Casual fans of Oasis have no idea how many of the band’s best songs they have never heard. Noel Gallagher has ‘wasted’ scads of hit songs by relegating them to B-side status. The devoted have discovered this and embraced it. When Oasis releases an album of 11 or 12 songs you can usually count on another five or six being released as B-sides and half of those being good enough to have been on an album.
The Gallagers claim there were more than 100 songs worked on during the sessions for what became Don’t Believe the Truth. Four previously unreleased studio B-sides on two singles lends a certain amount of credibility to the claim.
Don’t Believe the Truth has been an unlikely success story for Oasis. America had all but forgotten about the band and there seemed to be a sense their UK fans were tiring of the Gallaghers’ act. It has never been considered a positive sign when a band scraps their album and starts over (repeatedly). Somehow out of turmoil and an ever-changing musical climate Oasis crafted a winner of an album. First single “Lyla” debuted at #1 on UK charts and was followed up by another #1 single, “The Importance of Being Idle.”
“The Importance of Being Idle” is written and sung by Noel Gallagher. There was a time in Oasis’ history when writing credits were unimportant because Noel wrote everything. Those days are gone. The two b-sides were written by two different people and neither of them is Noel. Liam Gallagher contributes “Pass Me Down the Wine” and Gem Archer wrote “The Quiet Ones.” Both B-sides are sung by Liam.
“The Importance of Being Idle” gives Noel a chance to dust off his falsetto. He seems to have taken the vocal performance from “Little by Little” (from Heathen Chemistry) and ticked up a notch or two. The delivery really works on this song against a backdrop of whimsical music and tongue-in-cheek lyrics. It is impossible to keep a straight face when he drawls, “Boy, you lazy” during the first verse.
This is one of the high points on Oasis’ best albums in years. It was a surprising choice as a single as this is not the kind of song that screams to be played on radio. Regardless, there is an undeniable charm and wit to the song and Noel’s vocal is spot on.
Both Gallaghers have been known as colorful quotes in interviews. “The Importance of Being Idle” is one of those rare moments when the winking finds its way into a song. Noel said of the inspiration for this song he thinks doing nothing has to be the best job in the world. He might have a point.
Liam’s “Pass Me Down the Wine” does not really make a lick of sense from a lyrics perspective. That’s not surprising as Liam has said he enjoys singing much more than songwriting. Having said that, “Pass Me Down the Wine” is a perfectly good song and one that could easily have been included on Don’t Believe the Truth (instead of “Keep the Dream Alive,” for example). The song opens with acoustic rhythm guitar and an acoustic line following the vocal. This gives way to some electric guitar in the bridge and light percussion throughout. Liam’s vocal is mostly relaxed with only occasional touches of the swagger for which he is famous.
There is an almost lullaby quality to Gem Archer’s “The Quiet Ones.” The song is comprised mainly of a chord progression strummed on acoustic guitar and Liam on lead vocal. He flexed a vocal muscle no one thought he had on Heathen Chemistry‘s “Songbird.” That was perhaps the first time he ever sounded convincing and comfortable singing an acoustic song (a task normally left to Noel). Liam is again able to offer a warm vocal against an acoustic backdrop.
Liquid electric guitar flourishes are interspersed throughout the song and it ends in a dream-like state. “The Quiet Ones” clocks in at a scant two minutes. It feels longer but it is an underdeveloped idea nonetheless. That is a shame because it is a nice song that might have become something more.
The Oasis tradition of great B-sides coupled with enjoyable (and sometimes great) B-sides is alive and well on “The Importance of Being Idle.”