POP / Albums: Anthems for a disaffected youth

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The Independent Online
OASIS

Definitely Maybe

(Creation CRE CD 169)

THE UK can still always be relied upon to throw up a classic world-beating guitar band every few years. Manchester's Oasis are the latest, and the best for some time, a clear cut above such relatively recent contenders as Suede and Stone Roses (remember them?).

Like any self-respecting guitar-pop band, Oasis have a thousand influences, all of them as British as bangers and mash. The songwriter Noel Gallagher clearly has a magpie sensibility for musical textures and phrases, although not all of them are as blatantly reminiscent as the single 'Shakermaker' is of a surlier 'I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing'. But what makes Oasis more than just pop-pastiche makers in the House of Love / World Party mould is the authentic air of sullen youth that Gallagher's brother Liam brings to the vocals.

'Rock 'n' Roll Star', for instance, opens the album with a brash, lippy assertion of status, cocky where most indie-pop is fey and apologetic; and though the Marc Bolan groove of 'Cigarettes & Alcohol' taps into the bulging vein of disaffected youth sensibilities by asking 'Is it worth the aggravation to find yourself a job when there's nothing worth working for?', there's a hefty emphasis on personal responsibility in the chorus assertion that 'You've got to make it happen'. The title Definitely Maybe may well come from the science fiction novel of the same name by the Russian Strugatsky brothers, in which the universe forcefully exerts its natural equilibrium over a world thrown out of balance: here, the Gallagher brothers are offering their own reassertion of pop's natural order, lavishing upon it generous dollops of British spunk.

BOBBY WOMACK

Resurrection

(Continuum CDCTUM 8)

THOUGH not quite a resurrection, Bobby Womack's new album is certainly something of a return to form, particularly following a difficult period in the singer's life, which has seen him suffer divorce, the death of a brother and the suicide of a son. It's almost as if the cumulative tribulations - not to mention kicking booze, drugs and ciggies - have sharpened his creative instincts to a point not achieved since his last halcyon period in the early Eighties, which produced the two Poet albums.

It's not quite up to that standard: the occasional incongruous rap-style break- beat sneaks in here and there, and there's a tendency throughout Resurrection towards dense arrangements which crowd out his voice, obscuring the grain of that great instrument. This is especially annoying on 'Don't Break Your Promise', a duet featuring Rod Stewart on counterpoint vocals, when a huge choir muscles its way in for the chorus. This song, and the preceding 'So High on Your Love' also feature his earliest patrons, Rolling Stones Ronnie, Keith and Charlie, just part of an impressive guest-list which includes Stevie Wonder, Ronald Isley and sundry other Womacks.

Apart from a few misguided arrangements, however, Resurrection is close to classic Bobby Womack, a series of soul- sermons whose spoken intros plug the songs into the everyday realities of love and life. It leaves an impression of Womack being all the more cognisant, in the face of death, of his position as the last of a generation of great soul voices.

FATIMA MANSIONS

Lost in the Former West

(Radioactive / Kitchenware KWCD 25)

'THE KING of the Papists is a friend to the rapists / and the upside-down Crucifixion squad,' howls Fatima Mansions's Cathal Coughlan on 'Popemobile to Paraguay', a lanced boil of anti-clerical vitriol which makes Sinead O'Connor seem like the Pope's best chum.

As an all-purpose, pan-continental political rant, it has to be admitted that this takes some beating, but it's just par for the course on Lost in the Former West, where Gatling-gun counterblasts of disgust are harnessed to barrages of loud, punky guitar. It's a recipe which leads Coughlan into shaky territory: he's in danger of turning into Matt Johnson, another ranter upon the world's infelicities who uses his songs as soapboxes, though Coughlan is a vastly more accomplished and poetic lyricist.

Compared with the diversity of 1992's Valhalla Avenue, this leans a little too heavily on the brute appeal of loud guitars, with just the occasional ruminative piano piece for lighter relief - even Scott Walker's 'Nite Flights' is covered in cacophonous guitar. The effect is to blunt the acuity of Coughlan's observations, which remain as vinegary as ever. For now, let's place the blame on the producer (and ex-Talking Head) Jerry Harrison, and hope for better next time.

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