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Standing On the Shoulder of Giants

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Reseña de álbum

Oasis nearly collapsed under their own weight and inertia shortly after the summer 1997 release of Be Here Now. Greeted with generally enthusiastic reviews and robust sales, Be Here Now shattered sales records in the U.K. and nearly topped the U.S. charts, positioning the quintet as the de facto rulers of rock. Then, a funny thing happened: Where (What's the Story) Morning Glory? received mediocre reviews and then revealed its strengths with repeated spins, the exact opposite happened with Be Here Now. Critics backtracked on their glowing reviews and fair-weather fans flooded the used bins; the record just didn't capture the public's imagination the way Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory did. Not long afterward, typical in-fighting unraveled the band's tour, and the group disappeared from the spotlight.

During 1998, it became fashionable to slag Be Here Now, and Noel Gallagher didn't distance himself from the criticism. To his mind, the album sank under its sheer excess and he decided to change direction — clean up his act (and force his brother Liam to do the same), hunker down, hire a new producer (Mark "Spike" Stent), and make the record that Be Here Now should have been. It wasn't an easy process. During the recording in 1999, founding members Bonehead and Paul McGuigan departed, leaving Noel to pick up their parts. They were replaced by Heavy Stereo's Gem Archer and Ride's Andy Bell, both of whom were added after the album was finished. That means Standing on the Shoulder of Giants isn't really the debut of the new band, but it might as well be, since it is clearly the beginning of Oasis, Mach II.

Such a grandiose statement may imply that Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is a clear break from Oasis' past, which is hardly the case. The signatures are all in place — strummed acoustic guitars, big hooks, undeveloped lyrics, familiar rhymes ("liar/fire," etc.), and a gigantic wall of sound — but the sensibility has changed. The arrangements are every bit as detailed as Be Here Now, the album that Standing most closely resembles, but they're clearer and better focused here, and the overall record feels more mature. Ironically, this is also their most overtly druggy, psychedelic release to date, and it's not just because Gallagher and Stent spent endless hours refining the mix, adding mellotrons and swirling guitars along with vague dancefloor ideas borrowed from the Chemical Brothers and the Charlatans [UK]. The differences here are also due to the fact that all of Noel's melodies invariably follow the minor-key patterns typical of '60s psychedelic pop; the same is true of Liam Gallagher's songwriting debut, "Little James," an ode to his step-son.

For all of its heavy psychedelic influence, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants isn't really a mind-altering experience, although it does bend reality a bit more than the first two records. Strikingly, this release uses the sonics of Be Here Now as a blueprint — it's sort of like they got it right this time, since their brains weren't clouded with excess and hubris. Unlike that album, the songwriting on Standing isn't quite in the classic Gallagher tradition — not even the rockers have the giddy rush of classic Oasis. This is all more measured and composed, a self-consciously mature departure from the group's usual ebullient nature that attempts to keep the melodic essence of the band. It succeeds, more or less, yet it strangely sounds like Oasis without feeling like Oasis. Could that be a sign of maturity? Possibly, but there's no question that whatever gang mentality the group had previously has since faded into history, leaving Oasis, at least for this album, as the vehicle of Noel Gallagher. Liam has input, of course — his singing shapes the very character of the songs, and not only has he written his first song, but Noel claims responsibility for the inclusion of "I Can See a Liar," the hardest-rocking song on the album. If it were up to Noel, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants would have been a mellow, midtempo collection of mild psychedelia, spiked with hints of big beat and electronica to prove that he's with it. And that's sort of what the album is, at least in the most reductive sense. The question is whether that's a good or a bad thing.

For the most part, it's a good thing, since Noel's increased sense of focus results in the most cohesive record Oasis has released since their debut. But that cohesiveness has come at a price: Standing on the Shoulder of Giants never has individual moments that shine as brightly as the best songs from the first three albums. Even the maligned Be Here Now had strong songs — they were just undone by an overblown production. Standing does have its fair share of strong numbers: "Go Let It Out" is vintage Oasis; "Put Yer Money Where You Mouth Is" is a solid rocker; "Where Did It All Go Wrong" and "Sunday Morning Call" are solo confessional Noel numbers just a shade beneath "Talk Tonight"; and "Roll It Over" is among their genuine anthems. These, however, never quite sparkle the way "Slide Away," "Some Might Say," or "It's Getting Better (Man)" did on the other albums. So, it's a bit of a trade-off: It's easy to get sucked into this impeccably-produced record as it's playing, yet only a handful of songs are alluring enough to bring you back again. Why is that? It's hard to say, but the gut feeling is that few of the songs are as immediately memorable or sonically bracing as Noel's best work. Yes, this is a strong effort, and it flows better than anything outside of Definitely Maybe, but it does feel like the work of an older, different band — not necessarily more experimental or adventurous, just more measured. Given that Oasis has always been such a force of nature, the difference is a little disarming, but since the music and production are both quite strong, it's easy to get used to. Still, there's the nagging feeling that even if they've made a successful transition to maturity, it's hard not to miss the hard rock, pure attitude, and gigantic hooks that made the group's reputation in the first place. (Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, Rovi

Biografía

Se formó en: 1993 en Manchester, England

Género: Rock

Años de actividad: '90s, '00s

Oasis pasó de la oscuridad al estrellato en 1994, y se convirtió en una de las bandas más populares y elogiadas de Gran Bretaña de la década; junto con Blur y Suede, son los responsables del regreso del pop británico de guitarras al tope de las listas. Liderado por el guitarrista/compositor Noel Gallagher, el quinteto de Manchester adopta la rústica imagen de matones de los Stones y the Who, la cruza con las melodías y ganchos de inspiración Beatle, la temática inconfundiblemente británica de las...
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Standing On the Shoulder of Giants, Oasis
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