Dean of Rock Crits Robert Christgau once wrote something to the effect that you should always be wary of bands whose name is also a logo. A good rule to follow, think I, but like all good rules, there are notable exceptions: Cheap Trick, for instance, and – um, err – maybe Oasis?
It’s too darn easy to hate Oasis: the Brit power poppers have long been their own worst enemies. But to my ears, the band’s first two releases, Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory are ace instances of guitar pop-rock – comparable to (let’s keep the Rockford comparison going, shall we?) Cheap Trick’s initial triad. Packed with crisp cuts that simultaneously acknowledged and built upon their influences, early Oasis was as good as nineties pop-rock could get. If later albums seemed closer to Dream Police– a few good cuts surrounded by a lotta huffing and puffing – well, that’s a familiar enough rock story. And band loyalists could always hold out hopes for a solid career renaissance.
Well, the Big O.’s newest studio disc, Heathen Chemistry (Epic), has just been released in America, and it sounds like fans & regular listeners’re gonna have to continue holding onto our hopes. While not as slogging as the band’s last studio outing, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, it’s not the ne plus ultra of contemporary retro poppiness either. A good, not a great Oasis album.
I like the way the boys appropriate Plastic Ono Lennon on “Born on A Different Cloud,” and the strumming “Force of Nature,” in particular, makes me smile (any song with a chorus ragging on an ex- for “smoking all my stash” is guaranteed to get the incipient adolescent in me sniggering). The Bros. Gallagher swap vocal chores more – to good effect, think I, though some fans may disagree. “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” is as pristinely pretty a pop tune as anything off the early discs, and I’m also quite enamored of the proto-psychedelic “Probably All in the Mind,” too (some neat Johnny Marr sessionwork on this ‘un!)
“I wanna be a better man,” Liam G. sings on the album’s final track – and even if he sounds like an alcoholic on the verge of failing his umpteenth stab at twelve stepping, we can at least believe the pop sentiment behind it. Heathen Chemistry is good enough to keep me hoping about Oasis, even as I know that more sensible listeners started looking elsewhere for their hook fix two to three discs ago. In the pop world, there are much worse vices than persistent fannishness . . .
(Reprinted from Pop Culture Gadabout)