Oasis: Standing On the Shoulder of Giants
Purchased: Sam the Record Man, 1999
Key Tracks: F@!#in’ in the Bushes, Go Let It Out, Who Feels Love?, Gas Panic!, Sunday Morning Call, Roll it Over
This little bluey, huey gem was released in the aftermath of the collapse of Oasis-mania and Britpop, in the autumn of 1999. It hardly made a dent in the charts and in sales this side of the Atlantic but upon my first listen to it in the waning months of the last millennium, I was taken to another place entirely…after the bombast and ridiculous genius of “Be Here Now”, this was, as far as Oasis goes, a hard left turn into a more overtly psychedelic musical expression. From the opening drum crack on the intro instrumental “F@#!kin’ in the Bushes”, I knew that this was a very different Oasis album. Don’t get me wrong, Noel Gallagher’s songwriting is still anchored in hooks galore and lyrics that venture from straight up (“I Can See A Liar”) to inane (“Gas Panic!”). It’s just that this whole affair sounds tired and burned out (which likely the principals in Oasis were at this point, having just come off an incredibly potent streak of success and media attention). It is in this very exhaustion that this album finds its slow spun genius. A track like “Who Feels Love?” would never have made the cut on the first three Oasis albums…it’s simply to trippy and weed-bitten. The harmonies in the song, as well as the arrangement (complete with synths, tabla drums and backward looped guitar) make for a lulling musical experience. It is easily one of my all-time favorite Oasis tracks.
While Noel Gallagher takes the lead on three songs on the album, it is “Sunday Morning Call” that is his finest five on this Shoulder Standing excursion. His voice and his cadence are in such tender stark contrast to his brothers’…Which is not to take anything away from Liam (who’s voice is, love him or hate him, easily one of the most immediately recognizable in the last 25 years). Noel’s voice provides reassurance while Liam’s suggests an ominous threat, even at its most tender. To hear Noel gently sing “It’s ok, it’s alright” is to feel deep down inside that it will be just that.
The final track on the album, “Roll it Over” is a majestically misty closing number. It seems to encapsulate just about everything that is right about the album, from the gut wrenching chorus, to the loping distant feel of the drum track (Drummer Alan White is wonderfully just behind the beat for most of the album, lending a sense of dissociation to the whole affair).
I’ve made mention of my appreciation of albums whose cover art is directly suggestive of the music inside. I have to say that I can think of no stronger example of this phenomenon. This album has stuck with me with more strength and veracity than any other Oasis album…guess that makes me a hipster?