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Desert in the oasis

columns Updated: Jun 06, 2011 18:33 IST
Indrajit Hazra
Indrajit Hazra
Hindustan Times
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For some peculiar reason, the moment I put this CD on, I start thinking of Marty Feldman, the iconic English funny guy with a bulging set of eyes who, as Igor (pronounced ‘Eye-gor’) in Gene Wilder’s Young Frankenstein, has always been one of my role models. Why? Is it the name of Liam Gallagher’s post-Oasis band, with its ocular reference that makes me think of Marty? Well, that as well as the hi-jinks, madcap Swinging Sixties deo spray that hangs in the air while Liam belts out one ditty after the other.

‘Four letter word’, the opening track of Different Gear, Still Speeding, is more Austin Powers than Carnaby Street with its Guns’n’Roses-Goes-Big Brass-in- ‘Live and Let Die’ sound. There are lotsa guitar and drum crashes. But Liam’s vocals clearly are the engine house of this sea liner in the pond with the anthemic line, ‘Nothing ever lasts forever’ providing some anchor.

I’m on a hippie trail in ‘Millionaire’, with Liam skipping down the road Beatles ‘Rubber Soul’-style. Jump a song and we’re in a pop culture history tutorial called ‘Beatles and Stones’. It’s a straight rock’n’roller with Liam’s voice on reverb — for the third time already in the album. Unless I’m a 14-year-old boy, discovering the two bands that form the subject of the song, the song is a bit embarrassing. Confirmation of embarrassment comes with the lines: “Well it beats me, mama/ I just wanna rock’n’roll/ I’m gonna stand the test of time/ Like Beatles and Stones.” Er...

But hope rises in the form of ‘Windup dream’. So what if someone took the riff of Creedence Clearwater Revival’s ‘Proud Mary’ and the tune of Beatles’ ‘Money (That’s what I want)’ and stapled them together? This is one of the old Gallagher brothers’ band, silly! The ghost of a tired Jerry Lee Lewis enters ‘Bring the light’, a frisky, risky piano rock’n’roller with Liam sounding like he’s doing the jitterbug in a pair of baggy trousers. For pure retro value — I mean 50s-style rock’n’roll, not 90s-style Oasis — I guess the track will light things up.

‘For anyone’ is another hippie-shit track. Liam sounds like he’s distributing daisies in Hyde Park wearing a floral shirt. Skip to ‘Stand on the edge of the noise’. We return to the big sound of the opening track, but this time with a little more glam and leg kicks showing in the music. Thankfully, Liam is feeling rock-star-ish again. The song wakes me up and makes me ready to the utter banality of, um, ‘Wigwam’, a track that really shouldn’t have left the demo attic.

I’m not sure whether it’s a strategy, but ‘Three ring circus’ that follows sounds better than it probably is. The tune is firm and there’s a certain swagger to Liam’s shoulders and voice. And the band, till now just a bunch of noise behind the singer, at last makes interesting sounds that turn into something that was eluding me: an original tune.

Liam and his boys have started banging the drum. While it’s honestly nice to hear the ex-Oasis singer singing songs on an album one after another again, I would use this album as a drinks coaster, to be taken out only when everyone’s slightly smashed and wants that late night ambient party sound. drowning out, drowning in.

And now on to a truly beautiful album. Despite being released in the summer of 2010, I’m writing about Arcade Fire’s The Suburbs, not only because the Indian edition of this CD came out only recently but also because there’s nothing called gushing too much about this album. The hangdog charm mixed with the pathos of the title track makes me want to order a retreat from this world — after stabbing it. When frontman Win Butler sings, “So can you understand/Why I want a daughter while I’m still young?/ I wanna hold her hand/And show her some beauty/ Before this damage is done/But if it’s too much to ask, it’s too much to ask/ Then send me a son,” cynicism dies a bullet death. This album is a soundtrack of fidgeting in a sea of boredom. All the tracks are shot through with the ‘Really real’, especially those crumpled lines in ‘Half-Light II (No Celebrations)’: “Oh, this city’s changed so much/ Since I was a little child/ Pray to God I won’t live to see/The death of everything that’s wild.”

Not since fellow Canadian Neil Young’s Rust Never Sleeps has there been such a searingly honest rock album.