Review Summary: Heathen Chemistry shows that Oasis still had the skills to release number one singles in their home country, but not much else.
Like the cover of their fifth studio album, Heathen Chemistry
, Oasis' popularity around the world was a bit murky by 2002. For most people outside of the United Kingdom, the year 1997 is where the metaphorical music stops in terms of their knowledge about the band. The men who were once part of one of the biggest bands in the world had lost most of their popularity outside of the UK due to the two albums released since the multi platinum (What's the Story), Morning Glory?
. Be Here Now
, the band's third album, was an exercise on how to not use cocaine and record popular music, and their fourth, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants
, while modestly experimental, and better overall, failed to impress critics and listeners alike. There was obviously a lot more at stake for Oasis; a failure this time around most likely meant a break up. With two of the original members already gone, and the brothers Gallagher still constantly bickering, things were not looking good to say the least.
Desperate times call for desperate measures, so to speak. And Heathen Chemistry
is just that. Desperate. Sometimes this sort of “throw everything at the wall and see what sticks” mentality works out for a band in the end, but for Oasis, Heathen Chemistry
just looked like the beginning of the end. More specifically, to Noel and Liam Gallagher, desperation meant striving once again for that worldwide hit, and nothing else. The album, more than any other Oasis album, is chock full of generic, radio ready hooks, and very little else in terms of quality. There are times that a flicker of genius shines through, such as in “The Hindu Times” and its unbelievably catchy guitar lick. Noel Gallagher shows he still has the ability to create a magnificent sweeping ballad with “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” and especially “Little By Little,” which is a live staple of his to this day. And Liam chips in with his first single “Songbird,” which, while not truly memorable in any way, is a nice acoustic hand-clapping song that breaks up Noel's ballads.
All of the songs that I have mentioned thus far are on the first half of the album, and if the first side had been released as a stand alone EP, it probably would have been mostly acclaimed. I am not saying that songs like “Hung in a Bad Place” or “Force of Nature” are brilliant pieces of work, but they mostly are used as inoffensive filler that end up fading away behind the centerpieces of the album. It goes without saying that things start to go really awry on the second half of the album. The generous hooks that Oasis front-loaded onto the album make the second half of the album look like slightly pompous garbage in their absence. “She Is Love” another song with lead vocals from Noel, simultaneously sounds like both the lyrics and its corresponding arrangement were merely an afterthought, but, is somehow one of the stronger songs on the back side. Other than that, there aren't many high points, or low points to that matter. By the time you get to the Magical Mystery Tour
knock off “(Probably) All in the Mind,” things just kind of run together in what can only be termed as the typical Oasis mess: plenty of potential, plenty of guitars, but lack of execution.
Whether or not the weaknesses on the album are due to a lack of originality, or a lack of ideas remains unknown. Heathen Chemistry
shows that the band still had the skills to release number one singles in their home country, but not much else. As it turns out, “Heathen Chemistry” perfectly defines the album. There are some truly remarkable, and memorable songs on this album, (the band had chemistry), but also some horrifically boring ones that come off as being contrived, generic, and desperate radio filler (the band were heathens). Regardless of its title, weighing the pros and cons, this album simply comes off as being nothing more than “just another average Oasis album.”