When I reviewed the GoldenEye soundtrack a while ago I mentioned that the recently leaked Xbox Live Arcade remaster of the game was pretty much the holy grail for Bond game fans. Well, I’m about to use that term again to describe this song I decided to listen to today.
For a good ten years it seems, the holy grail for Oasis fans was Stop the Clocks.
For those who don’t know this was a song that had first reared its head during the Heathen Chemistry sessions back in 2001 but obviously it did not make it on to the album. Not much of a big deal was made of it until Noel began talking about it on and off in interviews and then it made its live debut in 2003. Curiosity piqued. Oasis then began the recording sessions for their next album the following year. The album’s title? Stop the Clocks.
However, that doesn’t last long, eventually the song is dropped from the album which is renamed to Don’t Believe the Truth (Which for the record is an album title I will defend). Then the following year a best-of compilation album is released. The album’s title? Stop the Clocks.
Surely that should mean the song should finally appear as a bonus track.
Nope. No sign of it. Apparently no matter how many times they tried, the band couldn’t seem to get it right. They still hadn’t got it right by the time they released their final album Dig Out Your Soul. After Oasis’ breakup it seemed that the only way to hear Stop the Clocks would be via some leaks.
So with a history like that, I felt that of all of the songs released by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds this was the one I should check out (The only one I’ve really tried and liked of NGHFB’s so far is Ballad of the Mighty I). Surely after ten years sitting on the backburner, and with Noel having 100% creative control over it with his band, this was going to be the apex of his efforts.
And it’s good. That’s it. Just good.
Instrumentally it’s a corker. The Birds really bring the song to life with a Masterplan-esque tune with the notes of a keyboard adding a bit of psychedelic dreaminess into the mix. Perfect for a song where the narrator contemplates ‘if [he’s] already dead’ and ‘when the night is over where will [he] rise?’. Basically it’s a Noel acoustic ballad like Talk Tonight or D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman? with a lot of extra peppering that fuels its launch into space. That choir especially makes this one sound out of this world. Then as we fly through the stars as the song goes on we come crashing back down to Earth as the night comes to an end, as represented by a wonderful if slightly clumsy jam. Honestly, I love the sound of this song, it’s…I hate to use the word, it’s so overused, but I guess it applies here: epic. Sorry.
But there is one reason why I only rank the song as good. The weak link here is Noel’s vocals. They’re not his best. This might just be me but I swear there is something wrong with his enunciation. He sounds like he did a take or two while tipsy and they accidentally found their way into the final mix. Less ‘When the night is over’, more ‘when the nye’s over’. By the time we get to the last verse, where he states how when ‘the night is over there’ll be no sound’, he sounds like he is struggling to keep the word ‘sound’ in tune. Doesn’t really do justice to what is a damned fine set of lyrics. I think this may be the area where Oasis kept slipping up that caused this song to never be released by the band; there were versions done by Liam which I can’t see going well as this song doesn’t really suit his more aggressive style. It’s a song tailored for Noel’s gentler voice but if this is the best he can do with what’s he written then maybe it should have remained a lost classic.
It’s tricky to say. An excellent piece of music dragged down by the man behind the vocals. Not to say it isn’t listenable as a result, far from it, you should absolutely listen to this if you can spare the time. But I think I can categorically say that after being hyped up for nearly ten years by a rabid fanbase who at that point in 2011 wanted anything they could get from the glory days of Oasis, Stop the Clocks was always going to be at least a bit of a letdown. And that is a crying shame.
N.B: I am aware that this song is not a single but it is still getting lumped into the ‘Singles’ category on the blog because it is a single song that I am reviewing. My blog, my rules. And I’m allowed to break my rules.