Dig Out Your Soul
1.5 out of 5 stars
Dig Out Your Soul, indeed. Oasis’s seventh studio album marks the latest edition of the band’s floundering efforts to exorcise, at long last, their Oedipal-Beatles complex. However, Noel Gallagher and Co. have never sounded this desperate.
Oasis, at its best, has attempted to follow in the footsteps of its Liverpudlian forefathers, masterfully constructing Britpop pastiches and borrowing only from the elite (namely, The Fab Four). While far from ever having been the prime innovators of the Britpop scene, they galvanized their hand-me-down bag of tricks with a patent blend of cocksure gusto and emotional heft — or at least they used to. Ever since the explosive success of their first two albums, the band has been cryogenically frozen in a rut of feeble attempts to reinvent, focusing less on crafting saccharine-rich melodic hooks and more on groping in the dark to castrate their roots.
On Dig Out Your Soul, this identity crisis reaches ludicrous proportions. Nearly the entire album is mired by the band’s attempts to liberate itself from the mold. This would be just peachy if their liberation didn’t translate to limp vocals, noncommittal guitar drones, stagnant song structures and an overall sense of unleavened mojo. It’s as if Noel and Liam are tired of running from their shadows after having done so (more or less) for four consecutive albums and no longer know where else to go; the dominant mood here is one of utter exhaustion.
Album opener “Bag It Up” starts things off harmlessly with enough hearty power chords and percussive pulse to distract from its formulaic underpinnings. “The Turning,” chock-full of sinewy grooves and vintage Doors-esque organs, maintains the kinetic energy. Unfortunately, this momentum is promptly extinguished by the fourth track, lead single “The Shock of the Lightning,” the first in a long succession of sluggish, melodically thirsty midtempo cuts that define the bulk of the record. The kitschy cowbell konks punctuating the verses in “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” and the aimless drum solo dumped indiscriminately into the middle of “Shock” would sound less awkward if they were actually integrated into the sonic structures. Instead, they stick out like sore thumbs amid such static songwriting.
Nonetheless, there are strong tracks here. Album closer “Soldier On” features an acerbically addictive melody (Liam’s signature snarling actually sounds convincing here) and tastefully disintegrates into piping organs and synthesizers of all shapes and sizes. “To Be Where There’s Life” cruises along confidently on a gummy bassline over a melting pot of sitars, merging ’60s psychedelia with Oasis’s own home-cooked swagger. And “Waiting For The Rapture,” a “Why Don’t We Do It In the Road?” for the Red Bull generation, features the band fully indulging in its inner-Beatle, with Noel oscillating between pitch-perfect Lennon and McCartney impressions, and drummer Zak Starkey (Ringo Starr’s biological son) pounding away on the snare.
Perhaps these songs represent the artistic balance the band clearly craves. In any case, Soul raises some serious eyebrows regarding where Oasis will go in the future.