this point because the album is pure nonsense that makes no coherent sense. It's too loud, has too many layers of noise, the lyrics are actually about nothing even in the context of the song, and the tracks are too long and have no structural reason to be so. It's an overindulgent bloated mess of an album that took the rest of the world a year or two to admit what I did on that first listen--Be Here Now is a terrible album. And there was no reason for it to be as bad as it was.

To be fair, I am not going to say that it was totally worthless. Somehow, a small handful of songs escaped production slaughter, particularly the ballads Don't Go Away and Stand By Me which are among the very best songs Oasis ever wrote, and All Around the World (written years earlier but saved for when the band had a budget to record it) remains one of their top ten tunes. So there is gold to be mined here.

Why wasn't this the first single?

But three great songs do not save a twelve song album that is over 70 minutes long. There is a reason these are the only singles on the album, in other words. None of the others were anywhere near good enough to be one. As a result of Be Here Now, the band's fortunes were changing.

By 1999, Bonehead and Paul had left the band, Liam and Noel were disappearing into drugs, and the band was quickly becoming a punchline, especially with the rise of angst rock and emo--music Oasis was very much not. Not to mention their record label closed and their producer had left. For all intents and purposes, the era Oasis came up in no longer existed. They considered hanging it up, but thankfully did not. Instead, they changed their approach.

Essentially, their fourth album, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is a reboot of the band. Only the three remaining members (Noel, Liam, and Alan) play on the album, their sound is now a deliberate step away from the Britpop they used to play towards a more modern stripped down sound with elements of world, electronic, and more psychedelic influence with different varieties of instruments. In other words, it is a conscious step away from the mistakes of Be Here Now.

As a result you get the first Oasis album one can merely classify as good. It is not a classic like the first two, nor is it a disaster on the level of Be Here Now. It's just merely a good rock album with some good tunes. And considering it released in the creative dead zone year of 2000, it was a welcome one.

Even though their fourth record didn't set the world on fire it did allow the band to rewrite course and redirect the ship out of tumultuous waters. They soon received two new members in the form of Andy Bell (from the shoegaze band Ride) and Gem Archer who would stick with them until the band's dissolution in 2009. They even played in Liam's post-Oasis band Beady Eye together and Gem plays with Noel to this day (Andy went back to Ride) which shows just how embedded they became in the band during the '00s.

But Noel did eventually say that the problem with this album (and probably the next one, to be honest) was that he had no real passion making music at the time and just wrote because he was expected to put out songs. While he still cranked out some great tunes during this period, it was clear he was exhausted creatively, especially after quitting drugs. This is why after this album, Liam, Gem, and Andy, all contributed songs to the band which helped reinvigorate Noel's passion for making music since he had a friendly competition to outdo them.

The follow-up album, Heathen Chemistry, was the first where songwriting duties were split and also the last with drummer Alan White. Noel only wrote six of the eleven songs and as a result his concentration on a smaller pool of tunes allowed for a more focused effort with The Hindu Times, Little By Little, Stop Crying Your Heart Out, and Force of Nature, being great. The other band members contributed as well, with Liam actually emerging as quite a surprising songwriter with untapped talent. His track Songbird, specifically, might be the best track on the entire album. As a whole, though, it was just another good album from Oasis, though considering how dry the '00s was for rock it was still a good listen. This was another step in the right direction, but it wasn't quite on track yet.

But then in 2005 Oasis dropped their sixth record, Don't Believe the Truth, an album that most definitely on track. Because not only was Noel on fire again, but so was Liam also putting out bangers, his songwriting skills fully blossoming. This is the album the band had needed to put out since Morning Glory, and it was and remains a legitimately great record to this day. As for who drummed on it, well, they managed to get Zak Starkey, of all people. Turns out he was a great choice. He also drummed on their last album.

I still remember picking this one up for the first time. After getting past the mood setting, but quite good, opening track by Andy Bell, Turn Up the Sun, I was treated to Noel's first song on the album, Mucky Fingers. What I viscerally remember was my experience as the song was going along that my mood felt itself rise from cautious optimism to glee as it went on. It was a feeling I don't think I'll ever quite forget.

That feeling stuck with me for the whole album. Oasis were back! They finally got the spark back.

Only the second track

Noel's songs on Don't Believe the Truth were all easily equivalents to Noel's best ones, and that's saying something. Mucky Fingers, Part of the Queue, Let There Be Love, Lyla, and The Importance of Being Idle, are all incredible pieces that run the gamut from rockers to ballads and show a level of craft he hadn't been exhibiting in years. There was quite a bit of passion clearly put into these. He was on fire again.

At the same time, Liam especially had hit his stride as a songwriter. While Noel's songs were the best he'd written in years, Liam's were the best he had written so far period. He co-wrote the infectious Love Like a Bomb with Gem Archer, the quick and cool romp of The Meaning of Soul, and the surprisingly effective and meditative Guess God Thinks I'm Abel, which could almost be confused with a Noel track. Andy's songs too were the best he had written for the band so far with opening track Turn Up the Sun setting the mood and Keep the Dream Alive also feeling close to a tune Noel would write. It's a collection of great songs where every member felt like they were giving their all. It isn't quite like any record Oasis had made before.

As a whole, the album is cohesive with many individual great moments that turn into a legitimately great rock n roll record that is on par with their early work even if it is much different in execution. They could never have made an album like this in 1995, and that's a good thing. It showed that Oasis was more than the 1990s and had more to give.

But all good things must come to an end, and Oasis is no different. Though the band's second wind was strong, it couldn't last forever. And it didn't.

After the surprise success of Don't Believe the Truth, Oasis reconvened for another album, this would be 2008's Dig Out Your Soul, which would turn out to be the band's seventh and last record. This time where the previous album was more stripped down and back to basics, the next would be big and bombastic. Essentially, it would be like a redo of Be Here Now. That might have been worrying if they were the same band they were a decade prior.

The best way to describe Dig Our Your Soul is exactly like the above as a second go at the kitchen sink approach of Be Here Now, but I would go a step further and say it is also that album's opposite in every way, including quality-wise.

Like Be Here Now, Dig Out Your Soul is a dense album sound-wise, but the songs support the beefier production. The songs here are big sonically with swirling drums, tense basslines, and twanging guitars that sound like a hard rock band playing psychedelia by way of traditional country and blues. Unlike that old album from 1997, everything is layered for a purpose and it helps the impact of the songs allowing them to hit harder with a heavy weight.

It's also a big album conceptually. Where their 1997 effort was completely empty, their 2008 album is brimming with ideas. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the album's (and band's) final single, Falling Down. Noel writes about tripping and tumbling into despair in such a way that he manages to still retain hope despite it and the experience is gripping the whole way through.

"It's all that I've ever known"

In fact, all of his songs on this album are about such things. Noel wrote six of the eleven songs, with five of them on the first side, and all are about his place in the universe. It's quite an unexpected but very welcome turn for the band that a decade ago were singing songs about magic pies and dirty shirts under grating over-processed guitar noise and seven minute song lengths. Here, despite the ambition, everything is carefully crafted and given the attention it deserves.

But somehow the other band members managed to once again keep up with Noel, not just in quality but thematically. Liam's tracks hew eerily close to the same subjects Noel does, even in the titles (I'm Outta Time, Ain't Got Nothing, and Soldier On) and the other members doing the same with Gem's song titled To Be Where There's Life and Andy's The Nature of Reality. Where did all this heavy introspection come from? It was the logical place to end up.

Unfortunately, it was not to last, as the band called it quits not half a year after Falling Down was released as a single. But what a note to end on. Dig Out Your Soul was the type of album a band like Oasis always had in them and it was great to hear them finally put it out there. As far as final albums go you could do far worse. Most have. It's better to leave them wanting more than to leave on a low. It makes the recent talk over the band make more sense in retrospect.

While the Gallagher brothers might have found themselves with successful solo careers afterwards, as did Gem and Andy, one can't say the same for the British music scene. Oasis was more or less the last big band still standing when they called it quits in 2009. Whatever remains now is the same sludge that infected and choked out the American and Canadian music industries years back, and pretty much every other one in the west, with corporate-mandated sludge made in a factory on computers. The old industry is gone now.

But that is just the nature of things, isn't it? We don't know what's coming next or where we're going after this but what is important is that we keep soldiering on through it. Oasis showed it themselves how to find yourself even when lost in the muck--there is always a way out into better days. We just have to soldier on through the dark times and head towards the brighter ones. There is a plan in all this madness, we just don't see it yet.

One day we will. Until then, enjoy the ride. Who knows where you'll end up?

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