The Color of Money (1986)

The Rules of the Game

I’ve never been more aroused by a film’s editing and cinematography than that featured in The Color of Money, a film which I ultimately enjoyed more than it’s predecessor The Hustler. It just so happens I first watched The Color of Money during my time as a film student and attempted to replicate many of the film’s shots and edits for a music video (and an intentionally 80’s music video at that) as I studied the cuts present in the film frame by frame. Needless to say, I was not entirely successful in my endeavour.

The Color of Money has the fast pace and rhythm of MTV music videos but still with a sense of old-school class and sophistication; right from the opening credits, I can tell this would be a movie dripping in atmosphere. A movie so snappy, fast-paced and full of quick edits, many of which come unexpectedly along with many unconventional camera movements yet it never feels disorientating or distracting as the scenes glide with such fluidity and ease. The cinematography on display here isn’t that of a David Lean production, no this is a movie which largely takes place in bars and pool halls yet it still has a sense of majesty and scope even if the shot in question is a close up of a drinking glass. Really the only edit I can fault is the very cheesy freeze frame of Paul Newman jumping out of a swimming pool. On the other hand, nobody uses licensed soundtracks better than Martin Scorsese. I get the impression scenes in the film were shot with the music in mind and not as an afterthought. With the opening scene, it feels like Phil Collins’ One More Night was specifically composed to fit the mood and tone of the scene.

The Color of Money however is not style over substance. I love the intriguing character triangle of a trio of hustlers as well as the harmony of two generations coming together. Tom Cruise is an actor I only like in certain parts but in roles such as Vincent, a cocky, male fantasy indulging character who embodies the entrepreneurial and capitalistic spirit of the 1980’s (like his character in Risky Business), I simply revel in – as Eddie puts it “a natural character”. Just as impressive are pool shots done by Cruise himself (he performed all but one of his own trick shots); makes me energised to play some pool myself.

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Tonight (1984)

Don’t Look Down On This Album

I don’t make any apologies when I say I enjoy this much-dismissed album more than I do some of David Bowie’s more acclaimed works. Tonight is an actual album, unlike Let’s Dance which was more a collection of songs. In fact, from Bowie’s so-called “sell out” period I honestly think Tonight and Never Let Me Down are much stronger albums than Let’s Dance, half of which is comprised of very disposable tracks.

Loving the Alien is one of my very favourite Bowie songs. I didn’t think much of it when I first heard it in a single edit on The Best of Bowie but that changed when I heard the full-length version with the instrumental orchestral second half make for one hell of an atmospheric seven-minute epic. The lyrics are also among some of the most fascinating on a Bowie song, comparing the Templars (Christians) and the Saracens (Muslims) of the Middle Ages to the current Holy War in Palestine today, in other words, history is doomed to repeat itself – and who is the alien? God himself? The one both sides claim to be on their side.

The one issue with Tonight is that most the songs are not actually Bowie songs, they’re mostly covers of Iggy Pop songs but they’re quality covers. Compare them to Bowie and Mick Jagger’s cover of Dancing In the Street, which for the life of me I can’t figure out why people like that cover so much; the covers on Tonight have far superior arrangement and production values. Don’t Look Down is one of Bowie’s most relaxing songs, I don’t know how anyone could listen to it and say “this is a bad song”. Never being a Beach Boys fan, God Only Knows was never a favourite song of mine and I like Bowie’s version more than the original. The orchestral segments of the cover as well as it’s grander and atmospheric nature really does it for me over the original. Tina Turner’s appearance on the song Tonight doesn’t add anything to the song but doesn’t take anything away either, while Neighbourhood Threat is a terrific rocker, it’s so 80’s I love it. I found the final two songs on the album disappointing, I Keep Forgettin’ is disposable while Dancing With the Big Boys doesn’t do anything for me, although even these weak song I consider to be better than Let’s Dance’s weak songs. Also, that beautiful stained glass album cover alone would make Tonight worth buying on vinyl.

Why does 1980’s Bowie get dismissed as much as it does; because an artist who spent the previous decade working in the avant-garde started to make commercial pop music? If David Bowie was a new artist who first hit the scene with Let’s Dance would this output of music be looked upon with more respect? I like both sides of Bowie, the avant-garde and the mainstream pop star. However, if you’re back catalog is only comprised of music which is serious and there’s nothing which is just simply fun and laid back to counterbalance it, then things get stale.

My Top 20 Prince Songs

Sorry if my list is a bit heavy on 1999 and Purple Rain, but those albums are just that good.

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20. Little Red Corvette (1999)

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19. Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad? (Prince)

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18. Diamonds and Pearls (Diamonds and Pearls)

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17. Alphabet Street (Lovesexy)

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16. Sometimes It Snows In April (Parade)

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15. Lovesexy (Lovesexy)

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14. Lady Cab Driver (1999)

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13. Take Me With You (Purple Rain)

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12. Baby I’m a Star (Purple Rain)

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11. The Most Beautiful Girl In the Word (The Gold Experience)

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10. Automatic (1999)

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9. Adore (Sign ‘O The Times)

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8. Do Me Baby (Controversy)

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7. Controversy (Controversy)

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6. When Doves Cry (Purple Rain)

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5. Let’s Go Crazy (Purple Rain)

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4. 1999 (1999)

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3. DMSR (1999)

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2. Let’s Pretend We’re Married (1999)

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1. Purple Rain (Purple Rain)

I Wanna Hold Your Hand (1978)

Fanboys

***This Review Contains Spoilers***

I Wanna Hold Your Hand follows a group of fanboys and fanboyettes who put all modern day internet fan communities to shame on a journey to meet their idols. There’s a lot of screaming, shouting and overall hyperactivity with its lightning fast, 1930’s-like repertoire and I watched the entire film with the biggest smile on my face. Crazy over the top comedies like these are my forte and I Wanna Hold Your Hand is one of the most energetic I’ve ever seen. The film begins with Ed Sullivan (Played by Ed Sullivan look-a-like Will Jordan) on the set on his own show off air introducing the movie Patton style, setting the stage for just how big The Beatles had become by January 1964. This was only three months after the assassination of JFK but this is never mentioned in the film. The film shows how Beatlemania provided an escape from the real world.

Wendie Jo Sperber and Eddie Deezen (a voice forever implanted into my head from years of childhood exposure on Dexter’s Laboratory) as Rosie and Ringo (as he calls himself) are the two most hyperactive of the cast members. I find it adorable that these two, one a social outcast and the other puppy dog eyed time bomb being brought together through their insane Beatles’ worship; especially when Rosie tells Ringo, “You’re the only boy I feel I can really talk to”. Likewise, Pam Mitchell’s (Nancy Allen) scene in which she invades The Beatles’ hotel room as she strokes and licks Ringo Star’s guitar neck is erotic cinema at its finest (she even takes off her engagement ring and puts t into her shoe beforehand, nice touch). The cinematography really puts a lot of emphases put on that guitar neck only for Ringo himself to later comment that it’s covered in sticky stuff, sexy. I’d do the same thing as well, not with The Beatles but there are other celebrities of whom I was in their hotel room I would be rubbing my face against everything they’ve touched and don’t lie, you would too.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand also features Paul Newman’s daughter Susan Kendall Newman in her second of three film appearances. Her character of Janis is introduced complaining to the manager of a record store that “all I see around the store is Beatle albums. What about Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, don’t they get equal floor space?”; back to the USSR for you Ms. Frankfurt School. It seems every generation has their socially righteous trying to ruin everyone’s fun although the movie does manage to make her into a sympathetic and more likable character as the film progresses. The film even gives significant attention to Beatles’ haters. One of the film’s greasers Tony (Bobby Di Cicco) hates The Beatles so much he abuses Beatles’ fans and even attempts to sabotage their appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show; talk about haters gonna hate.

The other stroke of genius is while we do see The Beatles they are never shown in their entirety. Rather the film takes the Ben-Hur Jesus approach in which only the bodies are seen but never the faces. If they actually did cast actors to play The Beatles in which we see their faces it would take you out of the film. There are even shades of American Graffiti present in I Wanna Hold Your Wand with its early 1960’s setting, young people, rock music and cars.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand marked the directorial debut of Robert Zemeckis. Like in Zemeckis’ Forrest Gump years later, I Wanna Hold Your Hand combines fiction surrounding a historical event. Much of the film’s cast being reunited the following year in the comically less successful 1941 (directed by Steven Spielberg) despite also being written by Zemeckis and Bob Gale. I’ve always considered Zemeckis to be a much better director than Spielberg.

I Wanna Hold Your Hand captures that feeling of having such a strong devotion to something. As you become increasingly attached to these characters you feel that if they really did miss The Beatles performance on The Ed Sullivan Show then their lives really wouldn’t be worth living.

The Blues Brothers (1980)

The Ultimate Comedy

To date, The Blues Brothers remain the only instance in which after watching a movie for the first time, I watched it again the very next day. Several viewings later I’ve come to the decision that The Blues Brothers is my favourite film comedy.

The Blues Brothers is some of the most fun you’ll ever have with a motion picture. Just one incredibly fun set piece after another whether a car chase, a musical number or comedic showcase. Choosing a favourite moment? Now that’s difficult. The portion of the film which has me in the most hysterical fit is the sequence at Bob’s Country Bunker. Having a blues band with two lead singers who are as urban as it gets at a redneck bar in which everyone thinks they’re the night’s country music act has me laughing just thinking about it, not to mention quite a stab at country music. In regards to the film’s musical numbers, let’s just say I bought the two-disc movie soundtrack very soon after watching the film, which gave me a solid twelve months of continuous music listening pleasure.

Does there exist a movie which has more reverence for its location? The only other movie which instantly pops into my mind is Rocky. For the best moment in the movie which captures the grit and grime of the city of Chicago is the scene on Maxwell street with John Lee Hooker playing cut to shots of stalls selling music and other artefacts; such a beautiful sequence.

Then there’s the film’s final car chase. I haven’t seen every famous movie car chase but I would happily place a wager that there is no other car chase in the history of cinema better than this. I believe a truly great action sequence is one in which there’s a sense of danger that someone can get hurt or even killed. Here I’m not only fearing for the fictional characters but also the real-life cast and crew. The number of cars involved and carnage that ensues is unprecedented; Grand Theft Auto years before Grant Theft Auto existed. With so many action movies featuring gargantuan levels destruction which means nothing and has no impact, they should take note from The Blues Brothers on how to make action sequences in which you can actually feel the weight and heft of everything from the screech of every tire to the sirens of every police car whizzing past the screen.

The lack of logic in The Blues Brothers only adds to its enjoyment. For example, the very obvious plot hole in which The Good Ole Boys arrive hours late at the country bar with no explanation would likely downgrade most movies; here it just enhances the surreal world inhabited by the Blues Brothers. My favourite illogical moment is the Illinois Nazi’s demise on the unfinished freeway; it makes no sense in the most wonderful way. The 80’s was pretty much the decade for epic, large-scale comedies such as The Blues Brothers. Only then could a film like this even get made.

Todd’s Pop Song Reviews (2009 – Present)

Review Brilliance

Of the internet reviewers spawned from the satirical reviewing site That Guy With The Glasses, I consider Todd In The Shadows to be one of the very greatest productions the site offers. While other reviewers on TGWTG mostly focused on movies, video games and anime etc, Todd brought the much-needed sector of reviewing popular music to the site.

Todd Nathanson began producing videos on YouTube and eventually was accepted onto TGWTG.com and found new spread popularity on the site and I don’t think this could have happened at a better time, due to this being the period when the likes of Lady Gaga, Keh$a and The Black Eyed Peas where beginning or already had been dominating the top 40 pop charts. Pop music needed criticism and analyses more than ever, and that’s where Todd comes in.

A standard episode of Todd’s Pop Song Reviews involves an analyses of a recent U.S Billboard Top 40 pop song, a bad one of course. Each episode begins with a piano cover of the song which about to be reviewed, followed by an introduction to the song and the artist behind it. The songs themselves are pulled apart, with deep analyses of the lyrics (often pointing out how they don’t make sense) and often comments on the music video itself, followed by a final conclusion of the song. Each episode is filled with jokes, gags, and one-liners mixed in with the review itself but is all perfected flawlessly making Todd’s Pop Song Reviews both a hilarious and insightful look into the world of pop music. The guy is one hell of a comedy machine and you can get quite the music education from his show.

However, I still have yet to mention possibly the most important aspect of the series. Like many other internet reviewers, Todd has a gimmick. The simple genius that we don’t know that he looks like due to wearing a hoodie and being unlit within the shadows he inhabits. I love the mystery of not knowing what his physical appearance is and it’s also quite a romantic idea in itself. Todd has to communicate primarily through his voice and he certainly has a voice which does just that; clear and audible, pleasant to listen too, and strong enough to get his points across. Todd’s Pop Song Reviews is one the finest review shows the internet has to offer. Todd Nathanson isn’t a household name but I can call the guy one of my heroes.

Dig Out Your Soul (2008)

Do Believe the Truth!

Alas! A great Oasis album! The best Oasis album since Be Here Now (yes I am a “best since Be Here Now” person, not a “best since Morning Glory” person) one which is great from start to finish, unlike the patchy efforts of Heathen Chemistry and Don’t Believe the Truth.  Dig Out Your Soul is the most ambitious Oasis album since Be Here Now. Their previous three albums missed the large-scale orchestras and choirs present in their 90’s output and instead relied more on the acoustic side of things. Dig Out Your Soul brought it all back, creating the most richly textured Oasis album – one soaked in a trippy, psychedelic, moody, 60’s inspired atmosphere.

The first good sign with Dig Out Your Soul is the album cover – it rocks! I haven’t seen an Oasis album cover that good since The Masterplan but onto the actual songs, the first two tracks are excellent and they’re not singles. The structure of Bag It Up reminds me of Rock ‘n’Roll Star in how the final portion of the song has no vocals with epic over the top instrumentation. This along with The Turning and The Shock of Lightning are the most balls to wall rockers Oasis have done since the 90’s. Waiting For the Rapture is a good mid-tempo rocker, although I do feel the demo version is more atmospheric.  I consider I’m Outta Time to be the best song Liam ever wrote. Oasis aren’t the first band to come to mind when I think of love songs; with several of their songs such as Wonderwall I’m unsure whether they would be classified as love songs but this is one song which can undeniably be classified as such and such a beauty at that. Falling Down is one of Noel’s finest accomplishments, showcasing Oasis vision of the apocalypse. It’s strangely prophetic this dark and brooding song would be Oasis’ final single, as well as with the album as a whole; signaling the final days of a band whose popularity was shrinking. The album still isn’t without its weak songs, coming in the form of Ain’t Got Nothin’ and The Nature of Reality. With the later, I can tell you a lot of Oasis fans hate this song with a passion: Me? I think it’s more mediocre than terrible.

The other important aspect of Dig Out Your Soul which I’ve not heard anyone else mention is this may be a concept album, or at least that’s the impression I get. The songs tell a story of an impending apocalypse as we are told to “Bag It Up” because we are “Waiting for The Rapture” which occurs with “The Shock of the Lightning”. The use of a John Lennon quote sampled in I’m Outta Time reinforces the apocalyptic theme (“It’s every Englishman’s inalienable right to live where the hell he likes. What’s it going to do, vanish? It’s not going to be there when I get back.”) even more so as Lennon said this shortly before his own untimely death in 1980. The remaining songs dealing with the aftermath of the apocalypse such as the alien sounding (Get Off Your) High Horse Lady and To Be Where There’s Life (I believe the title of that one explains itself). This all culminates in the album’s final song Soldier On, that we will soldier on until the very end.

Dig Out Your Soul can proudly sit beside Oasis’ first three albums and partially makes up for the band’s lackluster run during the 2000’s but hey, we don’t look back in anger, I heard you say.

 

Oasis:  1991 – 2009

 

Dig Out Your Soul Era B-Sides and Rarities

In 2005 CD singles were on their last legs, by 2008/9 they had all but gone, becoming designated to collector’s items. With the three singles to come of Dig Out Your Soul, only one B-side was produced. Those Swollen Hand Blues from the Falling Down single – a good trippy, psychedelic number. The box set of Dig Out Your Soul contained a CD of bonus material comprised of alternative versions of songs, remixes and two alum outtakes, Boy With The Blues and I Believe In All. The rarities produced for Dig Out Your Soul won’t give the likes of Live Forever a run for its money but they are with unearthing.

Don’t Believe The Truth (2005)

It’s Not Getting Better (Man!!)

I find Don’t Believe The Truth to be on par with Heathen Chemistry, half is great and the other half is filler. The album does benefit from a fresh sound with the band’s then-new drummer Zak Starkey which is easily apparent but it’s not enough to save the album from being hampered with filler songs. Turn  Up The Sun is the weakest opener on an Oasis album but is still very good. However, the Dylan-esque Mucky Fingers offers a great change of pace among Oasis songs. Oasis aren’t the first band I think of when it comes to experimentation but songs like this do show they had their experimental moments. Lyla and The Importance Of Being Idle are deservedly classic Oasis and can rank among the band’s best work but my favourite song on the album is Let There Be Love. A song with what at first appear to be very simple lyrics is possibly the most socially consciousness song the band ever created.

Love Like A Bomb and The Meaning of Soul feel like incomplete songs to me, a shame since it feels like they are the basis for great songs. Guess God Thinks I’m Abel, Part Of The Queue and A Bell Will Ring fall into the annals of mediocrity that I have listen to them again to even remind myself what they sound like. So yes, another patchy album but the songs which succeed are excellent.

Don’t Believe The Truth Era B-Sides and Rarities

As with the Heathen Chemistry B-sides, I was hoping the B-sides for the Don’t Believe the Truth would partially make up for the patchy album; unfortunately, this is not the case. These b-sides are some of most boring songs in the Oasis catalog and when listening to all of them at once they feel like the same song over and over. The only song which thought was slightly good is Sittin’ Here In Silence (On My Own) but only just. Although at the time this album was hailed as Oasis return to form, taking into account both the album and the b-sides I feel this period was the band at its most uninspired.

Heathen Chemistry (2002)

Half the Album Away

Albums can be a funny thing, as in there exist albums I’d give an average rating yet I would listen to again and again. Heathen Chemistry is one such record, an album of two halves, half excellent and half mediocre. Do I look at the album in anger that half of it is a chore to listen to but at the same time five of the album’s songs on their own have given me many hours of music listening bliss.

On the good side; Stop Crying Your Heart Out captures the same unashamedly weepiness of the likes of Wonderwall and Don’t Go Away, while the beauty that is Songbird shows of Oasis’ more tender side. I always remember a comment Liam made back in the 90’s in relation to some of the band’s downbeat b-sides that he was a “rock ‘n’ roller” and didn’t want to play that “wimpy shit”, yet the only two singles he ever penned are two of Oasis’ most tender songs. Little by Little is one of the band’s cheesiest songs, although the lyrics of both this and Stop Crying Your Heart Out indicate Oasis where aware of their falling popularity (“fading like the stars we wish to be”, “’Cause all of the stars are fading away”).

As for the filler half of the album, there is no Oasis song I find obnoxious or unpleasant to listen to; their weak songs are just really dull. I’ll admit I haven’t even listened to the six-minute track Born On A Different Cloud in its entirety. A Quick Peep feels like the most pointless Oasis song, a short, overly simple musical interlude which contributes nothing. I also don’t like the album cover; I dislike that sickly green effect. Still, that’s half a great album which I listen to death. Curse you Oasis! I’m a slave to anything with your name on it.

 

Heathen Chemistry Era B-Sides and Rarities

Well, I’m shocked; these are some ace B-sides! Naturally, when listening to them for the first time my instant reaction is: why where these not the album!? Well, I’ve come up with three possible reasons as to why:

-The artist is often wrong about their own work and isn’t aware of the quality of these songs.

-The band is fully aware these songs are better than much of the tracks on the album and make them B-sides in order to keep the B-side tradition alive and possibly as a way of rewarding loyal fans.

-Or I’m just alone on this one and only I think these songs are good/great.

For me, the undeniable centerpiece of these B-sides is (You’ve Got) the Heart of a Star. This song holds the distinction of being the last Oasis song I discovered which blew me away. This is also one of the cheesiest songs Oasis ever made but cheesy in the best possible way, it’s such a swoon inducingly beautiful song; my favourite post-90’s Oasis song, as well as one of favourite Oasis songs in general. I just have to say it again, “why was this song not on the album?!” instead of a snooze fest like Born On A Different Cloud. The next big stand out is Thank For You Good Times. If you can ignore the somewhat ironic title as Oasis have caused some disparaging times during this, their lackluster period, it’s still a terrific mood lifter, just what you need when you listen to Ider’s Dream and Just Getting Older (sort of like the anti Stay Young).

Even if these songs where on Heathen Chemistry in place of that album’s filler tracks, it still wouldn’t be up to the standard of the first three albums (then again few albums are) but would make it an excellent record. Perhaps genius never really left Oasis, maybe just the ability to choose a good album track listing.

Standing On the Shoulder of Giants (2000)

Where Did It All Go Wrong?

When it comes to general consensus regarding Oasis, there is near unanimous agreement that their first two albums are masterpieces. After that, it is not so simple. Be Here Now isn’t the most respected album in music history (I absolutely love it as stated in my review of the album) but from my time browsing Oasis message boards and reading various articles about the band, I would say most fans like/love Be Here Now. The other thing the majority will agree on is that the 2nd half of Oasis’ existence (although others might say last two thirds, as I said before it’s not so simple) didn’t reach the standards of their earlier days. With the final four albums, all of them have their defenders and detractors. Fans like myself will never stop debating where it went wrong, at what times did things go right, what tracks should have been removed from the albums and replaced with b-sides, etc.

So where do I stand with Standing On the Shoulder of Giants? Well for a long time I was dismissive of this album. Aside from the first three songs, I found the remaining tracks uninteresting and forgettable. However, in retrospect, I can contribute this to the first three albums being so incredible, Standing On the Shoulder of Giants didn’t stand a chance by comparison (also I feel they shouldn’t have dropped their classic logo, the old one was so much more welcoming). It was only after milking 90’s Oasis for every second of listening pleasure, that I came to revise my opinion of Standing On the Shoulder of Giants. This is not an album full of arena rockers, rather much of it is more slow-paced and mellow than the previous Oasis albums.

Standing On the Shoulder of Giants is, for the most part, a dark record; what happened to my happy go lucky Oasis? Instead we get an album in which the opening song is called F**kin’ In the Bushes and begins with a sound sample of some thuggish sounding bloke shouting “We put this festival on you bastards, with a lot of love we worked one year for you pigs and you wanna break our walls down and you wanna destroy it? Well, go to hell!” (taken from the documentary Message to Love). Or take Gas Panic!, likely Oasis’ darkest song (with a title reminiscent of a certain 20th-century atrocity). Standing On the Shoulder of Giants is very much the opposite of Be Here Now, whereas that album captured the sound of a band on top of the world, this captures the sound of a band fallen on hard times and trying it’s best to get by and I mean that as a good thing; there is a sense of desperation present throughout the album. At this point in the band’s history, they could only go one of two directions – disband or reinvent themselves. Especially considering the Brit-pop era had now come to an end. Resulting in an album which was the most experimental Oasis ever got (with a very distinctive industrial like sound not present in any other Oasis album).

Even before I came to reappraise Standing On the Shoulder of Giants, Who Feels Love? was already one of my favourite Oasis songs – such a spiritual and psychedelic tune. While I’m not a spiritual person, when listening to this song it really does feel like as the song describes, “My spirit has been purified”. However, I hate Sunday Morning Call. I wouldn’t even bother dwelling on it as every artist is inevitability going to have some bad songs but this was a freakin’ single and it’s one of the most dreary and boring songs Oasis ever created. I can agree with Noel on this one; the song was even made a hidden track on the Oasis singles collection Time Flies, good move. Standing On the Shoulder of Giants is not my favourite Oasis album nor it ever will be but it is a good album and it deserves to be reappraised.

 

Standing On the Shoulder of Giants Era B-Sides and Rarities

These songs are some of Oasis’ most mellow tracks so no air-guitaring in front of the mirror (except for Full On) but they are a good selection of songs. Look at them as Oasis’ chill out songs.