Conventional wisdom about Oasis in the ’90s was that the band wanted to be The Beatles (okay, bigger than The Beatles). The working-class blokes from Manchester nearly achieved that feat, thanks to a string of indomitable singles laced with hooks, bravado and more than a few references to the Fab Four’s lyrics and riffs. Drugs, fame and general excess eventually caught up to the Oasis creative process in the late ’90s, although recent sober times have produced respectable LPs, like 2005’s Don’t Believe the Truth.
Which brings us to Dig Out Your Soul, the band’s seventh studio album and by far its most psychedelic, brooding collection. “To Be Where There’s Life” prominently features sitar and sunburned harmonies (shades of “Tomorrow Never Knows”), while “The Shock of the Lightning” could be a Dandy Warhols song, what with its seedy organ groove, bashing drums and noisy guitar jags.
But Soul is thankfully more than just rote molasses grooves and far-out flourishes. “The Nature of Reality,” penned by Ride-guitarist-turned-Oasis-bassist Andy Bell, is pure Bowie glitter-glam crunch, while “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” has a campfire jam-session feel, complete with clip-clop rhythms and loping acoustic guitars.
The problem with Soul is that it doesn’t say anything of substance. For all of the Gallagher brothers’ braggadocio and nonsensical lyrics, Oasis always showed a surprising amount of emotional vulnerability, and that helped the band transcend its influences.
But Soul feels like Oasis lyrical Mad Libs, with stock exhortations and images (“baby,” setting suns, “come on”) and obvious Beatles references (“magical mystery tour”) haphazardly strung together. The mournful departure tune “I’m Outta Time” and mortality-facing “Falling Down”—the latter a string-cushioned bit of eerie keyboard pop à la The Verve—resonate. But for the most part, Soul’s pristine psych-rock vibe doesn’t linger after the album finishes, and neither do its songs.