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Apr 14

OASIS – “All Around The World”

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#781, 24th January 1998

When “All Around The World” came out, it wasn’t yet quite clear that Oasis had peaked. Yes, the album was a folly, but they were still colossal, with no sign they wouldn’t come back stronger next time. This record felt belligerent: the pointless length, the Pepperland video – a band being deliberately, grandly lazy. Think what you like about us, it said, we’re going nowhere.

Which turned out to be true. And with hindsight, I can hear a different, far less triumphant record hidden in this one’s rolls and folds of overdubbed flab. To get to it, though, I have to ask: how on Earth did this thing get so big, anyway? What were they feeding it?

Back on “D’You Know What I Mean”, I said that Noel Gallagher seemed in love with the idea of long songs, but with no clear ideas of how to make them. That might go double here, except he does have one clear idea: do something like “Hey Jude”. “Hey Jude” still isn’t my favourite Beatles song, but it’s past time I publically admitted that I got that review wrong. I accused “Hey Jude” of exactly the same thing I saw in “All Around The World” – a bludgeoning, manipulative, Bigness for its own sake. But “Hey Jude” is, more than anything, a generous song – the Beatles invent the monster coda not just to make something epic but because it fits with the song’s story: OK Jude, we’ve tried telling you it’s alright, now we’re just going to have to show you.

“Hey Jude” put the ‘hug’ in ‘huge’, and it never left: when British rock bands got big, the temptation was to get inclusive too, throw their arms around the audience. The Britpop backwash wasn’t immune – the Manics did it well, on “A Design For Life”, but more characteristic of the times was Embrace’s “All You Good Good People”. It was praised as the next step on from Oasis, a single which matched cyclopean string arrangements with vocals that were aggressively flat, singing a typically expansive hug rock lyric.

That’s the sort of territory “All Around The World” seems to be in, after the feint of the opening two minutes which are Oasis by-the-yard: vague threats, cut-up lyrics, a canny hook or two, and even Liam’s “sheey-ine”. Beyond that point – with as long to go as the entire of “D’You Know What I Mean” – niceties like ‘verses’ are done away with. Instead “All Around The World” becomes nothing but build upon build, supporting a chorus which is pure hug: welcoming but empty.

Except the density of the arrangements means that instead of soaring, each key change here feels like a collapse, the song’s structure giving way like a weak old floor and the entire record plunging even as it struggles to rise. And Noel Gallagher’s lyrics – and Liam’s yelling of them – get more desperate. “Well, I know what I know, and I know what I know, and I know what I know… it’s gonna be OK” – this isn’t reaching out any more, it’s a man clutching at himself and rocking as his track caves in around him. The song ends with Liam’s increasingly frantic pleas of “Please don’t cry! Pigs don’t fly! Never say die!”. He sounds bereft. But who’s he singing to?

The fairest interpretation of “All Around The World” is probably the obvious one – it’s a bombastic, tedious drug-fuelled fiasco that shows only how out of control Noel Gallagher and his band were becoming. But the band’s later history of single-minded irrelevance allows us a slightly kinder read, one where this song is still too big and clumsy to be good, but at least has an accidental poignancy. This is the sound of Oasis and their fans becoming the sect they ended up as, shouting reassurance to one another, wrapping themselves in a cocoon of enormousness in order to retreat from the world.

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Comments

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  1. 101
    Cumbrian on 24 Apr 2014 #

    She Bangs The Drums as Eye Of The Tiger is excellent. I thought of it as the Baggy Black Betty for similar reasons but Eye Of The Tiger is probably a better example. As far as the two big Baggy bands goes, my opinion has definitely shifted towards Happy Mondays being the more interesting of the two of them.

    A connecting strand between the Roses and Oasis (and there are obviously many) is that they both lost it on records drowning in white powder, with songs that don’t have enough ideas to last as long as they do (though at least the Roses had previous for making long songs sound somewhat compelling – having had a further think on them, I think I am down to I Am The Resurrection and Something’s Burning as the two songs that I really like – and both are mammoth – with, as I said above, bits of the others grabbing the attention but with not enough around them for me to be totally engaged).

  2. 102
    tm on 24 Apr 2014 #

    Tom @ 100: it’s actually quite jarring on then reissue CD to hear such a moody song as FG starting up after the blissed out funk of IATR’s coda.

  3. 103
    tm on 24 Apr 2014 #

    Swanstep, it’s a great couplet, I grant you: maybe just have a longer instrumental bit in the middle without him singing all over it!

  4. 104
    iconoclast on 24 Apr 2014 #

    My opinion, for what it’s worth, is that “Waterfall” is great right until it goes haywire at the end; IatR is exhilerating but not as groundbreaking as some people think (and putting something after it would be heresy!); “Made of Stone” is the best song; SBtD, TitW, BBB are quite good; and the rest are a tad dull.

  5. 105
    Tom on 24 Apr 2014 #

    I just played it and oddly the big memory-rush one was “Don’t Stop”, which I recalled mostly FFWDing through – I guess it’s the stuff you don’t concentrate on that sets the best traps.

  6. 106
    Tommy Mack on 24 Apr 2014 #

    Yeah, I always used to skip Don’t Stop but now I take it like Fleetwood Mac’s Oh Well Pt2: an indispensable coda to the proceeding song and in some ways more interesting. Certainly inspired me to try my own backwards taping experiments when I got a four track tape recorder though for my money, the best bit of backwards taping in rock is The Jam’s Dreams Of Children: I still can’t tell what’s backwards and what’s forwards on that: building on sixties pop ideas rather than just revisiting them. Mind you, I like John Squire’s take on cut up lyrics for Don’t Stop: playing the demo of Waterfall backwards and writing down what the words sounded like.

  7. 107
    weej on 24 Apr 2014 #

    The DJ at our local shit indie club night used to play I Am The Resurrection in its entirity every single week – it was a dick move as it killed the dancefloor for everyone apart from shuffling blokes in parkas, and they weren’t going anywhere anyway, but he had his must-play-playlist and from what we could tell he didn’t even like indie music, he was just the metal night DJ after a bit of extra work (I really have no idea why we went there at all.) A group of us used to stand under his DJ booth and wait for the part where it stops, then all should “fuck off (DJ’s Name)” together. I don’t think anyone comes out of this looking very good, but it’s spoiled the song for me forever. Fools Gold is miles better, but too long, it’s true.

  8. 108
    Cumbrian on 24 Apr 2014 #

    IATR got played religiously at our local indie club as well – this is now going all the way up to the current time in Popular and beyond, when I was going there during my schooldays and just after – but it was never used in the middle of the night. It was always: IATR starts, club lights get knocked on, bouncers tell you to drink up and get out. If you tried to stay beyond the false ending, you were asking to be thrown out. It was mightily effective in that role.

  9. 109
    Tommy Mack on 24 Apr 2014 #

    I think every shit indie night I went to in Manchester played I Am The Resurrection in its entirety! The dancefloor would inevitably be full. First half: bellow along, second half: get your Bez on!

  10. 110
    Tom on 24 Apr 2014 #

    Hold on if the criteria is “doesn’t make indie fans shuffle about” how is Fools Gold any better? A lot of people, myself included, are very very fortunate the “dancing to Fools Gold” days happened before the YouTube era.

  11. 111
    weej on 24 Apr 2014 #

    Oh, I don’t think Fools Gold is much better, but at least it keeps a steady rhythm and doesn’t actually *stop* – however, now I think about it, I wouldn’t like to dance to anything by the Stone Roses if I have a choice.

  12. 112
    Patrick Mexico on 24 Apr 2014 #

    I’m partial to Garage Flower – the 1985 Stone Roses “debut that never was” – especially “So Young” and “Tell Me.” But then I would be as I love over-zealous goth-rock/industrial/post-punk long after post-punk had peaked, with the bass tied up too tight.

    They’re a band who sit oddly with me. Song For My Sugar Spun Sister, She Bangs the Drums, Ten Storey Love Song, Sally Cinnamon and Made of Stone* are some of my favourite pure pop songs ever, but most people overlook this in favour of two schools of thought:

    a) They’re a cool, hip, trendy, laddy band and they defined all that was great about music c. 1989. That “Fool’s Gold” was a funky anthem! What else did they sing?!
    b) They’re a dull, boorish, indie-schmindie, cod-nostalgic band, and they defined all that wasn’t great about music c. 1989. That “Fool’s Gold” was a noodly, faux-psychedelic pile of dogwank. What else did they sing?!

    I do believe there really was/is genuine talent and craft in that band, but the Roses’ career mistake was adapting the classic Manchester Model: early setbacks –> sudden gathering of creativity, pace, and recognition -> embracing own hype as previous Manc acts did so -> peaking with one colossal mega-gig -> believing own hype as previous Manc acts did so -> becoming unbearably arrogant and misanthropic as a defence mechanism for ailing creativity -> disappearing and not being heard of for yonks, then coming back with a disappointingly ordinary follow-up. Oh, and Ian Brown could be a witty little scamp in the press, but sometimes, as well as the “professional Mancunian” schtick which I’m sure drives both non-locals and locals up the wall, he strayed a bit too close to homophobia and misogyny. Remind you of anyone?

    * Although the technical term is “Primal Scream – Velocity Girl.”

  13. 113
    chelovek na lune on 24 Apr 2014 #

    I thought Garage Flower was dreadful, unfortunately. Rather worse, if more excusable, than the Second Coming, even…

    Aged 14 in 1989, I really loved the Roses for a time. There was some amazing, almost one-time, fusion of an array of very different – and, as we learned later, very inconsistent, talents that gelled wonderfully for that album, a few singles, and very most certainly, a few B-sides. Although the proto-psychedelic and more ferociously almost dancy ‘Elephant Stone’ might still well be my favourite single of theirs, overall where I think they excelled was in the more melodious, more vulnerable, tracks: Made of Stone is just first class in every regard, Where Angels Play and Mersey Paradise are special too; Sally Cinnamon perhaps less accomplished (understandably) but still atmospheric, along with its B-sides, the one about the sands, and, erm, the other one…and also, I guess, Ten Storey Love Song.

    Fools Gold was obviously a false dawn of something that never arrived (at least: from its originators. What it spawned in other quarters was, of course, immense). But the groove thing – that was really not where their appeal lay, well, the instrumental section of I Am The Resurrection, and that intro to She Bangs The Drums, apart…

    And then the quite wildly excessive hype took over….blowing the amps on the Late Show, Spike Island, One Love….and chicks came home to roost, or something. And the mirage was gone, and it was raining again.

    I can’t imagine Oasis gave inspiration to such gloriously florid dreams, even when their melody-writing machine was firing on all cylinders, as it sometimes was.

  14. 114
    Cumbrian on 13 May 2016 #

    The new Stone Roses track…I’ve tried – a couple of times – but no. It sounds shapeless, in that the instruments are all in this indistinct soup, out of which I am really struggling to pull anything. They don’t need to be doing the same things they did in the late 80s necessarily, but one thing some of those records did have was a sense of space within them. I’m probably not alone in considering this terrible, so I realise this is unlikely to be a ground breaking observation, even at this early juncture. One hopes – and indeed expects – that it will not be a bunny.

  15. 115
    Mostro on 15 May 2016 #

    tm @71 ; “AATW would make a great S Cl*b song”

    Hear’Say – Pure and Simple.

    ed @75; It still grates that I actually ******* bought “Wonderwall” because I’m not sure that I ever liked it in the first place. I hadn’t been that much into them when they first broke through (matter of fact, they never really registered with me until I heard “Cigarettes and Alcohol” and the vocals struck me as incredibly Johnny Rotten-esque).

    Circa early 1995, though, I’d started reading NME and Melody Maker and began buying a lot more singles (something I’d done rarely until my late teens). In hindsight, I think I had too little respect for my own musical taste and too much for the hype-of-the-week Britpop and indie singles proclaimed to be some fantastically inspired piece of musical innovation rather than a passable but derivative take on 60s, 70s and 80s guitar-driven sounds (which in hindsight I wasn’t that much into in the first place).

    So, I think with everyone saying this was such a great song and Oasis were such a great band, I bought it because it *must* be. Right?

    I also bought “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, but at least I can vaguely remember liking its Beatles-esque melody at the time. Wonderwall, though?

    In hindsight, it’s rotten. Typical godawful Oasis lyrics, the title obviously magpied due to its George Harrison connection and shoehorned into being something (failing to be) vaguely symbolic by Noel Gallagher alongside all the other half-baked, nursery-rhyme takes on cliched imagery about roads being blinding, lights being blinding, blah blah. No depth, no meaning, no more understanding than an actual magpie would have.

    But it’s that melody that really does it- an utter, uninspiring dirge. It lumbers along, failing to take off or do anything interesting. The final chance it has to redeem itself- the resolution at the end of the chorus (“…and after all, you’re my wonderwall”)- ends up being the most flat, leaden and dirge-like part of the whole song.

    Why the **** did I spend four bloody quid on that? Safe to say it’s not in my music collection any more. That said, would I still hate Wonderwall today if I’d never bought it? Yes, I think I would.

    “All Around the World”, meanwhile, would be a passable (at best) four minute piece of mildly pleasant but derivative guitar pop. Or it would be if it hadn’t been overloaded with guitars and general nonsense to sound more “epic”.

    The fact that it’s actually nine minutes long doesn’t even really come across as “bloated” in the way that “D’You Know What I Mean?” does- it just sounds like a four minute song extended to nine for no good reason.

    This being Oasis, they’re obviously trying to pull a “Hey Jude”, but- as with a lot of their Beatles worshipping- they never seem to “get” it. In this case, no, you can’t simply turn any random track into “Hey Jude” by slapping on an overlong ending and a few “na na nas”.

  16. 116
    Phil on 16 May 2016 #

    I remember a coworker – someone I’d never had much to do with, but who’d picked up that I was into music an’ that – asking me if I liked this; it might even have been the morning after it was on TOTP (old school!). I said, er, no, not really. He said, “but you’ll get the album, right?” – and the inflection was as if he was part of Noel & Liam’s sales force, upbeat & celebratory but with a faint undertone of pleading, this still works, doesn’t it?.

    It didn’t.

    The funny thing is, Noel had already played this card once and dismissed it as shit (“Whatever”). I guess you could say that “Whatever” was IATW rather than “Hey Jude”, but you’d be wrong. Basically he was right the first time.

  17. 117
    Tommy Mack on 16 May 2016 #

    Cumbrian @ 114: The new Stone Roses’ track All For One: I guess about the most charitable assessment would be that they tried to merge the hands-in-the-air euphoria associated with their first album and the, ahem, classic rockin’ of Second Coming and it didn’t quite come off.

    Frankly, it sounds like they were trying to ‘do something like we used to’ but couldn’t be bothered to listen to their old records and wrote something based only on reading 100-word descriptions of their sound from Best Albums Ever-type puff pieces.

    Really, the title and lyrics should have been a flashing blue light: The Roses were always at their worst when they aimed for broad-brush-strokes anthemic stuff. Their best songs were full of weird, cryptic mumblings, vague threats and monumental narcissism (and in the case of Going Down, crypto-Prince-isms about well, you can guess…)

  18. 118
    flahr on 16 May 2016 #

    “Frankly, it sounds like they were trying to ‘do something like we used to’ but couldn’t be bothered to listen to their old records and wrote something based only on reading 100-word descriptions of their sound from Best Albums Ever-type puff pieces.”

    If The KLF did that we’d never hear the end of it from the popcrit massive.

  19. 119
    Cumbrian on 17 May 2016 #

    117: The adjective I was searching for but failed to find is, I think, mushy. Which would be great if they’ve Eno’d this album and pulled a load of Oblique Strategies cards that have lead them to try to create tracks evoking classic Northern food – I for one would look forward to the tracks sounding like Pie (solid, crusty but maybe just warmed through) and Uncle Joe’s Mint Balls (sharp and hard but also vaguely antiseptic) – but is more likely because the production doesn’t sound right. John Leckie might well be the missing ingredient.

    Would agree, as I said somewhere up thread, that it’s more the tracks with the vaguely threatening lyric that work well for me nowadays (IATR, Something Burning) and all the musical stuff requires a less is more approach, rather than this which is full of noise.

    Mani should have stayed with Primal Scream I reckon – I listened to Vanishing Point for the first time in ages last night and think he’d be better off playing that type of stuff.

    118: That’s probably right, but then again, that’s also because The KLF did stuff like that. Isn’t ultimately that just saying, “these two bands are different and can therefore be evaluated on different criteria”?

  20. 120
    Tommy Mack on 17 May 2016 #

    Flahr @ 118: if they’d *actually* done that, it might be a bit more interesting than it was!

    Part of the problem is that they left it so long, not just to reform but to release new stuff after reforming, that the first single *had* to be some sort of grandiose universal statement of intent which is setting the bar pretty high, especially when that was always the band’s weakest type of song anyway.

  21. 121
    flahr on 17 May 2016 #

    I meant that it didn’t really sound like a criticism, even though in context it was meant to be one, since, as TM observes, it would probably be a good idea.

  22. 122
    Tommy Mack on 17 May 2016 #

    It was more of an observation, it really did strike me that it sounded like someone had tried to make a Roses record based on reading brief descriptions of their sound, rather than study of their music (or indeed, y’know, being the actual Stone Roses)

    Agree that as a methodology it would at the very least be interesting! If I’m completely stuck for inspiration when writing songs, I sometimes try playing by instinct, something I’ve not heard for a while, which I guess is similar.

  23. 123
    Tommy Mack on 17 May 2016 #

    I said, only half-jokingly, on Tom’s FB page, that they should have gone back to their goth roots which strikes me now as at least a half-decent idea: it would have confounded their critics while giving a nod to the hardcore fans, would have placed them in a genre where they could still produce something suitably grandiose for a twenty-year comeback single and could have played quite well with the sort of Eagulls-type post-punk indie that’s around at the moment.

    If any other semi-retired indie legends want to hire me as a strategy consultant, I offer very competitive rates…

  24. 124
    Izzy on 17 May 2016 #

    All For One is getting better the more I hear it, somewhat to my amazement. I had been thinking that Ian does a pretty good job if one overlooks the thinness of the material – it’s at least a bridge and some lyrics short of being an actual song – while the others have only brought their C game (and in Mani’s case may not even be there).

    But right now I’ve got it on the tinniest speaker I own and it’s starting to sound pretty great. Leading me to think that the main issue is the production. Multitracked vocals with flanges are a very jarring combo.

    All I really wanted was to hear them recorded as-live, but maybe they’re just not capable of that any more. Meantime play them on your phone, I guess.

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