Review Summary: Searching for brilliance
In 1995, Oasis' sophomore album, (What's the Story), Morning Glory
not only became one of the biggest records of all time in the band's home country of the United Kingdom, but it also successfully crossed the Atlantic and produced two legitimate hits in the United States. This is a feat that, even with the advance of technology and the internet, is rarely achieved to this day for many bands from Europe. After the massive success of singles like “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova,” “Don't Look Back In Anger,” and “Some Might Say,” and riding a wave of cocaine and sonic noise, the band returned two years later with Be Here Now
in 1997. While it was initially praised as the best album since Sgt. Pepper's
, Be Here Now was a bloated, loud, obnoxious mess of an album that clocked in at a clunky, and somehow almost insulting 72 minutes, and has been blamed in large part for the death of Brit-Pop. A musical era that had ruled Britain for more than four years had abruptly come to an end.
Oasis largely disappeared for the last part of the decade they had once ruled with an iron fist. Facing constant rumors of their break up, publicity from harsh tabloids, and the eventual negative reaction of their latest release, a break was certainly in the offing. As the millennium rang in, and it became time to release a follow up, expectations were still high for the band to see how they would adapt to the changing musical landscape that they had once unquestionably stood on top of.
As it turns out, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants
, their fourth release, plays through like the sound of a band beginning to change its ways, albeit slowly. Unlike its predecessor, which had seven long songs, only three of the songs on this album break or come close to six minutes, and the majority fall within the high four minute range, bringing the total album length to a reasonable, but still long 52 minutes. For many die-hard Oasis fans, the album features some of the best songs that the band had made: “Go Let It Out” features a rolling bass line that triumphantly picks the song off its feet, “Who Feels Love” is a George Harrison-esque, bongo infused zone out that successfully combines melody with experimentation, and “Where Did It All Go Wrong” is a classic anthem sung by Noel Gallagher that does not have the lyrical mastery of some of their previous anthems, but gets the job done anyways. Finally, “Let's All Make Believe.” a bonus track on the album, like many of Oasis' b-sides, should have been included on the main release, and gives the listener a taste of Oasis combining their accumulated strengths, instrumental simplicity and experimentation, and a great melody.
However, for every step forward on this album, there is a step backwards. The album suffers from poor tracking, the most notorious example being “Sunday Morning Call,” which sounds like a subtle rewrite of “Where Did It All Go Wrong,” and happens to follow it in the track listing, essentially stalling the listener and dragging the album on. Both “Roll It Over” and “Little James” have interesting sounds to them, playing with echoing guitars and affected choirs, but the former suffers from repetition problems, and the latter suffers from terrible lyrics. And while the sonic noise of Be Here Now
is almost completely absent from this release, “Gas Panic” brings some of those terrible memories back.
Standing on the Shoulder of Giants
is a solid effort that absolutely a step up from the cocaine romp that was Be Here Now
, but it is in no way anywhere close to the sheer brilliance of their first two albums. It features some mild experimentation in the musical arrangements, some solid and distortion free melodies and some decent anthems, but in the end, it suffers from many of the same problems (tracklisting, excess track length, some truly terrible lyrics), that Be Here Now