Review Summary: Dig Out Your Soul doesn’t have the same anthemic quality as every other Oasis album, and truthfully never attempts to.
For almost a decade now, it has been customary this side of the Atlantic to hail every new Oasis album as the band’s best effort since 1996’s iconic (What’s The Story?) Morning Glory
; even the much-maligned Be Here Now
, though it was lauded at the time, won by default, being as it was the only
album since 1996’s iconic (What’s The Story?} Morning Glory
. In truth, the band never really recovered from the fall-out endured amid the coke-fuelled haze of Be Here Now
- ever the crowd-pleasers, the Gallagher brothers more or less dug their heels in and concentrated on satisfying their still immense fanbase without much regard for the wider world. America, always a smidge baffled by the band’s essential Britishness, has continued to quietly (but dismissively) applaud each subsequent effort, while the British media’s Gallagher fascination has cooled to the point where they can actually bear to discuss the music every now and then.
Which brings us to Dig Out Your Soul
. In many ways it’s a typical Oasis album insofar as the vast majority of it sounds like Oasis music past, is swamped in Beatles references, and has all the subtlety of a sledgehammer to the face. On the other hand, apart from lead single ‘Shock Of The Lightning’ and a couple of notable others, Dig Out Your Soul
doesn’t have the same anthemic quality as every other Oasis album, and truthfully never attempts to; even 2000’s stab at soft psychedelia, Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants
, lives and dies on the strength of its choruses. Dig Out Your Soul
is a whole ‘nother beast entirely; it is to Oasis what India was to the Beatles (Oasis are unfairly over-compared to their spiritual forebears, but this comparison is undoubtedly warranted): a free pass to discuss deep metaphysical topics without being held accountable to anything resembling reason or good sense. To put it in a more modern context: making Dig Out Your Soul
has been, for Oasis, the equivalent of listening to a Tool album while stoned and mistaking it for something meaningful.
Musically, the first half of Dig Out Your Soul
occupies a soft spot between Be Here Now
and Heathen Chemistry
, comprising loud and sludgy rockers, and is dominated by the elder Gallagher. The latter half sees the group indulge their psychedelic pretensions a little more openly with contributions by all four main members. Opener ‘Bag It Up’ sets the tone nicely; Noel’s guitar tone is crunchy as he clumsily-on-purpose plays around with a simple sliding power chord motif, while brother Liam is audibly excited to be singing on a record for the first time in three years. Setting a template for the rest of the record, the lyrics are a jumble of nonsense, but do their job effectively provided the listener doesn’t attempt to read any sort of meaning into them. So goes the chorus, “Lay your love on the fire when you come on in / I’ve got my heebie-jeebies in a hidden bag.”
Is it a cocaine reference? Who knows, but the rest of the album sure is!
In some perverted sort of way, the second half of the album will probably be remembered by future generations as the half-hour or so when Oasis attempted, briefly, to think outside of the box. It hurts your reviewer to reduce Oasis to mere proponents of the dinosaur rock genre given the effect the band had on his musical education and his formative years, but it’s an unavoidable reality that the band struggle more or less any time they step outside their comfort zone. Gem Archer’s contribution, ‘To Be Where There’s Life,’ is just as awkward a record as its title would suggest: sitars wangle earnestly in the background and, like much of the record, the song itself sits atop a solid bass-and-percussion groove, but Liam’s elongated, Lennon-esque drawl fails to disguise the song’s complete lack of a melody. Comparisons with Harrison’s ‘Within You, Without You’ will invariably be offered, but for all his failings, very little of George Harrison’s material could be filed away in a box alongside Kula Shaker outtakes.The ‘Helter Skelter’-like beginnings of Andy Bell’s sole writing credit, ‘The Nature Of Reality,’ augur well, but his subsequent musings on, well, the nature of reality
would probably have been best kept to himself.
Liam has slowly evolved into a songwriter of real renown- by no means a prolific one, but one with the power to connect with his audience in the most basic and effective way- but of his three contributions to Dig Out Your Soul
, only one measures up to the likes of ‘Songbird’ and ‘Guess God Thinks I’m Abel.’ Closer ‘Soldier On’ does in five minutes what Lennon could do it two, tacking vague nuggets like ”hold the line friend of mine”
and ”sing a song”
onto a stoner’s dream bass groove that sits somewhere between Abbey Road
and the Verve’s ‘Catching That Butterfly.’ ‘I’m Outta Time,’ quite to the contrary, ranks among the greatest in the Oasis canon. Like the aforementioned tracks, ‘I’m Outta Time’ works because it is so achingly simple. Liam’s lyrics milk the rhyming dictionary for all it’s worth, as is the Gallagher way, but they’re honest and vulnerable in a way the singer’s public persona would never seem to allow: ”If I should fall, would you be there to applaud? / Or would you hide behind them all?”
It’s no shame for Liam to remind his public once in a while that he’s more than just an unsentimental oaf.
The rest of the album is, for better or worse, Oasis by numbers: never spectacular, and never short of a fortuitous Beatles reference either. Lead single ‘The Shock Of The Lightning’ gets off on the cringe-worthy couplet, ”love is a time machine, up on the silver screen / love is a litany, a magical mystery.”
That lyric, or any number of others, sums up exactly what’s wrong with Dig Out Your Soul
: one thing that could always be counted upon with Oasis was honest, occasionally brute force honesty if the situation warranted it. Dig Out Your Soul
tackles higher concepts haphazardly, such is the case with Bell’s eyeball-rolling ‘The Nature Of Reality,’ and more often abandons the idea of writing about anything at all, and the result is an album that manages to be self-indulgent without ever showing much ambition. Dig Out Your Soul
isn’t the worst record Oasis have produced, but even the heavily shat-upon (an unfairly so, in this writer’s opinion) Heathen Chemistry
was comfortable within its own skin.