And trying to keep that bag of bones in trim.

June 18, 2009

Oasis – Standing on the Shoulder of Giants
Part 3: The first single.

Oasis’ “Some Might Say” single in 1995 kicked off a trend that was not broken until last year. The lead single off every album from (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? through Don’t Believe the Truth (to wit: “Some Might Say,” “D’You Know What I Mean?” “Go Let it Out” and “Lyla”) all went straight into the UK singles charts at number 1. “The Shock of the Lightning” from Dig Out Your Soul last year made it to number 3.

Such is (or was, I suppose) the anticipation for new Oasis material that massive public interest almost secured chart dominance, no matter what shortcomings the song might contain. In the case of “Some Might Say” and “Lyla” it’s hard to argue — both are arguably perfect rock songs (if just a hair too long). But in the case of “D’You Know What I Mean?” (despite my love for the song and Be Here Now) it had to be momentum. The song was just heavier version of “Wonderwall” and about 30 percent of the song was nothing more than computer blips and splices of backwards tape.

That leaves Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’ public trailer, “Go Let it Out.” Although it’s undoubtedly single material — good hook, a chorus you can learn after the first go-round and a “Strawberry Fields Forever” aping mellotron.

NME actually decided (or, I suppose derided) it as  the exact product you might come up with given a do-it-yourself Oasis song kit.

If there is a fault with it, though, it says absolutely nothing. Given the band’s history for famously clumsy rhyming (“Slowly walking down the hall, faster than a cannonball,” “And my dog was itchin’, itchin’ in the kitchen,” “Say what you’ll say, say that you’ll stay, forever and a day”), it seems almost pointless to pick on the lack of product here.

But “Sister psychosis don’t got a lot to say”? The difference here is that it halfway sounds like Noel’s trying to say something. It sounds cool, but what does it mean? And why compromise it with something as egregiously counterintuitive as “Go let it out, go let it in, go let it out?” Noel’s off the marching powder and this is his first lucid statement?

Indeed, inspiration was in such short order that the “Is it any wonder why princes and kings…” bit was pinched from an old poem called “Bag of Tools.”

I remember a column by Rob Sheffield in Rolling Stone at the time essentially making the same complaint, and it pains to me say that 9 years later I find myself agreeing with him. Side note — how much cooler did you think Rob Sheffield was before he started showing up on those “E! 50 Most_______” shows and giving his dumbass, unfunny commentary?

But what “Go Let it Out” does have is an effortless groove. The departure of Guigsy allowed Noel to finish bass duties and pull basslines all over the record away from the root note basics Oasis songs had been stuck on for six years prior into more adventurous, McCartney-esque territory. “Go Let it Out” doesn’t have the most innovative bassline ever, but maybe for the first time in Oasis history, it was distinguishable. And it grooves. The whole song does. Even if the demo had a better sense of humor.

You’ve heard some of the demos, and where Noel’s mind seemed to be at the time. But at the same time, he seemed to know they weren’t “Oasis” songs. They weren’t simple sentiments to raise a fist to or put your arm around a friend to in a packed stadium. So it’s reasonable that a business- and career-minded individual would see a need for something more formulaic. Problem is, once you’ve seen the downside of fame and excess, it’s hard to put your viewpoint back on the other side of the fence.

So what you have here is a perfect preview of Standing on the Shoulder of Giants — a song by a guy who has an unwavering ability to deliver a memorable tune, but a shortage of things to say.

Fortunately, the B-sides ran a bit deeper.


Oasis – Let’s All Make Believe
Rumored to be about the changing face of the band and the loss of two founding members, but whether or not that’s the case, this sounds a lot more inspired than the A-side and this would also prove to be the only B-side of the era that Noel handed over to Liam for vocal duties. It’s an effective move. Whereas Noel’s vocals likely would’ve made this song a bit more mournful, Liam’s sneer provides an effect that pulls the regret a little closer to bitterness.

Oasis – (As Long As They’ve Got) Cigarettes in Hell
So maybe Noel lost the whole “feelin’ supersonic” vibe, but at least he didn’t totally lose his sense of humor. But he nicely walks a fine line between being funny and wistful and finds the balance nicely. I also think this song is one of the finest summations of his state of mind at the turn of the century. I ask you, how much more memorable would Standing on the Shoulder of Giants have been if this closed the album? Food for thought.

The single’s video is actually one of my favorite videos, although I wish they’d kept Liam from miming guitar. Maybe it’s a small minority of us that notices he’s not even playing the right chord during the one-chord verse, but que sera sera. The video also showed the new-look Oasis featuring the debut of Gem Archer on guitar. I said it the first time I saw this and I hold it now — he upped the group’s coolness factor tenfold.

Tomorrow: The “Who Feels Love?” single.


  1. Stellar!

  2. This is the kind of writing about rock music and Oasis, my current favorite band (took me til 2012!), that I have been craving.

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