In order to fully understand Oasis’ swan song, Dig Out Your Soul, you need to have some context. In the UK, the mid-nineties belonged to Oasis. Blur fans will inevitably scoff at that statement, but Oasis’ first two albums, 1994’s Definitely Maybe and 1995’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? were the musical pinnacle of the 60’s revivalist spirit brought on by “Cool Britannia.” While you can play the band off as nothing more than a Britpop version of the Beatles, the swagger that the brothers Gallagher brought to the table on those two albums demanded nothing less than your full attention and respect, and, now more than 20 years out, critical standing of those albums remains high, and their importance in shaping the culture of Britain in the 90’s has become more and more apparent.
But it wasn’t all wine and roses for Oasis – the band took a notably steep turn for the worse after their sophomore release, turning out albums that despite what some “rock purists” believe, just flat out weren’t good. Their third album, 1997’s Be Here Now, has often been pointed to as the moment when the happy-go-lucky spirit of Cool Britannia began to fade – and compared to the more melancholy, experimental output that some of their compatriots were putting out in that same year, the cocaine addled guitar shock of Be Here Now looked especially bad. Things didn’t get much better for nearly a decade after that – with Noel Gallagher seeming to be increasingly satisfied with color by numbers ballads that inevitably reached #1 in their home country. They tried to tinker their sound, and they tried going back to their roots, but more often than not, Oasis of the early 2000s was, more often that not, just a bland rehash of what they had already done better in the past. They finally turned it around on their 2005 album Don’t Believe the Truth, an album that took the band from being classified as radio hungry anthem workers to being bluesy, heartfelt, hardworking song-smiths, and also found the band garnering critical success for the first time in a full decade. It wasn’t perfect, but it nearly was, and the Gallagher’s focus on creating an album as a whole piece of art instead of just a collection of radio friendly songs paid off in spades.
Oasis’ seventh and final album, 2008’s Dig Out Your Soul is different in almost every way from the stripped down, almost tinny/retro sound that filled Don’t Believe the Truth, with Soul being much more lush, psychedelic, and much more deliberate in things like timing, sound choice, and tone. It is an album which (for the most part) makes the right moves in the right places; it ebbs and flows, knows when to bring things up (the explosive “The Shock of the Lightning), or take it down (the beautiful “I’m Outta Time”). The sonic textures of a song like “Falling Down” are dynamic; they are layered and produced with care and intent, and sounds are not added for the sake of it. Suffice to say, maybe they weren’t as important as they were fifteen years prior, but Oasis never sounded better and more fully realized than on Dig Out Your Soul.
Dig Out Your Soul was released a little over ten years ago to the day that I’m writing this. It feels like ages ago. I remember feeling almost guilty to buy the CD of Dig Out Your Soul because of the tough economic times that were happening at around that time. Other than that, I don’t really remember latching onto Dig Out Your Soul that much at the time.
But, over the years, and as my appreciation for both the art of making music and psychedelia have grown, so has my fondness for how staggeringly great Dig Out Your Soul actually is. I keep coming back to it, more than a lot of other albums than I’d place before it, not because it’s nostalgic or because it’s made by Oasis, but because it’s one of the best hidden gems in modern psychedelia. In my review of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, I mention how even after numerous listens to that album, I’m still finding little bits that I just flat out hadn’t heard before, and I think that “easter-egg” feeling also applies to Dig Out Your Soul as well. That natural desire of exploration and wonder is, unfortunately, increasingly rare in music nowadays.
Listen to Dig Out Your Soul on Spotify below: