Heathen Chemistry


Big Brother Records, 2002


REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


Although Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants was the first Oasis album to not feature the original band, it was technically not the debut of the new lineup, since Gem Archer and Andy Bell joined after it was finished. It was essentially a Noel Gallagher solo album, with only drummer Alan White, singer and sparring partner Liam Gallagher, and a bevy of studio musicians playing.

Ergo, Heathen Chemistry was both the debut of the new Oasis and the first time that other people had a hand in the songwriting. Before, Noel had done pretty much everything, as per his demands when joining the band back in 1991. Archer and Bell wrote one song each, Liam wrote two (the two best ones here, actually) and collaborated with Noel on another.

This democratic approach signifies a relaxing in the group aesthetic, and this disc is nothing if not relaxed, with little of the fire of the group’s first four efforts. The opener “The Hindu Times” sounds like every other Oasis song already written; although the combination of the swirling psychedelia and the bar-band swagger of my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Definitely Maybe is a winning one, the song fails to really catch hold or warrant its overproduced attack. At the time, critics praised it because it sounded like the debut, but it has not held up over the last decade.

The two standouts, as mentioned, are Liam’s songs. “Songbird” is a wonderful two-minute acoustic piece that is simple, sparse (for Oasis, anyway), and lovely, and it deserved its status as a single and inclusion on both hits collections. “(Probably) All In The Mind” is another attempt at a Beatle psychedelic drone; it may be obvious in its attempt to mimic “Rain,” but it’s an enjoyable, languid throwback all the same.

Every Oasis disc has to have at least one epic-length track (except Be Here Now, which had about seven), and this year’s entry is “Born On A Different Cloud,” which is as close to a George Harrison song as sung by John Lennon as one can get. It’s not bad at all, just a bit dreary and overlong, fairly devoid of the emotion that fuels the best Oasis epics despite Liam’s vocal work.

Actually, pretty much the rest of the album is along that stripe. It’s Oasis Part 2 trying to prove they are as good as Part 1, and that they still have the same musical punch as in the glory days of 1994-96, and when a band has to try so hard it’s not really worth the time. One listen to “Force Of Nature” shows Noel’s lyrics haven’t improved much either, although “Little By Little” shows a somewhat spiritual and political point of view missing from earlier albums.

For those looking for something to sing to, or the good vibes of the first two Oasis albums – heck, even Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants – there is precious little here to recommend. Heathen Chemistry is not a bad album, but it’s not a necessary one either, except for ardent Oasis and Britpop fans who want to believe their band still mattered in 2002.

Rating: C-

User Rating: Not Yet Rated


© 2013 Benjamin Ray and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Big Brother Records, and is used for informational purposes only.