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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. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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…

  4. 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.

  5. 125
    Izzy on 10 Jun 2016 #

    The new one’s much more like what I was looking for. Only heard it once, but it’s quite promising so far. Reni’s good, and you can even hear Mani this time.

  6. 126
    alexcornetto on 19 Jan 2017 #

    I watched the recent Oasis documentary a few days ago, and there was some footage of them rehearsing in a basement in Manchester circa 1992. This was the song they were running through. Aside from adding more unnecessary instrumentation to it (and, y’know, dragging it out a bit), five years didn’t actually do much to the song at its core.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CXDmN0UnS-M

  7. 127
    Girl with Curious Hair on 19 Aug 2017 #

    #126 – I read somewhere that Noel Gallagher held this song back from Oasis’s first two albums, because he thought it was a classic that deserved a bigness the band couldn’t afford when they were starting out. The fact there’s footage existing of the band playing it in 1992 seems to bear that out.

    And that gives it an arc that’s… I don’t think poignant is the word I’m looking for here, but there’s something there…

    Imagine how groovy this must have seemed to the ‘sis in the bright narcotic uplands of 1995-97. NG wrote this song when he was skint and the band were nobodies, when the designs of greatness were an act of faith rather than hubris… and during the bright narcotic uplands of 1995-97, it must have felt like that faith was going to be paid off big time. This song was going to be the flourish on a triumph of a third album. It was all part of a masterplan. Pass me the CD case…

    Of course, it did turn into hubris, a self-consciously imperialistic land-grab on Beatle territory – the video is literally a fucking live-action remake of Yellow Submarine – and by 1998 that coke high had worn off. The song begins as a procession and ends, as Tom points out, in retreat. Deservedly so? Probably. Still, I think that alone makes this one of the more interesting songs from the coke-bloat end of Britpop.

    And really, the Oasis story ends here, at the conclusion of this neat, not-quite classical arc: yeah they lurched on into the 2000s in their Quoasis guise, but everything interesting about them was extinguished with the 90s.

    (Just like the Spice Girls, really – I doubt anybody gives much thought to that R&B thing they did in 2000. To go off on a tangent: I’m sure this is just a trick of the chronological light, but it does seem interesting that everything noteworthy about both Oasis and the Spice Girls – the UK’s leading pop forces of the 1990s – was preserved so perfectly inside that decade. Whatever else Oasis or the Spice Girls did or didn’t have in common with their big, shadow-casting uncles The Beatles, all 3 bands were basically confined as a going concern, and a cultural memory, to one decade. At least the Fabs and the Girls had the good grace to give up the ghost pretty quickly after that 0 rolled around…)

  8. 128
    weej on 21 Aug 2017 #

    GWCH – This, from an ILX thread, is one of my favourite comments ever and I think it needs more exposure:

    “I think I’ve said something like this before, but if I were making the Oasis biopic, it would begin with a scene of Noel and Liam as kids, Liam feeling sad for being beaten up just because he acted like an asshole, Noel cheering him up by playing a new song he just wrote ‘All around the world / gotta spread the word / you know it’s gonna be okay.’ ‘You know Liam, one day we are going to be Rock and Roll stars, and we’re going to turn this song into the biggest song ever. At several of the early shows they play stripped down versions of the song, at the recording of both Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory they’re asked if they want to include the anthem. ‘Not yet’ says Noel. ‘Not until we have the budget to make it fucking right.’ The film culminates with a painstaking reconstruction of the recording process of All Around the World, done in black and white, cinema verité style, but also imitating the famous bell-making scene from Andrei Rublev (it goes without saying that my biopic is a 3 hour monster like Nixon or something). Final scene of film is a one-take of Noel, dejected, angry at Liam, coked out of his mind, feeling the dream has gone to shit, putting on the song, the masterpiece he dreamt about since he was a kid, and over 9 painful minutes realizing just how bad it is, just how much he fucked it up. For the last couple of minutes he is bawling his eyes out, lying on the floor, snot coming out of his nose. Roll credits, soundtracked by Country House.

    ― Frederik B, Thursday, 25 August 2016 00:29”

  9. 129
    Imran Patel on 19 Sep 2017 #

    A 7 or 8 I think. A nice Beatlesy pastiche but a tad too long for me.

  10. 130
    Mostro on 24 Sep 2017 #

    #128 Weej – “Roll credits, soundtracked by Country House.”

    I know it’s not yours, but… brilliant!

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