By Doug Levy
Of course, you could scratch your head in confusion at these remarks if you're not from England, as Oasis haven't achieved the same obscene level of popularity in the States yet. But the keyword is yet, and if you have your doubts, take a look at some of the numbers.
The third and newest album from Oasis, Be Here Now, released on Tuesday in America, and a week ago in Europe went platinum on it's first day of release overseas, breaking all known sales records with over 250,000 units moving in less than 24 hours. Sales then went on to break the one million mark in less than a week. Even with the Beatles, the industry has never really seen anything like this before. When Oasis played two shows at Knebworth last year, to 125,000 fans each night, enough telephone inquiries about tickets were received to account for 5 percent of the entire population of England. No phenomenon of that size can be restricted to such a small area of the world, and it's only a matter of time before the Gallaghers are deified here as well.
Not that Oasis are unknown in the U.S. Their first album, Definitely Maybe, did fairly well here on the strength of singles "Live Forever" and "Supersonic." The second album, (What's The Story) Morning Glory?, officially broke the band in America, though, with the release of the hugely successful "Wonderwall" single, and the follow-up
"Champagne Supernova," which, incidentally, was never actually released as a single anywhere other than Australia, despite the constant rotation of the song on both radio and MTV. With Be Here Now, the band stand poised for a true takeover of our shores, the likes of which hasn't been seen since the 1960s.
Be Here Now, is a truly epic record - clocking in at over 70 minutes, it's as long as a CD can be without becoming a double album. For a while, a double-disc set was even a possibility, as most of the songs were over seven minutes long, but through the persuasion of the record label and the ultimate judgment of Noel, who makes all decisions for the band, many of the songs were cut to fit on a single disc. The opener, and first single, "D'You Know What I Mean," is a divergence from what we've come to expect from the band, full of backwards drum loops, a full-on sonic guitar assault, and a darker, heavier sound than they've used before. Actor Johnny Depp makes a guest appearance on the album, adding another new sound with his slide guitar on the suprisingly bluesy "Fade In/Out," his second collaboration with the band. (The first was on an acoustic version of "Fade Away" for the 1995 War Child benefit CD "Help.") And the title track is a whistle-augmented rocker that sounds more like something Mick Jagger would have written than Noel's usual muse.
But that ever-present Beatles influence that both Noel and the critics love to harp on about has hardly disappeared. As always, the hard-rock Oasis love to dabble in, augmented by Noel's sometimes Slash-like guitar solos, is much louder than anything the Fab Four would ever have done. But the references are all there, both lyrically and musically. Noel admitted that the chord progression on the second projected UK single "Stand By Me" is taken directly from the White Album's "Cry Baby Cry," and just try to listen to the immense orchestration of "All Around The World," without thinking "Hey Jude." Lyrically, we get lines like "Fool on the hill and I feel fine," (D'You Know What I Mean) "Sing a song for me, one from Let It Be," (Be Here Now) and "I got something in my shoes/ that's keeping me from walking/ down a long and winding road" (My Big Mouth), showing that Noel is not only unashamed of his influences when writing but wants to proclaim them at every possible moment.
Of course, many would write the band off as unoriginal, but that's not the point. True, Noel's songs are simple, but that doesn't mean they're simple to write. His ear and ability as a songwriter have enabled him to compose some of the best pop songs in decades. Not because he is a fabulous guitarist, not because he's a profound lyricist, and not because he's breaking any new ground - it's tough to argue that any of that is true - but simply because he writes great songs. There's really no more to it than that. It's a talent in and of itself, and if you can listen to a song like "The Girl In The Dirty Shirt," or "It's Getting Better (Man!)" and say with a straight face that it's not a great song, then you're either a remarkable poker player or you have something horribly wrong with your ears.
Be Here Now has been the most anticipated album of the year for certain in the U.K., and for a growing number of people in the U.S. as well.
University of Arizona students waiting to purchase the album the second it was available flocked to Zip's Music on University Boulevard, making such proclamations as sophomore C.J. Shively's,
"Noel Gallagher is a fucking genius!"
And freshman Mike Lee's, "I would sell my first born for Oasis!" And while these statements may have been made tongue in cheek, it doesn't change the fact that these folks were out buying the album at midnight, as opposed to waiting until Tuesday morning. Really, though, who can blame them? No rock band has even the remotest chance of releasing an album that comes close to Be Here Now any time soon, and while it may not be quite as good as (What's The Story) Morning Glory? it's still better than any other new rock album you'll find out there.
As for the similarities to past Oasis work, Noel says that this album will wrap up what he thinks of as a coherent three-album box set, and that with the next record he'll take a new direction to songwriting. He's unsure at present what that direction is, or where it will take him and his band, but once you've listened to Be Here Now, you're certain to be there then as well.