ARTS

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June 3, 2005

Liam, Noel quit fighting to record best CD in years

Liam Gallagher, the brash, arrogant, incomprehensible lead singer of Oasis, doesn't like the current crop of U.K. rock bands. With a quote that will undoubtedly offend the musical tastes of 75 percent of students here at the U of C, Gallagher said of Alex Kapranos, lead singer of Franz Ferdinand, "He reminds me of fucking Right Said Fred. You put on ‘I'm Too Sexy for My Fucking Thing' next to their records and I bet you any money it's the same person. He's just been on the Atkins Diet and grown his hair! I don't like quirky, weird music. It's not my cup of tea—all that nonsense, million-miles-an-hour music that's not going anywhere."

Despite the classic status of Oasis's first two albums, it's tough to take any of their critiques of the current U.K. rock scene seriously. While Franz Ferdinand and Bloc Party have stormed across the Atlantic, winning the hearts of fans and critics alike, Oasis hasn't made a ripple here since 1997's Be Here Now. Even that album had listeners divided; it was either viewed as a coked-out masterpiece or simply coked-out.

But after two mediocre, boring albums, Oasis is back with a vengeance. Don't Believe the Truth is a swaggering collection of exciting, confident, and flat-out wonderfully written songs that might once again legitimize Oasis's claim to the U.K. rock throne.

Songwriting duties no longer belong solely to dictator Noel Gallagher. Bassist Andy Bell contributed two songs and guitarist Gem added one. And in a very welcome surprise, singer Liam penned three that might very well rank as the top songs on the album. In addition to the varied songwriting, Don't Believe the Truth sees Oasis doing what it does best: ripping off the greats. Hell, if you're going to wear your influences on your sleeve, why not make them the very best?

"Mucky Fingers" is the Velvet Underground's "I'm Waiting for the Man" with Noel Gallagher doing his best Dylan vocal impression. Lead single "Lyla" is the polite little brother of the Rolling Stones's "Street Fighting Man."

"Guess God Thinks I'm Abel" is most certainly one of Don't Believe the Truth's highlights. Acoustic guitars are layered over shakers, tambourines, and soft drum thumps. Written and sung by Liam, it sounds so sincere and so genuine that you can't help but to get wrapped up in it. After the second (and last) chorus, he sings, "No one can take us/ No one can break us/ If we try," with psychedelic backing vocals sounding like they were done by a Sgt. Pepper's-era John Lennon.

As the song seemingly fades out, the electric guitar reverb crescendos, and suddenly the song is in the midst of a full-blown anthem—but only for six seconds. Liam sings, "Come on home/ We'll make it tonight" over layers of guitar and drums, and the song simply ends. Perhaps the Oasis of old would have turned the song into an overblown epic, but hearing just that short snippet is incredibly invigorating. It's abrupt. It's shocking. It makes your heart skip a beat. And it leaves you glued to your headphones wanting to hear more.

"Part of the Queue" follows, with Noel diverting from the standard Oasis sound. His ode to the anonymity of city life features legendary Cuban percussionist Lenny Castro wailing on his drums as Noel repeats the line, "Keep on trying." It still sounds like Oasis, but the layered texture and rhythm of the song breathe new life into Noel's songwriting.

Before recording Don't Believe the Truth, former drummer Alan White was replaced by Ringo Starr offspring Zak Starkey (as if there haven't been enough Beatles comparisons over the years). Ringo Jr.'s brash pounding is primitive, but it sounds huge. He's Keith Moon's replacement, for crying out loud!

Starkey's pulsating thumping during "The Meaning of Soul"—Liam's 90-second raw, acoustic punk—often overpowers the guitars, but it wouldn't sound right any other way. His huge drumming and Liam's classic raspy snarl on "Turn Up the Sun" make the boldest statement of any album opener since Morning Glory's "Hello."

Don't Believe the Truth marks a new era for the Oasis lads. Sure, they still sound like Oasis, but they finally sound fresh. There's no overdone production or overblown anthems on Don't Believe the Truth—the texture is simple, layered, and effortless. The shift to a democratic songwriting process has resulted in new and familiar sounds all at once.

Album closer "Let There Be Love" features the first-ever album duet between Noel and Liam. It's a slow ballad, where Lennon-esque piano and handclaps abound—a fitting close to a rock-solid album. Trendy U.K. bands, take note: Oasis is going back to the top where it belongs.