It feels so good to finally be able to talk about a string of good albums released in a year rather than complaining about a lack of them. Their have been some excellent releases in the first have of 2005: Beck’s Guero, Pernice Brothers’ Discover a Lovelier You, Glen Phillips’ Winter Pays for Summer, and Ryan Adams’ Cold Roses among them.
As good as those albums are, they are not the discs I have been listening to the most this year. There are a lot of strking similarities between the two albums and the bands responsible for them. Both bands hail from Manchester, UK. Both bands feature brothers. Both albums black and white cover art. These two albums have dominated my iPod this year. I have listened to the 22 songs that make up these two albums a combined 439 times since getting them (with one particular song being the most played song on my iPod). I have narrowed my list down to two early contenders for Album of the Year honors, but I am an American. Nothing is ever good enough. We have to continue to parse this until we have a definitive winner. There can be only one.
Oasis vs Doves in a steel cage death match. Don’t Believe the Truth vs Some Cities (Click here or here to read my full review of Doves’ ‘Some Cities’). Mano a mano, song versus song. Let’s get ready to rumble!
Round 1: Oasis’ “Turn Up the Sun” vs Doves’ “Some Cities”
This is the best pairing of the lot. Both songs are great ‘leadoff’ hitters. Both songs are among the better tracks on their respective albums- great, great songs.
Doves are clear winners if judged solely on lyrical content. “Some Cities” is not a Dylan-esque masterwork but it sounds like one when compared to “Turn Up the Sun.” How blind does a person have to be before they can no longer see, Andy? And what the fuck does having a piano and not being able to find ‘middle C’ mean? Liam Gallagher’s vocal and the intensity of the music make up the difference. He wastes no time reassuring us his beloved sneer is in fine form.
Jimi Goodwin makes “Some Cities” take off and soar (“Can I make you seeeeeeeeeeeeee?). It would be a great single. “Some Cities” does a wonderful job of setting the scene for the album (that scene being Manchester).
“Some Cities” is the better song but “Turn Up the Sun” just works. I will be a chickenshit right out of the box.
ROUND 1 WINNER: DRAW
Round 2: Oasis’ “Mucky Fingers” vs Doves’ “Black and White Town”
I like “Black and White Town” enough (and so much more than “Mucky Fingers”) to overlook it’s spoken-word interlude middle section- I hate those! “Black and White Town” is dreary, cheery, and escape in a four-minute package. This is Doves at their best.
I love Noel Gallagher as you will hear me repeatedly gush, but this round is firmly in Doves’ corner. The harmonica bits in “Mucky Fingers” are fabulous and Noel’s lyrics are quite good but the melody is not his catchiest.
ROUND 2 WINNER: DOVES
Round 3: Oasis’ “Lyla” vs Doves’ “Almost Forgot Myself”
Oasis’ “Lyla” might be the best single of 2005. Noel has written some great choruses throughout his career (think of all the ones with “Jag-u-ar,” Wonderwall,” Live Forever,” etc.) but “Lyla” is one of the finest.
ROUND 3 WINNER: OASIS
Round 4: Oasis’ “Love Like a Bomb” vs Doves’ “Snowden”
“Love Like a Bomb” has a better chorus and is more memorable than “Snowden.” “Snowden” has a glockenspiel. “Love Like a Bomb” has no glockenspiel. The magnitude of the glockenspiel cannot be overstated. This is a battle between bombast and ambiance. “Snowden” has a sleepy beginning but builds to something wonderful.
“Love Like a Bomb” is cliché and obvious but it works. Liam’s vocal gives the song enough charm and charisma to help it rise above itself. There is not a lot of subtlety in this track. You hear it once and you have heard everything it has to offer but it is infectious enough to compel further listens.
ROUND 4 WINNER: DOVES
Round 5: Oasis’ “The Importance of Being Idle” vs Doves’ “The Storm”
This match is nearly as close as Round 1. “The Importance of Being Idle” is a fun and fantastic song. It is one of Noel Gallagher’s best lead vocals (and that is saying something) and the lyrics are at times hilarious (“Boy, you lazy). “Idle” is clever, catchy and free of the bombast that occasionally trips Oasis.
“The Storm” is moody and atmospheric with a lovely, cinematic string arrangement. The wailing harmonica in “The Storm” is even better than the wailing harmonica in “Mucky Fingers.” I love wailing harmonicas.
This is a very close race but I cannot vote against Noel Gallagher twice.
ROUND 5 WINNER: OASIS
Round 6: Oasis’ “The Meaning of Soul” vs Doves’ “Walk in the Fire”
Liam is just as good a musical thief as his big brother. Imagine “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” two minutes shorter and you have “The Meaning of Soul.” This is an odd pairing of songs. “The Meaning of Soul” clocks in at under two minutes while “Walk in the Fire” goes well over five.
You will not understand “The Meaning of Soul” from Liam Gallagher’s lyrics. Some Oasis songs take nine minutes to say nothing (“All Around the World”), so props Liam for at least saying nothing fast. The song bursts with energy and attitude. Attitude goes a long way.
“Walk in the Fire” is Doves at their most earnest. The song is like a sequel to their wonderful “There Goes the Fear” from their wonderful The Last Broadcast. It is big. It is ambitious. It is, well, it is a lot like the kind of song Oasis has done so well over the years.
ROUND 6 WINNER: DOVES
Round 7: Oasis’ “Guess God Thinks I’m Abel” vs Doves’ “One of These Days”
Raise your hand if you understand what Gallagher Jr. is talking about in this song. OK, it is not just me. “Guess God Thinks I’m Abel” is a convoluted song. There have been several attempts by different critics to solve the riddle and I am not going down with them. Musically there is a Middle Eastern vibe in the verses giving it a Rubber Soul-era sound. It is undeniably catchy even if you cannot tell what kind of relationship Liam is trying to describe.
“One of These Days” is not the most distinguished moment on Some Cities. It is a good song and it has grown on me. An intro of swir
ROUND 7 WINNER: OASIS
Round 8: Oasis’ “Part of the Queue” vs Doves’ “Someday Soon”
I seem to like “Part of the Queue” more than other people I talk to about it. It reminds me a lot of Red Hot Chili Peppers’ “Breaking the Girl.” I think that is a good thing. I like that song. I like this song better. I also happen to like it nearly every time Noel Gallagher steps to the mic. It is another acoustic-based song but “Part of the Queue” has more groove than some of his other acoustic cuts.
“Someday Soon” is one of the highlights of Some Cities. It starts and stops, shifting from ambient, layered vocals to sweeping acoustic guitars. “Someday Soon” is textured, nuanced, and brilliant.
Chickenshit is on the board for a second time.
ROUND 8 WINNER: DRAW
Round 9: Oasis’ “Keep the Dream Alive” vs Doves’ “Shadows of Salford”
If this round was a horse, we would shoot it. “Shadows of Salford” is barely tolerable. “Keep the Dream Alive” is trite fluff. I will take trite fluff.
ROUND 9 WINNER: OASIS
Round 10: Oasis’ “A Bell Will Ring” vs Doves’ “Sky Starts Falling”
Neither song distinguishes itself in this matchup. The big, rock guitars of “A Bell Will Ring” are nice window dressing. It does not make a hell of a lot of sense but makes nice ear candy. “Sky Starts Falling” combines a pounding rhythm with big guitars.
I went back and forth on this one. I initially gave it to Doves, then Oasis, then called it a draw. Liam’s vocal and the big guitars are great but “Sky Starts Falling” actually feels like it goes somewhere. Tough call, but I am putting this back in the Doves’ column.
ROUND 10 WINNER: DOVES
Round 11: Oasis’ “Let There Be Love” vs Doves’ “Ambition”
No contest. This is the best flag-waving song Oasis has written in ten years. This is whatHeathen Chemistry’s “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” wanted to be. Liam and Noel both give strong lead vocals to this track. The final minute of the song is instrumental and is nearly as catchy as anything else on the disc. This is a great bookend to Don’t Believe the Truth.
“Ambition” is good but is too light. It is too light and too easily forgotten to end an album. It is too light to compete with an anthem like “Let There Be Love.” “Ambition” floats off into the ether leaving very little trace. It does sound pretty while it floats away.
ROUND 11 WINNER: OASIS
WINNER: OASIS’ DON’t BELIEVE THE TRUTH.
The 6-3-2 score looks a little lopsided. It may be too lopsided. Some of those song-by-song contests were really close. I could have had a lot more draws than I did. There are even a couple of instances where I could change my mind in one band’s favor over the other.
If I were at all mathematically inclined I would develop one of those fucking algorithm things to try and balance the scales to reflect just how much closer this matchup really is/was. Or maybe I should do a sequel to this piece. Instead of pairing songs of by track listing, I could do it best song versus best song in descending order- you know what? Fuck that.
In fact, fuck all of this.
Some Cities is a great album. Don’t Believe the Truth is just a little bit better. I like them both. I think many of you will, too.