OASIS, "DON'T BELIEVE THE TRUTH" (SONY) * 1/2
When it comes to the relationship between the U.S. and the Mother Country
in the field of popular music, the shorthand history holds that the Brits
often have taken sounds that originated in this country, polished them up,
then sold them back to us with a bit of a snicker; it was true of the
Rolling Stones, it was true of the Sex Pistols, and it's true of The
Streets. But every once in a while the faded empire flashes its
nationalistic streak -- witness the thrashing Tony Blair recently got for
being too chummy with our own W. -- and there's never been a better
illustration or a less justifiable example of this than Oasis.
The battlin' Gallagher brothers haven't done much to justify the hype on
their last two studio releases, "Heathen Chemistry" (2002) and "Standing on
the Shoulder of Giants" (2000), and even their biggest boosters in the
British media were starting to question their alleged genius. But the
cheerleaders have hopped back on board with the group's sixth album, and the
accolades are raining down like a cloudburst over London: The group is
sitting at No. 1 on the pop charts with "Lyla," the first single from the
new disc, and the Book of British Hit Singles & Albums just crowned Oasis
"the most successful act of the last decade in the U.K."
To any American rock fan with taste, this is as inexplicable as our
overseas cousins' fondness for kidney pie. Like that questionable delicacy,
Oasis music may seem appealing at first, but it'll turn your stomach if you
start poking into what it's made of. Musical auteur Noel never heard a hook
he was too proud to steal -- most often from the Beatles, of course, though
here he branches out to lift from the Kinks and the Small Faces, as well.
(And why bother to dig any deeper to paraphrase the American acts those lads
ripped off?) Meanwhile, Brother Liam is as irrelevant as ever, with that
droning voice and its three-note range and the whining tone of a petulant
5-year-old, which he has somehow managed to sustain to age 33.
Despite the blatant lack of originality, Liam's annoying croak and
famously hackneyed lyrics, which range from simply idiotic to downright
moronic, there are moments of pleasure here, as there always are with Oasis.
But at its best -- as on humble but catchy little ditties such as "Lyla"
(where's the missing "a"?) or "Love Like a Bomb" -- the group is still only
on par with the likes of our own Lenny Kravitz or Ryan Adams as modestly
talented third-tier wannabes. Blind nationalism and self-delusion on the
level of Neville "Peace in our times" Chamberlain are the only ways to
explain the Brits' devotion to this group as something more. Don't believe
the truth, indeed.