I’ll own up to the fact that, as madly excited as I was for Don’t Believe the Truth to come out, I was also painfully nervous. The last two Oasis albums weren’t actually bad by any means, but Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000) and Heathen Chemistry (2003) did very little to settle the Oasis naysayers (it’s very likely that you know these people: those whose only consideration of them is “those brothers that have a bad attitude” and/or “that song ‘Wonderwall’” sound familiar?)
Essentially, the glory days of mid-90’s Britpop were long passed, and not even I knew exactly what was going to happen to my favourite band.
Everything rested on the success or failure of Don’t Believe the Truth, and I’m not talking about commercial success or failure here. Did Oasis have it in them to be great again? Would this album be a masterpiece, or merely passable? Noel Gallagher is clearly capable of creating both, so it wasn’t until I actually placed the disc in my stereo and hit the ‘play’ button that I allowed my self to make such debilitating judgments.
‘Turn Up The Sun’ is the opening track, written by bassist Andy Bell. It jingles in your ear, thumps out a groovy guitar line, and then of course has Liam belting out Don’t Believe the Truth’s opening statement: “I carry madness/everywhere I go’. Appropriate, is it not? And at the moment when Noel and Liam harmonize together for the chorus – “C’mon! Turn up the sun/turn it up for everyone” – it hits you like a smack upside the head. Oasis are fucking back.
Next we get a Noel-penned track entitled ‘Mucky Fingers’. Possibly the most experimental tune of the album, it presents some of Noel’s finest lyrics to date. In terms of sound, it’s the drums from the Velvet Underground’s ‘Waiting for the Man’ with Neil Young’s tinny harmonica and Dylan’s melodic structure. One thing you’ve got to love about Oasis is that the songs wear their influences right on their sleeve, and yet give birth to something completely refreshing in the process.
Now if you haven’t heard ‘Lyla’ by this point, I don’t know where you’ve been living for the past few months. Of course there’s a tinge of ‘Street Fighting Man’ by The Rolling Stones shading it, but regardless…it’s a good solid tune, it has a killer guitar solo, and it remains better than most of the other Coldplay-ish drivel that’s dominating the airwaves.
Subsequently we get a song called ‘Love Like A Bomb’, which has a very flower power, Sixties vibe about it. While there’s nothing particularly inventive or original about Liam’s first composition (with the help of guitarist Gem) on Don’t Believe the Truth here, it serves its purpose as a simple and pretty ode from a man to his missus shockingly well.
If you’ve ever been contented with being a lazy fucker for days on end, ‘The Importance of Being Idle’ may just be your new favourite song. Set to be the single that follows ‘Lyla’, it’s the successor of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ for Noel Gallagher (and I mean this only in the sense that both have the quality of an instant classic – in actuality the two songs sound nothing alike). It’s boppy, extremely catchy, and has Noel singing in a charming falsetto that I don’t think even he knew existed.
‘The Meaning of Soul’ comes off a lot better here on the album than it did during Oasis’ somewhat lifeless performance at Glastonbury 2004, but then again pretty much everything played that night didn’t exactly sound proper. At only 1 minute and 42 seconds, Liam sneers out self-affirmations (“I’m a different breed/You know I’m out of yer league/I’m 10 outta 10 alright?”) in a booming, Elvis Presley sort of way. And if the rumours are true, the fabulously clappy, hollow drumbeat heard here is actually Zak Starkey – yes, that’s right, the offspring of Beatle Ringo Starr – banging on a box of Wheaties with a pair of wooden spoons. And with that, I think I need say no more.
‘Guess God Thinks I’m Abel’ is a strumming acoustic ballad that Liam also wrote, supposedly about his relationship with brother Noel (Get it? Cain & Abel…been reading the Bible much, Liam?). With regard to that, the lyric “You could be my lover” is mildly disturbing, but I won’t go there. This aside, it really is a knockout of a tune.
The saddest, most melancholy tune of the bunch on Don’t Believe the Truth has to be ‘Part of the Queue’. It has an uneasy ¾ waltz rhythm supporting Noel’s voice, which has, by the way, never sounded stronger or more clear than it does on this track.
Andy Bell’s second songwriting contribution to the album is ‘Keep the Dream Alive’, a decent enough song that is, I think, about a mid-life crisis. The song’s saving grace is that Liam sings it like he does everything – as if it’s the most important thing in the world, and it catches one’s ear because of it.
Gem Archer’s song ‘A Bell Will Ring’ is, unfortunately, my least favourite on this album…and it is unfortunate, because I think Gem is great. His name is great, his hair is great, his other songs are great (‘Eyeball Tickler’, a Gem-composition that appears on the ‘Lyla’ single, is the coolest punk-ish thing Oasis have done since ‘Headshrinker’). You know it’s with regret that I say this, but ‘A Bell Will Ring’ is missing some characteristic that I can’t even pinpoint or describe, and it just doesn’t work. Gem – you can do far, far better.
We all know how important it is to end an album properly, and apparently Oasis took heed of that notion because ‘Let There Be Love’, Don’t Believe the Truth’s closer, is a stunning success. Not since ‘Acquiesce’ have the brothers Gallagher sang back and forth like they do here, and this time it’s guaranteed to send shivers down your spine.
Although it doesn’t completely lack the unimpeded confidence and riotous self-belief that Oasis’ early albums possessed, Don’t Believe the Truth reflects a maturity in Oasis that I don’t believe anyone saw coming. Noel is still churning out works of genius that, though fewer in quantity, are still quality. Liam is proving his worth as a contributing songwriter and becoming a catalyst as opposed to hindrance where work for the band is concerned. Gem and Andy have secured their places as full-fledged members of Oasis; no longer can they be classified by the naysayers as ‘glorified studio musicians’. And although there’s still no permanent drummer in the Oasis line-up, when things are going this well and you have the highly competent Zak Starkey behind the kit (or cereal box), who needs one? And while it’s not another Definitely Maybe or (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, Don’t Believe the Truth packs a real fucking punch in its own right. With it, Oasis have reasserted their rightful place in rock n’ roll culture. And of course the glory days are over, all things must pass. But, as Oasis have shown the world with this record, it doesn’t mean there aren’t more glorious days ahead. [ END ]
01. Turn Up the Sun
02. Mucky Fingers
04. Love Like a Bomb
05. The Importance of Being Idle
06. The Meaning of Soul
07. Guess God Thinks I’m Abel
08. Part of the Queue
09. Keep the Dream Alive
10. A Bell Will Ring
11. Let There Be Love
Run Time: 42:53