Once upon a time, two brothers were in a band that made a record, Definitely Maybe, that was followed by another record, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, that made a bunch of Boomer-aged critics think they were the second coming of a famous band from the ‘60s. There was much rejoicing. The brothers celebrated with fistfuls of coke and 70 excruciating minutes of Be Here Now. Since then, the band has fought to be regarded as underrated in the wake of a disastrous few years of being over-praised.
Oasis never returned to the level of popularity they enjoyed in the mid-‘90s, but Noel and Liam Gallagher kept their swagger after the backlash. Amid their run of disappointing post-Morning Glory records, they posted two of the hippest songs of this decade: “Fucking in the Bushes” and “Force of Nature.” After Be Here Now, the band was careful to keep their records from clocking in past the 45-minute mark. Those follow-up albums were disappointments because, aside from a catchy song or two, they were tedious. Dig Out Your Soul defies this trend and is their most compelling offering in years.
The cover art promises psychedelia, but trippy art design has little to do with how or why Dig Out Your Soul succeeds. Dave Sardy produces (back after helming Don’t Believe the Truth), channeling enough from Revolver and Sgt. Pepper to make you wonder if he was also stealing furniture from Abbey Road Studios between sessions. Sardy and Oasis don’t simply plough through familiar Beatles tropes though; they harvest their best bits from deep in the heart of Plastic Ono Band territory. “Bag It Up” starts with a driving, crisp beat and steadily builds into a fully orchestrated climax, but instead of drawing too much attention to it, the song segues into the catchy bass, drum and piano hook of “The Turning.” From there it’s into one of the album’s highlights, “Waiting for the Rapture.” Noel handles vocals here, starting with an “I Found Out” hiss, and while bass controls the rhythm, it’s Ringo’s son, Zak Starkey, Oasis’s de facto drummer since 2004, who steals the show. The ballad “I’m Outta Time” is the center of the record, and is refreshing because it avoids sounding like either a rehash of “Wonderwall” or a weak imitation of “Hey Jude” (contra “Don’t Go Away” or “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”).
It’s Sardy’s manipulation of the sounds of Starkey’s percussion, however, that is the defining feature of Dig Out Your Soul, whether it’s accompanied with a sitar on “To Be Where There’s Life” or bled together with the bass and submerged under the strum of an acoustic guitar on “Soldier On.” Perhaps in the States Oasis will never reestablish their “Wonderwall”-era popularity, but they’re still cocky enough to release this LP on the same week as the anniversary of the birth of one John Winston Lennon. And compared to the reigning kings of English rock, Dig Out Your Soul is more rewarding than spending time with cunts like Death and All His Friends.