Album A&E is a new series in which we revisit underrated or maligned albums and give them some much-needed rehabilitation. Following on from last week’s subject (The Strokes’ ‘First Impressions Of Earth’), a look at the sixth Oasis album ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’.
An Oasis album, not released in 1994 or 1995, in need of critical rehabilitation? Well there’s plenty to pick from, and with the Gallaghers’ own usual patter of announcing before each record’s release that the album in questions was ” better than ‘Definitely Maybe’“, many believe Oasis’ final five albums deserve their fate.
Recently I went back to ‘Be Here Now’ to see if it had aged well after buying it on that Thursday back in 1997 (yes, the release was so huge it couldn’t fit into a regular start of the week slot), and bar a handful of tracks it had not improved with time (however, for me, the powder-infused stories surrounding its creation justifies this act of ultimate rock n roll folly).
Yet neglected amongst the artistic failures and acrimony of the band’s split is ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’, an album that for once did not try to regenerate the Britpop heyday and actually ensured that rather than end their days in a glut of creative meaninglessness, Oasis were actually at their most forward-looking.
Released in 2005 after a relatively quiet period for Oasis, the album was the first that eschewed the usual bluster, focusing on the work in hand. Contemporary reviewers perhaps thought this was the façade finally starting to crumble, with Village Voice dismissing ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’, and the rest of “latter-day output” as “entirely forgettable”, while NME suggested that “their sixth record is the least confident and most fragile Oasis album so far” (although acknowledged it was their best since ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory’).
In fact the record is the opposite to a crisis in confidence, it represents the end of the old “Oasis-by-numbers” fail-safe routine and instead introduced a sharper, crisper and occasionally experimental band.
The Andy Bell penned opener ‘Turn Up The Sun’ sets the tone, with its psyched-up combination of an industrial-strength bass and surrealist lyrics (“I carry a madness everywhere I go/ Over the border and back to the snow“) clearly indicating this was not business as usual.
‘Mucky Fingers’, ‘Lyla’ and ‘The Meaning Of Soul’ turn Oasis’ reputation for bombast on their head, recasting the group as an angry, tight garage rock band capable of reviving the edge, energy and fury of their early outings. And unlike its immediate predecessors, ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ does not plough a single furrow into irrelevance. ‘Guess God Thinks I’m Abel’ and ‘Keep The Dream Alive’ introduce a more expansive and contemplative edge, and though boasting some of Noel Gallagher’s most prosaic lyrics – it’s a song largely about shopping – ‘Part Of The Queue’ is actually one of Oasis’ most musically dexterous songs, channelling both Doves and The Stranglers in a golden pop moment.
With ‘A Bell Will Ring’ supplying a monster big beat anthem that was criminally only included in the band’s live set few times, ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ boasts the double achievement of being both a decent record and the record that finally broadened out what Oasis meant artistically. Not just for the band – and Noel in particular seemed revitalised as a songwriter with its release – but their fans too, who embraced these expanded horizons. Suddenly the sort of people who picked up guitars and pens because of the first two albums were talking about Oasis as a going concern again and not as a ’90s relic.
And let’s not forget that ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’ gave the band their most esoteric Number One, proving that the Oasis hardcore were a lot less Catholic in their tastes than was often claimed and ensuring that Oasis’ final tours were more than just t-shirt-flogging nostalgia rallies.
As anyone who witnessed the pomp of their City Of Manchester Stadium shows in 2005, right through to their final headline date (a raw and dangerous affair at the Roundhouse fuelled by pure Liam rage just like the very old days in 2009) will testify, Oasis’ last days were no death rattle. Thanks to ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ they were as vital and alive as anything the band had ever done.
Album A&E – The Strokes, ‘First Impressions Of Earth’
Are there any unfairly maligned albums that you think deserve an Album A&E reappraisal? Let us know in the comments