So here’s the thing. Normally, I would be posting a full-blown album review for this Friday followed by another single review next week. However, that album review isn’t quite clicking for me right now but I’m going to aim to have it done for next Wednesday at the latest. In the meantime, I’m going to do another review of a single and it’s one that I find underrated among the rich discography of the Manic Street Preachers.
The Manics are a band with a fascinating history in the 90s. They put themselves out there by saying that their debut album Generation Terrorists was going to be the rock album to end all rock albums (Spoiler alert: it wasn’t, but good effort anyway), followed it up with the more commercial grunge of Gold Against The Soul, which I must admit I’m enjoying more than I thought I would, and then truly hit their stride with The Holy Bible. The latter has the distinction of being the ‘Richey’ album, being the magnum opus of the band’s songwriter and rhythm guitarist Richey Edwards. The man was one hell of a character with a myriad of issues both mental and physical which he channeled into the songs of the Manic Street Preachers. Unfortunately those issues also led to his disappearance before the band were to go to the US to promote the album. 25 years on, no one knows for certain what happened to him.
With their songwriter gone, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the Manics couldn’t continue without him. Then they released Everything Must Go. You better believe I’m gonna look at that one day on here and gush about it. Part of it still had Richey’s lyrics in, including Kevin Carter which is possibly my favourite Manics song, so it was up to the next album to prove they could truly survive without him.
This is My Truth Tell Me Yours is a mixed bag. On the one hand, If You Tolerate This Your Children Will Be Next is a song that for better or for worse refuses to age, and on the other there is You Stole the Sun From My Heart which I find a bit too poppy for my liking. Then we come to the final single released for this album in 1999, Tsunami.
Musically this is one of the least Manics-sounding songs they have produced, opening up with a sitar being plucked and creating an Asian flavour which stands out against the standard tunes from James’ guitar, Nicky’s bass and Sean’s drums. The chorus also brings us a wonderful little string arrangement which adds to the melancholy that surrounds the song. Considering the title of the song is Tsunami, the sitar kind of makes sense but not when you consider that the song centres around the Silent Twins, Jennifer and June Gibbons, who had a troubled life in the Manics’ home of Wales.
To cut a long story short, the two were inseparable and refused to speak to anyone except themselves, and had a career in crime that led to imprisonment in Broadmoor. Like the aforementioned Kevin Carter, it is a melancholic and downright sad piece about real life figures only this time it’s from the perspective from one of the sisters as opposed to being in the third person, which is a lot more effective. The narrator agonises over their inseparable nature (‘Holding on to me forever’), the futility of their lifestyle (‘Can’t work at this anymore/Can’t move, I want to stay at home’) and the titular tsunami of emotion over it all. The lyrics are easily the best part of this song, scratching the surface of the Twins’ tale and creating an emotional rollercoaster. Hell, you hear the line ‘Disco dancing with the rapists’ in the first verse, you know you’re going to be listening to a good one.
In a way, there’s a chance that the Manics found the two almost as enigmatic as they had Richey, especially the way their stories ended; in mystery. While Richey disappeared, never to be seen again, the twins had agreed that one of them had to die for the other to lead a normal life and start speaking again. Jennifer had offered herself as ‘sacrifice’ and sure enough she passed away from heart inflammation as the two were being transferred to Caswell Clinic. No explaination could be found as to why this happened. June went on to live a normal, ‘free’ life.
So like I say, the Manics were still testing the waters without Richey and This is My Truth… was a mixed bag. But Tsunami is proof that they can still make songs like Kevin Carter and Nicky Wire could easily fill his best friend’s shoes by writing them up. The different sound of the song is, to quote a certain Star Wars meme, a surprise to be sure but a welcome one, and I always like it when bands stretch out and experiment with other instruments like the Manics do here with the sitar and strings. The band’s 21st century output is a hotbed for debate but songs like this proved they had staying power, and achieving the first UK number one of the millennium with their next single solidified that.
One last thing. If I ever get to see the Manic Street Preachers live, I hope they play this one. The studio version is great, but the live versions from Top of the Pops (Yes, they actually played TOTP live with no miming) and the Leaving The 20th Century concert are superb. Check them out if you have time.
If you read my review of The Great Escape last week (And I hope you did), whilst looking over the track Globe Alone I mentioned Jigsaw Falling Into Place, the lead single from Radiohead’s 2007 album In Rainbows.
Believe it or not, I previously had no intention of diving into Radiohead’s discography all that much. At the end of last year, I’d bought myself The Bends and OK Computer under the impression that they were as good as it got for Radiohead, a band I believed were a bit too soppy and downbeat for my liking. Then I dug a little deeper and I have since added Kid A and In Rainbows to my collection, the latter simply off the strength of Jigsaw Falling Into Place.
I’d say this is tied with another of the band’s songs (But I’ll let you try and guess which) as my absolute favourite of their discography. Compared with a lot of their output, it is one of the most listenable singles they have ever done and despite clocking in at about 4 minutes, it feels like it goes by in half the time. The tempo of the song and Thom’s notes steadily rise, creating a frantic and frenzied atmosphere that matches the club that the song is presumably set in, as the narrator deals with a lost opportunity with a girl he just met on a night out, and over-analyses the situation whilst completely rat-arsed and hypnotised by the dance lights.
Every member of Radiohead is on fine form here but special commendation has to be given to Phil Selway on the drums. If you watch the music video for this song (Directed by Adam Buxton, of all people), you can see Phil puffing and panting as the tempo rises and he tries his absolute hardest to keep up the beat, so much so that by the end he looks like he’s just ran the London Marathon. Thom’s performance is excellent too as he seems to get into character, getting either drunk with madness or mad with drunkenness, as Jigsaw progresses, and creating a colourfully distorted image of the club with lyrics such as ‘The walls are bending shape/They’ve got a Cheshire cat grin’ and ‘Words are blunt instruments/Words are sawed-off shotguns’.
So if this song is that damn good, how come Radiohead never play it anymore? It hasn’t appeared in any of their live shows since 2009 and Ed O’Brien even forgot its title during an interview a couple of years ago (See here: https://www.highsnobiety.com/p/ed-obrien-interview-radiohead/ ). It’s a tricky song to play, trying to keep up the rhythm as it gets faster and faster, and it appears to be one that Thom struggles to sing for the first half; he always seems to be more at home in the higher notes, which don’t really kick in until about 2:15 with the repetition of the lyric ‘The beat goes round and round’. Combine that with the fact that the live performances I’ve watched of Jigsaw online don’t seem to really do the studio version much justice, and I can kind of understand why it hasn’t made Radiohead’s setlists in a decade. Or maybe it’s simply because this is Radiohead, a band built on classics, meaning that Jigsaw is just a mere drop in the ocean. It’s a shame either way, but it can’t change the fact that is one of my favourites from the band and helped me find what is my favourite album of theirs too. Listen to it if you haven’t already.
Over the course of lockdown, Tim Burgess has been busy keeping the masses happy on Twitter by organising online listening parties (#TimsTwitterListeningParty) for various albums. Well, on Friday August 21st, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the Battle of Britpop between Oasis and Blur, we heard the latter’s album The Great Escape (Coincidentally celebrating its own 25th anniversary on the day this entry is written).
After being one of the pioneers of the Britpop movement with the release of Modern Life is Rubbish, Blur were immortalised by their follow up Parklife, and with the reception that the two albums received it was pretty much inevitable that the band were going to continue down the same route. Thus, we get The Great Escape, commonly deemed to be the third and final instalment in Blur’s ‘Life’ trilogy, taking potshots at the British upper class this time after dealing with the working and middle classes in MLIR and PL respectively.
So why is it that this album tends to get such a weak reception in comparison to its predecessors?
The most common criticism is that the album sounds overproduced and squeaky clean. Others may say that is was a case of ‘more of the same’ and that it wasn’t giving us anything new. A few would be turned off by the more cynical and downbeat nature of the music and the themes surrounding them. And of course some might say it ended up paling in comparison to Oasis’ effort of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?. All fair criticisms, but where do I stand on the matter?
Well until that Listening Party, I didn’t really have an opinion. I’d never properly listened to the album in full from beginning to end, mainly because I’d been turned off from the idea by people online who would crap on the album and make it out to be a slog of a listen. But last Friday I decided that I would try and hell, if people were voluntarily going to listen to this of their own accord and gush over it (Including drummer Dave Rowntree and producer Stephen Street), then surely there had to be something wonderful about The Great Escape.
So I did. And you know what? I have to agree. I had a great time listening to this album. Let’s look into it shall we?
Not much to say about this one, it sums up the fact that this will be Blur’s take on the upper class with three people having a swim around their private speedboat. The dominating colour blue also highlights that this one is going to be a rather gloomy take on the matter. With that in mind, I’d say it does what it sets out to achieve and advertises the album nicely. My main nitpick though, and this is gonna be me picking a really small nit; why is the band’s logo in italics? Doesn’t look right at all.
Track #1 – Stereotypes
So we kick things off with one of the singles and it’s a nice Pulp-style dig at wife-swapping and affairs. Not too much to say about it honestly, it’s not the most compelling of starts compared to For Tomorrow and Girls & Boys, but Stereotypes still manages to be loud, in-your-face and gets you pumped up and ready for the road ahead (Which technically is the same road we’ve been on since Modern Life, but let’s not split hairs).
Track #2 – Country House
My opinion on this one flip flops. If I’m in the right mood, then I can enjoy it, and I do find more often than not that I do in fact enjoy it. Not massively, but I don’t dislike it. It’s a wonderful pisstake at the expense of the band’s former boss at Food Records, David Balfe, who they never really saw eye to eye with and who retired to the country during Parklife’s production. Ironically, this is probably his best contribution to the band; existing to be turned into a caricature and the subject of the band’s first number one single. But the question has to be asked; the Battle of Britpop, would I choose this song or Roll With It? Well…I’ll admit, both songs are not the best representation of either band, but there’s something more listenable in the repetitive Roll With It as opposed to the cartoon-y story of Country House. Forgive me if I’m committing sacrilege here but Oasis gets the bump on this one.
Track #3 – Best Days
And if you’re still reading after that bombshell, here’s a song I heard for the first time I heard during the Listening Party and one of the darkhorses on this list of songs. Graham and Damon go hand in hand on this rather melancholy song which I suppose I relate to more than I usually would, being just out of uni where some of my Best Days may be behind me. Anyway, song’s great, and I do love that piano.
Track #4 – Charmless Man
I feel like this is the track that best sums up my feelings towards this album; filled with moments of brilliance connected together by others that are catchy but don’t really do it for me. Charmless Man has historically been a song of Blur’s that I have never gotten along with, yet one that I have really wanted to like. Hidden behind the annoying chorus of na-na-na’s, and a distorted guitar riff from Graham that for once isn’t really my cup of tea, is a cynical tale about an absolute pleb of a toff (Or, if rumour is to be believed, Suede’s own Brett Anderson) that doesn’t really overstay its welcome and once again has a nice piano solo courtesy of Damon. I’m starting to warm up to it the more I listen to it but I still maintain, it ain’t the best song on this album by a long shot and would probably have been better appreciated if it wasn’t made a single.
Track #5 – Fade Away
During the Listening Party, Dave Rowntree described this song as being a sort of homage to Terry Hall and the Specials. And I’m all for that, I bloody love the Specials, Ghost Town is a classic and frankly with the way this year has gone I wouldn’t be surprised if it becomes the darkhorse for the 2020 Christmas number one. Sorry, getting off topic. Fade Away is great; I’m all for a bit of ska, which is something Blur don’t normally tap into but it’s nice to see them continue to stretch their range after tapping into various genres on Parklife. Particular highlights include the trumpets and Graham’s guitar strum at the halfway mark, and the cynical and downbeat lyrics including “He noticed her visible lines/She worried about her behind”. That made me chuckle.
Track #6 – Top Man
Not to be confused with the hipster’s dream shop (And I say this as a guy who enjoyed splashing out on ultra skinny jeans and t-shirts), this is yet another character for Damon to have a dig at but if you look more closely into the lyrics…I think he’s talking about himself. After all, he is at that point in time the Top Man of Britpop, and it would make sense for him to be that “monkey on the roof”, “a little boy racer”, and how much do you want to bet that that person he sees in double before he “pukes on the pavement” is Justine Frischmann? Speculation on my part but I’m just saying. The song itself is quite good, and one that I could actually picture being a single but maybe it’s just a little too reserved and not in-your-face enough for that.
Track #7 – The Universal
F*ck British Gas. I can’t hear this song now without thinking of them, and I hate that fact because this song is phenomenal. It’s an ethereal, subdued anthem and the backing vocalists are the cream on the cake. You know what, my words can’t do it justice. Use the link below, listen to it, bask in its glory, and then come back for the next track.
Track #8 – Mr Robinson’s Quango
Back to the character pieces now, with a tale about Mr Robinson and with one of the single best rhymes ever penned by a songwriter courtesy of Damon – “He’s got a hairpiece, he’s got a herpes”. How in the blue hell do you come up with that? Noel and Jarv can eat their hearts out. In fact, speaking of Jarv, this once again does feel like a Pulp song given the Blur treatment, both in lyrics and in terms of the fact that Graham’s guitar at the beginning sounds almost identical to the line from Stereotypes. Maybe that’s just me though. Alex does a good job on bass here aswell, and I feel that I don’t often give him enough praise; when dissecting songs, bass is often the last part I come to. Obviously, Song 2 is Alex’s finest hour, but here and across the album he plays his part well.
Track #9 – He Thought of Cars
Tied with The Universal as my favourite song on this album, this is a dark turn and one that foreshadows the band’s future. If they had saved this song for the next album, added more distortion to the guitar and to Damon’s vocals, and maybe dropped the la-la-la’s of the chorus, then this could easily have slotted in on Blur. But while I could gush about this one, it was here that I began to realise why this album is considered the inferior one of the Life trilogy; there isn’t that much variation. Think about what we had by this point in Parklife – Alex’s space-travel trip in Far Out, the backing track for a pompous arsehole in The Debt Collector, the synthy dance-pop of Girls & Boys, Phil Daniels narrating Parklife, fast-paced punk rocking in Bank Holiday. Here on The Great Escape, we’ve had ska from Fade Away, and He Thought of Cars is foreboding and slow, but that’s it. It’s fine, don’t get me wrong, it just means the album is lacking pep. Not good considering I think this is The Great Escape’s peak.
Track #10 – It Could Be You
Well here’s a bit of pep at least. This one brought me back to Advert from Modern Life, with a slightly punky sound to it, but apart from Graham’s guitar work there’s not that much I can say about it…except for the fact that of all the songs here, this is the one I feel suffers the most from the overproduction that The Great Escape has been criticised for. There’s something that sounds overly squeaky-clean in those reverbs and the clashing of the electric and acoustic guitars.
Track #11 – Ernold Same
So it was true. Ken Livingstone was on this track. And according to producer Stephen Street, he was a complete twat. Must be a job requirement for London Mayors. This one isn’t gonna set the world on fire, but I think it’s a nice inverse to Parklife, with the angry arrogance of Phil Daniels replaced with the nasally boring old drone of the ‘Right-On’ Ken. A bit shorter than I’d have preferred but a nice relaxing one after the previous track. I’d even say it’s borderline ASMR given it made me want to flutter away in the sky and forget all my problems.
Track #12 – Globe Alone
Now here’s the pep I was looking for! Graham absolutely twats that guitar, Damon has some added bite in his performance here and credit has to be given to Dave on the drums aswell. I thought Phil from Radiohead had to go fast for Jigsaw Falling Into Place, Dave has to go at the speed of light here to keep up with the pace of the song. Definitely another of the darkhorses on Great Escape. But like the previous track, it’s just a shame its over so soon. Or then again, for the sake of Dave’s blood pressure, maybe it’s not.
Track #13 – Dan Abnormal
A.k.a Damon’s character from the music vid for M.O.R on the next album, obviously this one is going to be another piece aimed at a fictional character holding a gigantic mirror to reflect Damon’s words right back at him, his true target. Apparently, he was actually hungover when performing this in the studio and you can tell; he actually sounds bleary-eyed if that’s even possible. However, this isn’t really one of my favourites on this album, it’s just another one of the character-substituting-for-Damon songs and doesn’t stand out compared to the others.
Track #14 – Entertain Me
I got some ELO vibes from this one when hearing it for the first time, which was during the Blur v Oasis anniversary Star Shaped Disco Night. It got added to my Spotify playlist straight afterwards. Sadly though, it signals that the variation that I’d been teased with from Ernold Same and It Could Be You aren’t going to appear anymore and this is very much the norm. Again, nothing necessarily bad about that, in fact it’s easily one of the better songs on the album. As usual Graham is on top form and has some real prominence in his backing vocals, and once again Dave gets a real chance to shine. I just wish there had been more energy behind the making of this album but I suppose it came at a time when the band was coming to the end of its tether, with the first specks of frost beginning to appear on Damon and Justine’s relationship, and Graham becoming sick of the Britpop tone.
Track #15 – Yuko and Hiro
So I guess that’s why we end up finishing with a track like Yuko and Hiro. I noted down as I was listening to it for the first time that it sounded deliciously weird, and that lyrically it seemed like a song that could have appeared on 13 or Think Tank, but ended up in the Britpop era by accident. And that’s because this song is so damn sad, and like with He Thought of Cars it feels like we’re transitioning away from Britpop to the more gloomy stages of Blur’s career. For one last time we have a song that sees Damon reflecting on his own problems through characters, the problem this time being his relationship with Justine; two people working to ensure the very best for their careers at the cost of their time together. With Elastica beginning to take off, especially in America (Blur’s forbidden land), and Blur dealing with their continued success at home, this was the beginning of the end for Damon and Justine’s relationship. I must admit, I did almost tear up while listening to Yuko and Hiro due to its sense of finality and resignation, and that ending seems to signal that this is indeed the end of an era, as Blur’s time as the icons of Britpop just fades away…
To me, The Great Escape is quite possibly the most Britpoppy of Britpop albums, with its array of upper class caricatures, deliciously cartoony and biting lyrics and a theme of cynicism and at times despair bashing against catchy and peppy tunes. In that regard, it more than manages to do what it has set out to achieve and that is be a Britpop album which is a fun listen. Job done.
However, by indulging in those three factors a bit too much, especially towards cynicism, The Great Escape stops itself from being a quintessential listen like Parklife was. Not helped by the lack of variation in style as I mentioned earlier, this album does fall short of the mark expected after listening to MLIR and PL, but if you do find yourself digging in you end up listening to some underrated songs like Globe Alone, Best Days, Yuko and Hiro and especially He Thought of Cars. At the end of the day, it’s a very middle-of-the-road effort from Blur but considering that their output is average at worst, that still means you’re going to have a good time with this album.
So yeah. This was indeed the end of an era. Britpop began to falter not long after the album’s release, having peaked with the summer battle between Roll With It and Country House. Blur fell by the wayside as Oasis-mania swept the country, and tensions rose to almost fatal levels between the band members. A reboot was needed, and as with every end came a new beginning, one which I will happily talk about one day.
I’ve just come back from a week’s holiday in Kent visiting family, and after the year 2020 has been so far I’d say it was very much needed. Of course, there was the small issue of getting from the North East all the way down to the other end of the country, which meant three and a bit hours sat on a train. Thank God for Spotify. Now, having steadily built my playlist up over the course of lockdown (To the point where it has, at the time of writing this, 511 songs), there is a chance that I might hear the same old songs a lot and skip a few, but if there is one song out of that bunch that I will always listen to without any chance of glossing over it, it’s Trash by Suede.
I love this song to bits. In fact, I love the album it comes off; Coming Up is fantastic and I can’t wait to hear the whole thing live and in person in April. Corona permitting, of course.
Trash was one of the first songs I heard from Suede and I was instantly hooked with its loud distorted guitar riff courtesy of Richard Oakes, who had the biggest weight on his shoulders after the acrimonious departure of the band’s previous guitarist, Bernard Butler. All ears would have been on that guitar and the critics were waiting for the chance to crap on the new kid, who promptly shut them up and had them on their feet and dancing in the first 15 seconds.
Brett Anderson is on fine form here aswell, effortlessly belting out those high notes and working with Richard to pen a sweet tribute to the anti-socialites, or to put it another way, their fans. To quote Brett himself, “It’s a song that’s kind of about being in the band and, by extension, it’s a song about the fans and the whole kind of ethos of being a Suede… person” (NME, 2016). This song romanticises those out of place in society, the glam rockers like Suede themselves who transcend the norm with ‘the tasteless bracelets’, their ‘cellophane sounds’, their ‘looseness’. You may be trash, but you’re all trash together.
If I had to give one criticism about this song though, it’s that it does sound a little dated. The glam rock style and overbearing pop feel which Suede was going for with Coming Up, in an effort to create a marketable antithesis to Dog Man Star, means that Trash ends up being firmly rooted in the 90s. I realised this the hard way when I played this on the radio last year and discovered it stuck out like a sore thumb against the pop of today. Then again, maybe that works in its favour with it by making it sound fresh. Hell, with Dua Lipa tapping into the sounds of the past with Future Nostalgia, there could always be room for glam-style sounds to make a reappearance and help Trash feel of the times again. For now though, it stays appreciated by the outsiders that it appeals to with its lyrics.
Trash is a song that will always get me in the mood to listen to Suede. It’s the quintessential song from their second era (The post-Butler years) and sets you up for a fun ride ahead on Coming Up. It’s easy to listen to and I guarantee you would not be able to stop yourself at least bopping your head to it. Timeless? No. But absolutely a classic.
It’s safe to say that Oasis have become the stuff of legend ever since their breakup in the summer of 2009. A lot of people always like to say that those first two albums will always be two of the best ever recorded, that the Gallaghers are two of the best frontmen to ever take the stage, and that you could only be there at those concerts like Knebworth and Wembley to truly appreciate the spectacle. It does make me wish I was born ten years earlier but here I am instead stuck in an era where Dance Monkey and Shape of You have been all the rage. Never mind.
But it’s interesting because the way they are talked about now you would never have guessed that there was at least two periods of time where Oasis, to the general public, sucked. Don’t get me wrong, everything that goes on for a long time has to go through that phase (Lord knows Doctor Who has), but go back to that final tour they were doing for Dig Out Your Soul and watch some vids of some of their performances. That was a band that was washed up and was fraying at the edges. Breaking up was the best thing they could do to preserve their legacy. That was one period though. To some, that other period was the turn of the millennium, after the release of their fourth album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants.
SOTSOG is a step in a different direction for Oasis, something the critics had been wanting after the overblown noise of Be Here Now (Which is an album I’m still flip-flopping on, I’ll get to it one day), as they began experimenting with psychedelic rock. It was also a period of change for the band as founding members Bonehead and Guigsy both left, briefly leaving Oasis as a three piece, a newly sobered up Noel was no longer the sole songwriter, and the band’s label Creation Records had folded. In some ways, after the long night of partying with noise and cocaine during Be Here Now, SOTSOG is very much the morning after, the come down, the regret, and we see a band built on bluster and having a whale of a time show a slightly more gentle and humble side. They’re still trying to party on and put on a brave face, but they are shaken and knackered.
And that is why I love this album. It may have a few stinkers on it, which I’m going to talk about track by track, but it has never gotten the recognition it deserves and that is a damned shame.
The Album Cover:
I am very conflicted about this cover. On the one hand, it is a gorgeous picture of the New York skyline (Albeit that one aged very quickly unfortunately), I love a bit of colourful sky and it does tap in to the psychedelic feel of the album. However, there’s nothing about this that really screams ‘Oasis’, save for the massive new logo at the top. Which is generic crap by the way, why they changed to that I will never know. I suppose it’s an insight into how the band we’re creative beyond words when it came to music, but when it came to design in terms of their covers and their music vids it is only average with occasional flashes of brilliance. Sadly, this is not one of those flashes. It’s nice, let’s just leave it at that.
Track #1 – Fuckin’ in the Bushes
I once described this to someone as the perfect backing track to a Quentin Tarantino-style killing spree. If he had decided to cut Once Upon a Time in Hollywood in half and just have Leonardo DiCaprio rock up to the Manson compound, flamethrower in hand, this tune would have been the cream on the cake. It’s a brilliant tune that gets you pumped up for the album ahead, and gets you set up for that morning after feel. The hangover hasn’t quite kicked in yet, you’re still in a party mood and no words need to be said here. It’s pure music, save for the splicings of quotes from Message To Love – Isle of Wight 1970 (And being honest for a sec, when I heard the phrase “Kids running around naked, fuckin’ in the bushes”, I expected that to be from a standard local, not from a pensioner with a pipe in his mouth), and it informs the listener that this is going to be a breath of fresh air compared to last time.
Track #2 – Go Let It Out
Put it simply, if you picked up this single in the weeks before the album’s release, you had just bagged yourself a bargain; before I talk about the actual song, I would like to mention the two b-sides; Let’s All Make Believe, and (As Long As They’ve Got) Cigarettes in Hell. Basically, you just got three great songs for the price of one. Go Let It Out has been described as the most Beatles-esque of Oasis’ catalogue and I would be inclined to agree, with that drum loop and Noel’s lyrics making for an excellent lead single. For a guy who was supposedly really uninspired in terms of songwriting at this point, he blows this one out of the water. Sadly, this is an early peak for the album, and after this it’s time to calm things right down…
Track #3 – Who Feels Love?
Yet another of the singles from this album and easily the weakest of the bunch. Clocking in at just under six minutes, it’s one of the longer songs and it does feel like it. Lyrically, it ain’t the best either, coming across as Oasis-tasting cheese and a reflection on Noel’s burnout. It’s not offensive, it’s just a bit of a drab listen and it brings the pace of the album to a complete standstill. Admittedly this may be because this is where the psychedelia kicks in and it needed a prominent showing, but it really should have been another song instead.
Track #4 – Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is
A small step up but it’s hard to get into this one thanks to that starting noise in your left ear, like a buzzer from a quiz show that broke after a contestant pressed on it too hard. It would have been fine if it just lasted a moment, but it drones on for fifteen agonising seconds and feels like a knuckle being dragged against your eardrum until finally a decent guitar riff drowns it out. The lyrics are rather repetitive but Liam does a fine job with them. In fact give the quality of the song, he is kind of wasted on this one. It strikes me as the kind of song a boxer who’s looking to make it to the big leagues would use for his entrance before he has a hard fought match with an opponent with a shit track record. Bad start, average rest. But I honestly think I’d rather listen to this over Who Feels Love?
Track #5 – Little James
After writing the songs that had propelled Oasis to the top, Noel takes a well-earned backseat for this one and let’s Liam take the pen with this song.
…Admirable, I think is the best way to describe this.
It’s not as if Liam is Poet Laureate or something like that, after all Noel was brought into the band in the early 90s on the condition that he would write their songs. But then again, he’s not as crap as say, Fred Durst or Corey Feldman. In fact nowhere near that crap. He put his heart into this one, this being a song to the son of his then-wife, and is another example of the more gentle and humble nature Oasis were exhibiting in this album.
Better was to come from Liam but for now for his first try, let’s grade it with a C and move on, because we’ve got a good bunch of songs ahead of us.
Track #6 – Gas Panic!
When you mention SOTSOG to an Oasis fan, there’s a good chance that this will be the first song that they think of, and with good reason. Frankly, this should have been a single in the place of Who Feels Love?, as it perfectly encapsulates the new sound of Oasis and combines it with some of Liam’s best vocals, Noel’s best lyrics and guitarwork, and some eerily trippy soundwork to create possibly the darkest song the band have ever produced. Plus, to those who do suffer from anxiety like myself, this is a song that really resonates with you – “You better get on your knees and pray/Panic is on the way”. Translation: “Panicking is your best hope here, son. Pray it’s nothing more”. Good God, that is spooky. If it weren’t for Go Let It Out, this would easily be the best song on the album, but it has to settle for a close second.
Track #7 – Where Did It All Go Wrong?
And here’s that regret that I mentioned at the beginning. Noel finally steps up to the mic on this album, and in what must have been a real self-inflicted kick to his ego’s balls, lays himself bare as he reflects on where it all went wrong. The highs of Oasis dwell on him and the band here, and yet again he fails to prove that he was only writing lyrics for the sake of it at this point with “Do you keep the receipts/For the friends you buy?” being a shining example. Hell, even his guitarwork sounds regretful. Of course, this being Oasis, it’s addressed to someone else but I can’t help but picture a newly-sobered up Noel looking at himself in the mirror as he wrote that song.
Track #8 – Sunday Morning Call
Noel hates this one and can’t seem to stand it. For a man who once claimed “I don’t write shit songs”, he does seem to think of this as the nadir of his efforts, at least going by his reaction to it on the Time Flies commentary he did.
Well I think he is wrong, that this is one of the most underrated tunes from Oasis, and the third best song on the album overall.
I’ll admit that perhaps the lyrics aren’t as airtight as they can be and that tonally it does seem a bit too depressing, having to take the feeling of hopelessness and sadness on the nose, and the only reassurance you get is a mere “It’s alright”. But they’re heartfelt, and while a lot of Oasis’ lyrics are like that, they have always come across as a bit high and mighty, playing into their ‘Gods of rock-and-roll’ image they had going on during the 90s. Here, they are on the same level as the person they address, and that is so refreshing. One more thing; the criticisms of this one sounding overblown production-wise? I don’t see it. That solo before the last iteration of the chorus might sound a little disjointed but I think it works just fine.
Track #9 – I Can See a Liar
Initially this one struck me as one that would get the blood pumping after a slow number at a concert, kind of like what Acquiesce would be after Wonderwall. However, this one feels like it would be better suited as a b-side, with generic lyrics and a tune that, while quite catchy, seems a little half-hearted in some way. Liam’s vocals have also been given some reverb that makes it sound like he’s singing in a tin, and it sounds more like something that should be sang over 80s-style synths rather than rock and roll. It’s a listenable song, don’t get me wrong, but I can’t help but feel that this one was a bit of a rush job and didn’t have much thought or care put into it. Like I say, this one does not feel like it belongs among the main tracks of the album and it really should have been a b-side. Makes me sadder that Cigarettes in Hell got bumped off for this.
Track #10 – Roll It Over
Well here we are then. The final stretch, the longest song on the album, and you know you’re in for the long haul with that slow, almost ominous start transitioning into a rare dose of Southern rock. And this is where the album peaks one last time. This is where the morning after feel slowly dissipates, and Oasis get their bluster and their mojo back, hitting back at the detractors (The “plastic people”) of Be Here Now. The backing vocals give the impression that they’re rising back up, the twangs of the guitar sound defiant against the sadness they have been feeling for most of the album, and the crashing of the drums combine with Liam’s vocals to create one hell of a passionate end to SOTSOG. This is one of the best closing tracks of any Oasis album, and my second favourite only behind The Masterplan.
This album is Oasis at their most real and their most likeable. Not the most listenable, but the most likeable. They know they are on the edge during this album and that they have been in a dark place and that they need to climb out. Whether they did by the time of Heathen Chemistry is a question that for now I’m gonna leave unanswered as I have little desire to listen to that one.
Like I say though, I love this album. It’s not perfect, not by a long stretch, and it isn’t quintessential Oasis. But it is such a breath of fresh air and if they had continued in this direction more than just flirting with it again on Dig Out Your Soul, I would have been all for it. My main criticism of it is that there are some songs that don’t really belong on here. If you were to swap I Can See a Liar and Who Feels Love? for the two b-sides from Go Let It Out, I guarantee that this album would have received a lot more praise, and that the only weak links that could really be prodded at would be Little James and Put Yer Money…
But of course, it didn’t please the sour faces of the critics, and it didn’t make enough money which was the aim of the game for Oasis ever since Be Here Now. Twenty years on, it is starting to receive some praise and it does make me wonder, as the long slog of 2020 continues could we see an anniversary re-release of this album?