- The Washington Times - Monday, May 30, 2005


Don’t Believe the Truth

Epic Records

The combustible Brit-rockers of Oasis have discovered the time-honored method of weathering spats and staying together: Make shadow solo albums within the context of band projects.

Oasis’ heroes, the Beatles, made it work for a few years before the centrifugal forces of egomania shattered the delicate dynamic.

Now that the heavyweight champs of Coldplay have surpassed them, Oasis may find the formula longer-lasting — the pressure’s off.

The live-and-let-live trend began with 2002’s “Heathen Chemistry” and continues with “Don’t Believe the Truth,” the band’s sixth studio album. The tracks are semidemocratically divvied up between singer-guitarist Noel Gallagher and his brother, singer Liam Gallagher. Guitarist Andy Bell pitches in a couple of tunes. Bassist Gem Archer co-writes one with Liam and contributes one of his own.

Misleadingly, one of Liam’s is called “Guess God Thinks I’m Abel,” suggesting Noel is Cain — that is, the killer brother. But the song’s not about brothers; it’s about lovers.

There are no murders here.

Amazingly, all the elements of “Truth” come off cohesively like Oasis, which hasn’t sounded this good — another way of saying like itself — in years.

But hold on. What does it mean to say Oasis, a band that has plagiarized classic British rock with baldfaced brio, sounds like itself?

First, you look for the melodies — are they simple, gleaming, anthemic? Check. Then the guitars — are they turned to 11? Check. Finally, the drums — are they thunderous? Ringo Starr’s son, Zak Starkey, is on duty for the lion’s share of tracks, and on songs such as “Turn Up the Sun” and “A Bell Will Ring,” he sounds as if his limbs are full of lead. So, check.

Who cares if much of the material here is twice-baked?

The album’s ode-to-a-girl first single, “Lyla,” partially nicks the melody and riff of the Rolling Stones’ 1968 rocker “Street Fighting Man,” which is a little like breaking out cannons to shoot fish in a barrel. Still, lucky Lyla, the hook is sky-high.

“Mucky Fingers,” one of Noel’s five tunes, borrows the throbbing rhythm and conversational melody of the Velvet Underground’s “I’m Waiting for the Man.” However, the addition of a happy-go-lucky harmonica diminishes the menace that Lou Reed lent the original; it’s more like Bruce Springsteen fronting the Velvets.

“The Importance of Being Idle,” also written and sung by Noel, has echoes of the Doors’ “People Are Strange” (not to mention the famous Oscar Wilde play). The dreamy Noel-Liam duet “Let There Be Love” is a rather sickly, inoffensively listenable sub-John Lennon piano ballad.

For an album with such a pointed title and apocalyptic artwork, there’s not much heaviness within. In fact, songs such as “Love Like a Bomb” and “Part of the Queue,” with Noel singing “I fall down/ Heaven won’t help me/ I call out/ No one will hear,” are downright lightweight.

Maybe that’s no bad thing. After a decade of roguish cockiness, Oasis seems to be content to live in the world, rather than trying to conquer it.

That’s Coldplay’s job now.

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