Saturday, October 18, 2008
Dig Out Your Soul, the seventh studio album from England’s legendary Oasis, is the darkest and probably most unexpected work yet from one of the last great Rock and Roll bands on the planet. Consisting of eleven songs, the album is a rollicking, jam-like and a lyrically paranoid take on our world in 2008 that is simultaneously obsessed with thoughts of impending doom and finally hopeful triumph. To celebrate the most commercially successful release (in more than a decade) by one of my favorite bands, I thought I would offer up my track for track take on the album after listening to it constantly in the past week or so since it first came out.
1. “Bag it Up”
The Gallagher Brothers are known for their explosive openings on record and stage and track one on Dig Out Your Soul doesn’t disappoint. Written by Noel with the deceptively positive opening line of “Gold and silver and sunshine is rising up” quickly turning into tales of lost souls mindlessly sipping on their early morning Earl Grey tea and ‘freaks rising up through the floor’, the track is an instant classic. Musically the song is a real vintage sounding stomper, with a thrilling extended coda at the end that shows the band at stylistically their most daring. Even better is Liam’s snarling vocal take, which proves a perfect match for some of the most paranoid lyrics Noel has ever written. A real stunner and their best opening since 2000’s Standing on the Shoulders of Giants.
2. “The Turning”
Starting out with a terrifically hypnotic drum intro by brilliant Zak Starkey (no doubt making his father Ringo proud) track Two showcases Noel’s main lyrical obsession of the album, namely thoughts of an impending Rapture and just what place love will have in it. With some of the sharpest social and personal commentary he has ever written, “We live with the numbers, mining a dream for the same old song. What hope for the turning if everything you know is wrong?’, "The Turning" is one of the most ferocious tracks Noel Gallagher has ever written. It’s also one of the most darkly romantic, with the astonishingly vulnerable statement of “when the rapture takes me be the fallen angel by my side.” repeating throughout the five minute plus duration. Liam is in particularly great voice here, with his vocals possessing the kind of smooth menace that he nearly lost after the tours following Be Here Now a decade ago. Pay special attention the song’s final moments where Noel suddenly begins playing the most mournful version of The Beatles “Dear Prudence” I have ever heard…it sounds like the heartfelt attempt of a man at the end of the world playing his favorite song to himself as if to commit it to his soul's memory...a bit like the literary obsessed characters in hiding at the end of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.
3. “Waiting for the Rapture”
Noel takes on the lead vocals for Track 3, another one of the key songs of the album obsessed with an impending global and personal doom. Mercilessly trudging along with some of the most devastating and stabbing guitar licks Noel has ever committed to record, “Waiting for the Rapture” is an intense ride promising that the only real revolutions left are in our heads. The instrumental break just before the two minute mark is Oasis at their most inspired and potent.
4. “The Shock of the Lightning”
The inspired first single for the album is another Noel penned track and it has the kind of manic energy the band perfected with their masterful early records. Instantly catchy with Liam sounding again like the sneering twenty year old punk many of us fell in love with more than a decade ago. Injected with much of the positive energy the band have always been known for intertwined with the frightening thought of hearing God and being all “into the blinding light”. It’s a long way away from the hedonistic joy of something like “Cigarettes and Alcohol” but it’s a joy to hear, and it is great to hear the band stretching itself out so much musically, with Andy Bell’s driving Bass playing being particularly propulsive and exciting.
5. “I’m Outta Time”
How ironic and strangely wonderful is it that the album’s masterpiece belongs not to the pen of Noel Gallagher but instead to his brother Liam? Moving, gloriously weary and simply majestic, “I’m Outta Time” is admittedly the most Lennonesque moment on the record but it is also one of the great tracks Oasis have ever set to vinyl. Featuring a crushingly beautiful guitar solo from Noel and one of the most devastating vocals Liam has recorded since Definitely Maybe’s "Slide Away", "I’m Outta Time" is just incredible. The song’s final moments in which we hear the voice of John Lennon himself just 48 hours before he was shot and killed in front of The Dakota is wrenching…glorious stuff and the ideal second single.
6. “(Get off your) High Horse Lady”
Seemingly nearly a Noel throw away number until you stop to realize that Oasis have never sounded like this before. Oddly swampy and late period Blur like sounding with the line “I hear your soul song singing from a fire in the sky” being one of the creepiest and most compelling lines Noel has ever written. The album’s biggest question mark and oddest moment. The footsteps at the end make it all the stranger and ominous.
7. “Falling Down”
With a strong “Tomorrow Never Knows” drum pattern by Zak, Noel’s final lyrical and sung contribution to the record is possibly the darkest song he has ever written. Hearing the man who once promised we would “Live Forever” admitting that he has “tried to talk to God with no avail” and that we are living “a dying dream” is haunting and downright tragic sounding. More than any of the more overtly political albums of the past several years, I think time will probably place Dig Out Your Soul as one of the key musical statements of this period.
8. “To be Where There is Life”
Dig Out Your Soul’s one mistake might be in Noel’s and Liam’s democratic decision to allow side members Gem Archer and Andy Bell to each contribute songs. Not that I am being critical of either of those two but Oasis is finally about the Gallagher brothers and Gem’s Stone Roses like “To Be Where There is Life” simply sounds out of place on the album. It does at least give the album its title and Noel’s surprising electronic work on the track is quite trippy and very well done.
9. “Ain’t Got Nothin’
The shortest song on the record is another Liam written track and one of the album’s most all out rocking moments. Probably would have worked better as a B-Side but it doesn’t spoil the party at all.
10. “The Nature of Reality”
Andy Bell’s sole contribution is the album’s weakest moment and it is a shame Noel didn’t include “Stop the Clocks” or any number of other tracks that are known that almost made the cut for the album. I really don’t have much to say on the song except that it is a weak link on an otherwise stunning album.
11. “Soldier On”
Liam’s powerful ode to keep on keeping on doesn’t restore the positive energy Oasis were once known for, but it serves notice that they aren’t going out without a major fight…and, in what is perhaps the album’s biggest message, neither should we. Echo drenched and slyly powerful, the song offers up a strong encouraging statement for a world threatening to tear apart at the seams.
I must admit that it took me more than a few listens to really find my way into this album, but after a couple of dozen run throughs in the past week and a half I am convinced this is one of the great Oasis records. While not as seemingly triumphant as 2005’s astonishing Don’t Believe the Truth, one of the decade’s great albums, Dig Out Your Soul sounds like the Gallagher Brothers are one step away from a major masterpiece. With most of their peers having thrown in the towel years ago, I frankly can’t wait to see what their next move is.
***Please note that the above videos are fan created with the exception of the Russell Brand ad and the "Shock of the Lightning" clip.