With 1997’s Bloated Be Here Now, Oasis parked themselves in a retro cul-de-sac; the band’s second-coming-of-Beatlemania shtick was running on fumes, and more-forward-looking bands zipped by, fueled by funked-up hip-hop and electro dance beats.
Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, the fourth studio album by Brit pop’s most celebrated revival band, puts Oasis back in the passing lane. Sonically, Giants is easily their boldest work, with mastermind Noel Gallagher and new co-producer Mark “Spike” Stent (Massive Attack, BjÃ¶rk, Uz) layering backward guitars and turntable scratching over huge trash-can beats that actually swing a bit. The opening sound collage, “Fuckin’ in the Bushes,” runs helter-skelter over a walloping Chemical Brothers-style drum loop, while “Gas Panic” cavorts in the trip-hop shadows. “Put Your Money Where Yer Mouth Is” is little more than a rude keyboard riff underpinning lyrics that sound like the prelude to a pub brawl, but a synthesizer revving like a dragster and gospel singers in full cry give it a symphonic grandeur that would rock any rave.
Still, Oasis wouldn’t be Oasis without ransacking the past. On Giants, Gallagher cribs from “Penny Lane,” “Leaving on a Jet Plane” and even the children’s rhyme “Liar, liar, pants on fire.” Oasis compensate for their lack of originality with overkill; not since the heyday of Slade and the Sweet has a band shown such a consistent ability to make slight lyrics sound so spectacular. Consider “Little James,” singer Liam Gallagher’s first, tentative stab at writing an Oasis song. “I’m singing this song for you and your mom, and that’s all,” Liam insists, but that’s not enough for his older brother, who turns this modest little lullby into a “Hey Jude”-style rouser.
“Go Let it Out” trumps them all: Liam Gallagher sounds like he’s spoiling for a fight, his defiant bray of a voice roaring over a shuffling Madchester groove, while a Mellotron wheezes, a whistle shrieks and a guitar solo takes us higher. Like most of the future stadium singalongs on this album, “Go Let it Out” doesn’t really say much of anything. But if we must endure vague platitudes shouted from the rooftop, let them all sound this gloriously drunk with belligerence.