In an interview prior to the release of Dig Out Your Soul, the ever-eloquent Liam Gallagher, Oasis’ front man and one of Britain’s leading authorities on Spongebob Squarepants, was quick to latch onto a journalists suggestion that the seventh Oasis album would be in the same league as Revolver, the seventh album by the Beatles. Meanwhile his brother and de-facto band leader Noel was equally as quick to tell anyone who would listen that what the new album contained was based around grooves and that there were no real singles on it. These were big words and suggested that Dig Out Your Soul would be completely different to any previous Oasis album, long after most music critics had written the Gallagher brothers off as formulaic and unable to learn new tricks. So the big question is does Dig Out Your Soul actually deliver on the lofty promises of its creators or is it simply more of the same?
In short, all but the most churlish critics will be able to see that Dig Out Your Soul is a completely different proposition to the rest of Oasis’ back-catalogue. With the possible exception of lead-off single ‘Shock Of The Lightning’ (their previous single ‘Hindu Times’ without a chorus) nothing on this album sounds like the bespoke dad-rock that has been filling up Oasis albums since the over the top Be Here Now. Although it would just not be true to say there has been a monumental stylistic leap between Don’t Believe The Truth and Dig Out Your Soul, there is an immediately different feel to the album, familiarly Oasis but at the same time the ante has been upped.
Many of the new songs have an unmistakable baggy groove, reminiscent of both Oasis’ early influences and their second single ‘Shakermaker’. The shadow of the Stone Roses also hangs heavy over opener ‘Bag It Up’ and ‘Soldier On’ which sound like distant cousins of ‘Love Spreads’ and ‘I Am The Resurrection’ respectively. Elsewhere things are markedly psychedelic most notably on ‘To Be Where There’s Life’ which features a droning sitar, phased vocals and (probably) the ghost of George Harrison. Elsewhere there are many subtle touches such as the exquisitely recorded vocals and pulsing organs that give each song a richness that recent Oasis tracks often missed. The record sounds huge, but beneath the bluster this is without a doubt the most sonically crafted Oasis have yet recorded. Whilst Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story)Morning Glory were just loud and primal rock and roll records, Dig Out Your Soul has something else about it and although it’s not better than those first two, it is a record that shows Oasis are capable of artistic growth.
However the biggest revelation of the album comes on the much-heralded, Liam-penned ‘I’m Outta Time,’ a gentle ballad that shows that with every album Liam is becoming a better and better songwriter. Lush and vulnerable, it is hard to see how someone who spent their youth sneering about ‘Cigarettes and Alcohol’ and whose own songwriting efforts have been hit and miss (see the atrocious ‘Little James’ from the equally atrocious Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants) could have written it. It is without a doubt one of the highlights of the album and possibly one of the highlights of the bands career. Credit should also be given to another Liam composition ‘Ain’t Got Nothin’, a short sharp punky number recounting his well publicised brawl with gangsters in Berlin some years back; like Don’t Believe The Truth’s thundering ‘Meaning of Soul’, it shows that at his best there is no one this side of John Lydon who can match Liam’s idiosyncratic sneer. However, Oasis is still totally Noel’s band and it shows. The majority of the songs were penned by the older Gallagher and self styled “benevolent dictator” and in many ways they are a sort of return to the wild abandon of Definitely Maybe. Lyrically, it is arguably nothing new or wildly different from previous albums. There are a rather large number of Beatles references (even for Oasis!) but while they may look clunky on paper, on record they sound simply like cheeky reference points. I personally think Noel has always got a bad rap for his lyrics; there is an honesty in his words that expresses something more heartfelt and a lot less earnest than many other bands who strain themselves trying to be political or meaningful (yes I’m talking to you Thom Yorke).
Overall this is the best Oasis album since (What’s The Story)Morning Glory and in many ways feels like the album they should have made after it. Where Be Here Now became lost in its own copiously coked-out attempts to construct a truly huge sounding album, Dig Out Your Soul finally redresses the balance. It’s a lean and powerful album that takes the huge orchestration of Be Here Now and strips it of all excess, no choirs, no songs with 3 key changes and no songs over five minutes long.
James Dean Bradfield from the Manic Street Preachers once called Oasis the “White Knights of British pop music” and with this album is further proof of this. Tracks such as ‘Waiting For The Rapture’ and ‘Falling Down’ are storming and anthemic pop songs, that only Noel Gallagher could write. The fact is that Oasis are a national treasure, and now far away from all that Britpop hype and that inescapable debut album, they have finally delivered a record in the same league (if not quite as good) as those first two. However, these are minor quibbles: in this album Oasis are in rude health and all I have to say is, long may they continue.