Don't Believe the Truth

(Epic; 2005)

By Matt Stephens | 19 September 2007

If you had a childhood anything like mine, the name Oasis probably conjures up some fond memories for you. I was never what you’d call a huge fan of the band, but hearing “Wonderwall” or “Don’t Look Back in Anger” today still gets me all nostalgic, remembering excited sing-alongs beside a cheap boom box radio in my fifth grade classroom. Every kid in that room, even the ones with creepy zealot parents who didn’t let them listen to pop music (and I remember there being several of those), could recite the lyrics to those songs front to back.

There was a reason Oasis was the only mid-'90s Brit-pop band to really make it big overseas: their early music had a natural infectiousness and universality that couldn’t really be trained. Sure, Suede had the sex, while Blur and Pulp had the brains, but it was Oasis who had the big, fun, unpretentious tunes that lodged themselves in your brain for weeks on end; the ones which, even if you haven’t heard them for a few years (and I know I haven’t), you can still hum eagerly on cue. Their best songs seemed mechanically constructed to become old favourites of yours, referencing (or, to be fair, shamelessly aping) the best of classic British rock, while still sounding distinctive and new. The first two Oasis albums, 1994’s Definitely Maybe and '95's (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, are both great, timeless records from a band that sounded like it had been and would be around forever. But, oh, how the mighty do fall.

Don’t Believe the Truth, the group’s sixth album (and fourth since they stopped being any good), probably isn’t Oasis’ nadir (that distinction arguably being due to 2002’s atrocious Heathen Chemistry), but one could be fooled for thinking so. The band tinkered with the album for more than two years, even ditching an early version of it (to be produced by Death in Vegas) entirely after a chilly reception at last year’s Glastonbury festival. Theoretically, the album sounds exactly like classic Oasis -- anthemic choruses, swaggering vocals, eerily familiar guitar riffs, big, dumb emotions -- but there’s hardly a moment among these 12 songs worth remembering, let alone one that could inspire any kind of glee from school children.

It begins dreadfully. Opener “Turn Up The Sun,” penned by bassist and former Ride member Andy Bell, barely even has a melody, and seems just an excuse to allow Liam Gallagher to sneer, whine, and mispronounce words for four aggravating minutes. “Mucky Fingers,” a neutered, appallingly crass copping of The Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man,” is even worse, capped off by the fact that Noel Gallagher actually allows himself to sing on it (which, unfortunately, is not the only time he does so on the record). Things look up a bit with first single “Lyla,” which, in addition to having a discernable melody and hook, sounds like the band is actually enjoying playing it. The real standout, and probably the only song one would have any inclination to return to, is Liam’s lovely but painfully brief ballad “Love Like a Bomb,” with it’s understated melody and arrangement, is a reminder of what Oasis was once capable of, and perhaps a signal of whom creative control should go to next time around.

The album spirals into nothingness from there. “The Importance of Being Idle” and “Part of the Queue” strum around for hooks that aren’t there, and “Keep the Dream Alive” may be the laziest rocker the band has ever put its name to. Don’t Believe the Truth’s real low-points, though, belong to its two closing songs. First is “Let There Be Love,” a joyless, saccharine dirge with Liam and Noel trading vocals and a chorus that consists of nothing but the title repeated continuously over a Casio string section and what may actually be synthesized handclaps. Synthesized fucking handclaps. Finally, to ice the cake, pseudo-instrumental closer “I Can See it Now” recycles “Mucky Fingers” chord progression -- which, as I mentioned earlier, is itself entirely ripped off from “I’m Waiting for the Man.” Ugh.

At this point, I can’t imagine any scenario wherein Oasis could make an album worth listening to again. Everything since 1997’s coked-up Be Here Now has stunk of laziness and complacency, and the band appears to have lost all sight of what once made them relevant and great. Really, Don’t Believe the Truth isn’t much better or worse than anything they’ve done since, and, like all other Oasis albums, the British public will happily gobble it up anyway, and if they truly enjoy this record then all the power to them. As far as I can see, though, the Oasis we once loved is dead and gone, and all Don’t Believe the Truth offers is yet another painful, unnecessary reminder.