Standing on the Shoulder of Giants Album reviews.
Release Date: 02.29.00
Record label: Sony
Despite Replacements, Oasis Shines Again
by: matt halverson
Surprisingly enough, the brothers Gallagher have managed to quell their fighting ways long enough to release their fourth album. With their constant pissing contests, who would have guessed, though, that they'd be the only two remaining members of the original band. After splitting with bassist Paul McGuigan and rhythm guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs (amicably, of course) in the past six months, Noel and Liam have forged on with new members and a slightly new sound on Standing on the Shoulder of Giants.
Although it's hard to believe a group so brash and so quick to thumb their collective nose at mainstream media would allow themselves to be influenced by the opinions of critics, it seems they took the shots at their self indulgent third release Be Here Now to heart and tightened things up a bit.
Only four songs eclipse the five-minute mark, and gone completely are the extended jams that cluttered the previous release. The shorter, more compact arrangements give the swaggering Brits more power as they grind and snarl their way through chest-thumping songs like "Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is" and "I Can See a Liar."
At times, however, the cocky sneer of lead singer Liam Gallagher seems out of place at best. For the first time, consummate control freak Noel Gallagher turned the songwriting duties over to his younger brother for "Little James," an ode to Liam's five-month-old son Lennon and wife Patsy Kensit, and Liam seems unable to put aside the teeth-clenching grit usually reserved for the rabble-rousing grind of songs like "Supersonic." When he croaks "I'm singing this song for you and your mum that's all" he sounds more disciplinarian than doting father.
The elder Gallagher still has a penchant for tapping the wandering-soul, melancholy spring that he's fallen back on so many times before, but with "Where Did it All Go Wrong?" even the title alone warns of a melodramatic waltz steeped in social examination.
With lines like "And until you've repaid/the dreams you bought for your lies/you'll be cast away/alone under the stormy skies" he becomes the self-righteous I-told-you-so type we all love to hate.
However, the foreboding "Gas Panic!" captures the evolutionary changes of the band's style that took them from barroom brawlers to accomplished musicians. Although Noel's infamous claim that the band has become bigger than God may have been a little premature, the tone of the song creates a mood of the last days of existence that suggests they've tapped a darker, sinister power. Based around a somber acoustic strumming and lilting bass line, the song starts with a journey through sin and repent before erupting into a blast of guitar distortion and whine that provides the backdrop for Liam's admonishment of the sinner.
Although a slightly new sound has crept into the traditional stomp and crunch of their previous efforts (possibly a result of the addition of guitarist Gem and bassist Andy Bell), the band proves that it hasn't strayed too far from the sound that made them the biggest rock band in the UK with the first single "Go Let it Out." An unexpected hip-hop beat (do I notice a subtle turntable scratch effect too?) gives way to the trademark guitar licks of previous Oasis fare, and a refrain made for constant MTV and radio play assures the boys of at least one hit.
Seldom stable as a band and often maligned by American critics, Oasis proved their doubters wrong by sticking together, in one form or another, long enough to put together one more album of catchy British pop. Though their work becomes bogged down at times by the melodramatic lyrical output of the older Gallagher, it's head-bobbing thump and sneer-producing swagger is enough to make even their staunchest critics accept their ability to create a down-and-dirty rock and roll album.