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Oasis' 'Dig Out' digs in to more Beatles riffs

Greg Kot
Chicago Tribune (MCT)

A lot of Oasis naysayers get hung up on originality.

OK, let's all admit that Oasis is the Puff Daddy of rock bands. Like the hip-hop impresario, the quintet from Manchester, England, appropriates sounds, lyrics and ideas from giant hitmakers of the past (most notably the Beatles) and turns them into new anthems for a generation that doesn't know or doesn't care whom Noel and Liam Gallagher are ripping off. They've been sued successfully by artists such as Neil Innes and the New Seekers for stealing melodies, but so what? Every band rips off somebody else to some degree; Oasis just happens to be pilfering from the biggest rock band of all time.

Oasis has bigger problems than a lack of originality on its seventh album, "Dig Out Your Soul" (Reprise), which came out Tuesday.

Principal songwriter Noel Gallagher and his minions transform their shout-along chorus formula into a series of big-beat drones that will sound titanic at Wembley Stadium. They draw from the same deep well of classic rock that they always have. There are references to the Doors (the opening riff of "Waiting for the Rapture" is lifted from "5 to 1"), as well as Pink Floyd, the Who and even Gary Glitter.

But it's once again the Beatles who resurface on nearly every song: a sample of a John Lennon interview in "I'm Outta Time," a "magical mystery" reference in "The Shock of the Lightning," a hook from "I Am the Walrus" in "Soldier On," the massed "Helter Skelter" guitars that introduce "The Nature of Reality" and the lyrical "Dear Prudence" guitars that conclude "The Turning." Even the cymbal washes on "Waiting for the Rapture" and the sitars and kick drum on "To Be Where There's Life" could've been imported from a George Martin session for "Revolver" or "The Beatles" white album.

The band also borrows from its heroes' introspective post-Maharishi phase in its lyrics. In its glory days, when it became the biggest band in England since you-know-who, Liam Gallagher sang with measured, cocky defiance about long nights of "Cigarettes and Alcohol" and the immortality of being 20. For a short time, it was an engagingly callow but undeniable sound, the bravado of British youth crossed with songs that just felt good to sing at the top of your lungs because, let's face it, they were already so bloody familiar.

Now the lyrics turn inward to contemplate how "Love is a time machine/Up on the silver screen" and "Space and time are here and now/And only in your mind."

The self-absorbed subject matter is matched by sluggish tempos. The exception is "The Shock of the Lightning," an obvious candidate for the first single with a propulsive groove that suggests Oasis can still deliver a great guilty pleasure once in a while.

The rest sounds like the work of a big rock band in a narcotic haze with a gazillion dollars to spend on studio time.

Oasis' long-running Beatles fixation isn't the main reason "Dig Out Your Soul" doesn't work. No, the main failing is one of urgency and conviction, no matter how many layers of voices and instruments the band piles atop the borrowed melodies.

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