Sounding like a classic isn't necessarily the same as being one

Making it all seem so easy could be the problem with the new Oasis album. By Nicholas Barber
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Indy Lifestyle Online
Oasis records can be a let-down. You listen in vain for an ingredient you haven't been expecting, something that isn't puffed up by its own hype. You wait for a glint of magic, a subtle note, a turn of phrase which is new and honest, not recycled and self-aggrandising. You keep hoping for something that's not quite so Oasis. "D'you know what I mean", the band's latest single, was presented as a bold departure, but its changes were cosmetic - the special effects could have been grafted onto any of the band's earlier songs. Helicopter rotor blades, backwards tapes and a 7 minute running time do not a ground breaking Radiohead epic make. No, it was just an Oasis track with delusions of grandeur.

You could say the same about the rest of Be Here Now. The jazz interludes and teetering heaps of guitars don't sound like a band that's progressed, but like a band that's pretending it has; copying Sgt Pepper arrangements is not the same as matching them. Be Here Now plays a similar trick to The English Patient - all that symphonic swelling and those sweeping desert shots served to boast what a classic film it was rather than to make it a classic film. The plan was that if you were reminded of Lawrence of Arabia often enough you might not notice that the manipulative trappings left you unmoved. Returning to Oasis, the overblown orchestration and Noel Gallagher's button-pushing vocal harmonies are as false and cliched as, to pick a chorus at random, "Don't go away/say what you say/say that you'll stay/forever and a day."

A different producer might have helped - or else just some humility. Noel has nominated "All Around The World" as one of the best songs ever written, and it certainly acts as if it is, what with the enormous "Hey Jude"-style coda that lasts longer than the rest of the song. But it still sounds like Robbie Williams performing a cross between Oasis's "Whatever" and Katrina and the Waves' Eurovision winner.

Oasis records can be a let-down, then, because they lack a sense of perspective. They can be a let-down because the music looks sheepish and insignificant next to the band's mountainous sales. But the principle reason that they can be a let-down is that Oasis make what they do seem so easy. Noel has never recorded a composition that most of his contemporaries wouldn't be proud of, and Liam has never recorded a vocal that didn't do his brother's compositions justice so you quickly take the music for granted and assume that songs of this strength are the norm. A heady explosive, singalong anthem sticks in your mind, and you think, yup, its just another Oasis number.

But the fact is there are great songs here. From Oasis, "My Big Mouth" and "It's Getting Better (Man)" seem like Definitely Maybe rehashes, but in any other context they'd be embraced as peerlessly exhilarating rock'n'roll. The title track is a glittery new wave/glam rock hybrid. "Don't Go Away" looks set to join "Wonderwall" and "Live Forever" in the bumper book of buskers' favourites, and the swampy slide guitars on "Fade In-Out" suggest Noel may yet write a song which the buskers can't master so easily. If Be Here Now is any kind of let-down, it's only because we already knew Oasis were capable of it. What we still don't know is whether they're getting better, man.

Oasis: Be Here Now (Creation, CD/double LP/tape, out on Thurs).

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