Like some great planetoid, Oasis have sucked in an audience that often mawkishly proclaims even their most mediocre efforts as heroic triumphs. They've also galvanised a generation of musicians that slavishly adhere to a retrograde recipe for musical success; one that in many cases also utilises Noel and Liam's public personae as a mirror for their own shoddy notions of masculinity.
For the brothers Gallagher it's an unintended triumph in marketing. Whilst writing some of the most conservative - if still brilliant - rock songs of the era, they have, like a couple of modern day Andrew Loog Oldhams, been their own best publicists, selling themselves as a dangerous rock and roll band based on outdated concepts of rebellion. Even David Ogilvy couldn't have created a personality as inseparable from the music as the one Oasis have forged for themselves.
Such has been their ubiquity over the past decade (and more) that on a cursory listen to Dig Out Your Soul, it's hard not to think 'yeah, it's Oasis' and then unwittingly switch off - not through boredom or distraction, but because it's all so comfortable and, well, familiar. Oasis' inclination to tread musical water doesn't help. And when, historically, their occasional, occasional forays into the unknown have been heralded as adventurous experimentalism, the parameters for what we can expect are set very narrow indeed.
And as was always really going to be the case, there's no dramatic reinvention to be found on Dig Out Your Soul. But perhaps unexpectedly, there's a degree of liberation; a sense that for the first time in a long time they're not trying so hard to be 'Oasis'. Though the usual Beatles homages are strewn throughout the album - some more weightily than others: the remnants of a John Lennon interview behind the Liam-penned track 'I'm Outta Time'; a 'Dear Prudence' motif playing as 'The Turning' ebbs away; the perennial name dropping of the Fab Four's song titles - we're offered enough encouraging signs elsewhere to think that Oasis are at least partially emerging from their own vast shadow.
Take 'Waiting For The Rapture', for instance. It starts like The Doors' 'One And Five' before the drums enter to rattle the whole thing like the inside of a ribcage. Noel turns in an impressive vocal performance, and it's wrapped up with unmistakable spirit. 'Aint Got Nothing', meanwhile, is a standout highlight; a Who-like battering ram that packs more punch than so many of the songs Oasis have churned out in recent years. It shakes off their tendencies to plod and swaggers in that way that had them pegged as winners in the first place. It's short and unstable, turning tables then removing itself before anyone has the chance to assimilate what's happened.
Despite these encouraging signs, and ignoring some characteristically poor lyrics (it's like shooting fish in a barrel, really), Dig Out Your Soul is ultimately dragged down by the sheer weight of filler. This is probably due - at least to some extent - to the democratic nature of Oasis' songwriting these days. Suffice to say, quality control remains a problem. When they ease off the accelerator, what Oasis produce can veer into the workmanlike and plodding. 'Bag It Up', for instance, is a lacklustre start with a repetitive riff that never really gets anywhere. It's Oasis by-numbers and causes concern from the outset.
There's nothing especially dreadful about Gem's 'To Be Where There's Life' either, but its cod-mysticism comes over more Kula Shaker than George Harrison. Similarly, 'The Nature of Reality' - written by Andy Bell - is a bit glam-rock, a bit knees-up, and also, unfortunately, a bit shit. On a number of levels, this isn't so much Oasis hitting their stride as trying to sidestep expectation. When they remove themselves from their comfort zone, they are frequently interesting and occasionally superb, and for the first time in ages sound not so dissimilar to the young bucks who made Definitely Maybe and (What's The Story) Morning Glory.
It's unfair, however, to compare this Oasis to the one of those halcyon days. The proper ending to that story would have been if Noel had followed his instincts and split the band after Oasis stood atop the pile at Knebworth - it would have been akin to a rollercoaster puncturing the rails at the top of its loop and sailing straight up into the sky in a shower of glorious debris. The horror! The spectacle! That was their moment. But they came down the other side, intact. Even then, you knew the best had gone. It seems only right to paraphrase The Beatles in saying that they've carried that weight a long time, and just maybe Dig Out Your Soul will lighten the load.
6Dan Wale's Score