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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. 1
    flahr on 16 Apr 2014 #

    Making this observation is only going to make you like the record less, but – it’s not “Please don’t cry!”, it’s “Pigs don’t fly!”.

    Your criticisms of this are entirely fair, and it’s worth noting that I don’t like eg the Embrace record much – but I have an odd soft spot for this, partially because there’s a sort of charming silliness to it (“imagine how good ‘Hey Jude’ would have been if it had three key changes”, Noel is reported to have said) – it’s so mindlessly reductive and simple and desperately comforting that I warm to it. It helps that “wrapping [yourself] in a cocoon of enormity in order to retreat from the world” is a use case I find music useful for – after all, it could also describe My Bloody Valentine ;-)

  2. 2
    Tom on 16 Apr 2014 #

    Yes, the review here is me trying to write myself into liking it and picking likeable idiocy as one possible grounds – I think it’s a worthy use for music too, though this wouldn’t be the song I’d choose.

  3. 3
    Cumbrian on 16 Apr 2014 #

    1: Having listened to it again, it’s around the 7 minute mark and I’ve got to disagree with you. Liam’s diction isn’t always the best, but he’s definitely hitting a “pl” at the beginning of the phrase.

    On the Some Might Say thread, I said I suspected that I might wind up having to defend Oasis in the end (at this point, future, “history of single minded irrelevance” is a fair tipping of the hand, I would say). Not yet though. This is bollocks. Ridiculous, hubristic, ostentatious bollocks but bollocks all the same, rehashing and inflating almost everything that they’d done before, right down to Liam’s mangling of the word “shine” that once seemed to be a cocky “can I get away with this” drawl and now was just a cokey drawl.

    The grand joke of all of this is that, on the album, it fades out and “It’s Getting Better, Man” starts (all 7 minutes of it) before All Around The World gets a reprise – as if to suggest that they were playing it all along underneath and that it had stretched to well nigh 20 minutes. At end of the reprise, the sound of someone walking away from All Around The World (with the song getting fainter all the time) plays out until a door is opened and then slammed shut. Easy to read plenty into that but Radiohead had beaten everyone to it two year before (“I wish it was the 60s, I wish, I wish, I wish that something would happen”, “Where do we go from here?”). In the end, Britpop was, I think – many may well disagree, for the largest part, a creative dead end – Radiohead probably just realised it more quickly than those driving the gravy train.

    If you really want to torture yourself, dig out the version of Street Fighting Man that’s on the B-Side of this and marvel in the laziness of it all.

  4. 4
    flahr on 16 Apr 2014 #

    #3: Fair point, on relistening that does seem to be the lyric. I can at least pass the buck on this one to Noel himself.

  5. 5
    anto on 17 Apr 2014 #

    The ‘gargantuan’ pizza on the menu in record form – Cheesy, doughy, no real flavour and impossible to finish.

  6. 6
    Chelovek na lune on 17 Apr 2014 #

    I think this is a remarkably kind and sensitive review of one of the most narcissistic (and simply lazy) records that will be encountered here – and also of a track that, essentially, goes nowhere, musically or lyrically, and never even promises to go somewhere and never even bothers to hint that it might perhaps just about consider doing so, at unreasonably great length. Then repeat, again again. No big hug here, apart from Gallagher Bro hugging himself. “I wanna kiss myself. I’m the one and only dominator”: is this the message here? If the track were less asleep, perhaps it would have been. Self-satisfied and enclosed, anyway.

    Let’s call it an “installation” rather than a “song” and gape at it, and then fall asleep. Dullsville, Manchester.

  7. 7

    […] are overrated. Choruses are overrated. Oasis was overrated — in England at least. Tom Ewing on their 1998 number one “All Around the World,” destined to be most effective as a […]

  8. 8
    Patrick Mexico on 17 Apr 2014 #

    This exhibit, ladies and gentlemen, is the passing of the sell-by date of Oasis, Britpop, and whatever the cokehead media invention “90s lad culture” was supposed to be.. narcissism, misguided nostalgia, overstaying its welcome to the nth degree (okay, five minutes) and a sense of “quintessentially English charm” used as a disguise for charmlessly imposing thuggery. It was a similar egomaniac, nationalist, “we are the best!” (note lower case, Swedish readers) idiocy that led to the trouble in Marseilles at France 98.

    Somehow, this record’s never really caused me hatred. Unlike Bohemian Rhapsody or American Pie, the first few lines don’t evoke a memorable sense of a very long single going on a very memorable journey. Beatles harmonies and cod-hippy references as transparent as a neon tetra. I usually like that naff sort of thing anyway, especially when it’s done in the tongue-in-cheek way the Gallaghers (before Be Here Now) were great at. But this is precisely the point I went from thinking Oasis were both the best mates you could ever have and the people you dreamed of being when you grew up, to boring old men down the pub farting on about “the good old days” (and when were they, exactly?) FIVE.

  9. 9
    Kinitawowi on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Oi, I like All You Good Good People. Yes, it’s six minutes of HUGE, but at least it’s not nine and a half of PRETENDING TO BE HUGE.

    As you’ve noted, this is totally Hey Jude without the charm, bombast without knowing what to do with it, a Beatles tribute without understanding what made them vaguely listenable. A record that deserves scant few of its plaudits; the longest number one of all time by technicality and arrogance (the album version of I’d Do Anything For Love is a full twelve minutes, but was edited down for single release; Oasis seem like the sort of people who would tell a radio station to fuck off if anyone tried to edit this).

    And yet… it’s still got that bigness about it that appeals to that Bloke part of me that really wants to participate in the drunken singalong without actually drinking. See also: If… by The Bluetones, large swathes of Embrace, Elbow’s partial bunny contributions, Hey Jude, ADFL, some Doves stuff…

    Also, it’s better than D’You Know What I Mean?.

    4.

  10. 10
    taDOW on 17 Apr 2014 #

    3 seems kind. oasis’ rep in america now is curious. ‘wonderwall’ never really faded away completely and on alt-nostalgia stations you’ll still hear most of the oasis tracks that hit on any level here – ‘live forever’, ‘supersonic’, ‘cigarettes and alcohol’, ‘wonderwall’, ‘morning glory’, ‘champagne supernova’, ‘don’t look back in anger’. that’s a pretty deep bench, deeper than soundgarden or alice in chains or 90s (not 00s) green day manage and deeper than the rest of britpop combined (effectively just ‘bittersweet symphony’, ‘song 2’ and ‘there’s no other way’ if that counts, it’s been years since i heard the elastica or supergrass that managed to have any impact in the us). and yet the line is drawn at be here now as it has been in retrospect to the album itself. i say in retrospect because at the time be here now was a success in the us – ‘dya know whut i mean’ was a big mtv hit, ‘don’t go away’ hit #5 on the modern rock chart, oasis dominated rolling stone’s readers poll. i say this cuz there’s this sense that america wised up to oasis, while england hilariously made them a legacy act. it’s not totally errant – this lumbering turd went nowhere over here though it would eventually gain some profile via an att&t ad, like a microbe released by thawing tundra – but if anything killed america’s slight oasis mania it was the change in the altrock format and not the turn toward open worthlessness the band took. i guess what i’m saying is if at this late date anyone is still struggling to find a positive to nu metal, well, there’s yr silver lining.

    1.

  11. 11
    Patrick Mexico on 17 Apr 2014 #

    This makes Some Might Say sound like Wuthering Heights.

    (And I call for more pointless but fun “This makes *previous Oasis song* sound like *someone else’s virtually undisputed classic*” posts) :)

  12. 12
    Ed on 17 Apr 2014 #

    This makes ‘Whatever’ sound like ‘How Sweet to be an Idiot’.

  13. 13
    mapman132 on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Enjoy watching the video – I wouldn’t have been surprised to find out Terry Gilliam had directed it. The song on the other hand: you mean it’s not just the video that’s that long? No, actually the single is longer (9:38) than the video I pulled up on Youtube (7:03). My God, can’t imagine listening to nearly ten minutes of this without something to watch! As #10 said, this was pretty much the point that Oasis lost America for good. Even in 1998 I was surprised to see this atop the UK chart – as in, they’re still popular over there?

    5/10 only with the video, 3/10 otherwise.

  14. 14
    Elmtree on 17 Apr 2014 #

    There’s such a strange contrast on playing this song with the volume on low and on loud. Played quiet, this seems so sweet and gentle: Liam’s voice cowed but searching for something, high in the mix. It sounds vaguely jangle-pop, vaguely country, with a nice build into madness past a certain point.

    On loud…ouch. Dense, noisy and painful. Liam’s vocal sounds flat and uninspired, singing on his default setting, the guitar sounds pointless, the string arrangement superfluous, the drums empty and thumping. Whoever did the arrangement on Whatever, which really did this so much better, should have been brought back.

    Side note: the video’s husband and wife directors would go on to do Little Miss Sunshine, something else that sounds charming at first but that I have little time for.

    And of course this could have nailed it in three minutes and spent the rest in the pub, but even Noel, deep down, could have told you that.

  15. 15
    Elmtree on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Also, it’s not just Hey Jude I hear in this. Especially with the mixed-low piano at the end, to me this really sounds like the massive rock singalong that the Stones could have followed up You Can’t Always Get What You Want with but didn’t.

    I’ve always wondered what they would have done if they hadn’t treated that song and Gimme Shelter as dead ends and gone back to simpler rock songs. But maybe I shouldn’t.

  16. 16
    weej on 17 Apr 2014 #

    This could be ok if it ended after three or four minutes, but the sheer length of the thing is just so unearned and the way they can’t resist sticking a guitar lick into every tiny gap… further proof, it was needed, that taking too much cocaine doesn’t generally mean you’ll turn into the thin white duke.
    The overselfindulgence here is so extreme that it’s almost enjoyable camp – but you’d probably need to already have a fan’s commitment to even have the patience for that. If anyone’s interested someone’s made a video edit for the full eleven and a half minutes – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yzMwsLooXE – I think there should be some kind of prize for watching it all, like a restaurant with a huge hamburger eating challenge.

  17. 17
    swanstep on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Is ‘enormity’ really synonymous with ‘enormousness’ now? Anyhow, the thought of Oasis and its fans cocooning themselves in absolute evil made me laugh (almost as much as when George W. Bush talked about the enormity of his being elected in 2000).

    Awful record; so bad that it retrospectively takes a little of the shine off ‘Hey Jude’, maybe off the Beatles more generally (one wonders whether Noel got a “Don’t do this again” note from McCartney). Liam’s ‘Na na na’s are particularly offensive; it’s like he’s personally mocking you that he’s at #1 with this shit whereas your band never went anywhere, etc.:
    1

  18. 18
    Garry on 17 Apr 2014 #

    I had a quick look at my collection for songs between 7:00 and 7:10 in length, and there is not much comparable. It’s the length of Primal Scream’s Loaded, Pink Floyd’s Time, Aphex Twin’s On, some Red Snapper, Jah Wobble, Talk Talk’s Taphead etc, plus many tracks stretched out or shrunk down as played live, but straight-out, studio recorded rock is conspicuously absent.

    Even looking longer there isn’t much. Blur’s Tender is longer (7:40), though again it is more comparable with Spiritualized than this era Oasis.

  19. 19
    weej on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Garry @ #18 – The single edit of All Around The World clocks in at 9:38, a whole eighteen seconds longer than the version on Be Here Now (though without the two-minute reprise at the end of the LP). The video – mercifully – cuts it to just over seven minutes, but this version wasn’t commercially released. The 7″ single has a 4:51 edit, but in 1998 most of the sales would’ve been the CD single.

  20. 20
    Garry on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Thanks Weej. So people saw the video, bought the single and got minutes of… err… added goodness.

  21. 21
    Garry on 17 Apr 2014 #

    So the CD single version was a whole second shorter than Morrissey’s Moon River cover. Within a 20 second span I’m seeing plenty of jazz, Can, a few Underworld, The Orb, Electrelane and Pink Floyd’s Sheep. And Kraftwerk’s Endless Europe…

    The 1969 version of Down By The River clocks in at 9.16.

  22. 22
    lonepilgrim on 17 Apr 2014 #

    there’s a reasonably satisfactory b-side buried in here beneath the bombast and key-changes – unfortunately it really is dead and buried by the time the song ends.
    According to wikipedia Noel thought so much of this song that he had been saving it until he could do it justice. Just as with DYKWIM there’s a simple strummed chord sequence over which he proceeds to layer various effect pedals before lurching through the key changes. A large part of the problem is that none of the added guitars, effects, etc. add any counterpoint or richness to the song. The Beatles could rely on Ringo’s idiosyncratic drum fills, Lennon’s mercurial contributions or McCartney’s inventive bass lines (or on Hey Jude his varied vocals); here everyone just dumbly repeats Noel’s chord sequence. Only Liam adds any variety but even that wears thin after a while.

  23. 23
    Tom on 17 Apr 2014 #

    #17 fair point, “cocoon of enormity” flows better but wasn’t quite what I meant.

    #9 I have a soft spot for “All You Good Good People” too, in a kind of two-wrongs-make-a-right way – the way his singing has to push against the hugeness of the arrangement means there’s a struggle/tension in the song which is totally lacking from AATW (or from Hey Jude to be honest, but that song doesn’t need tension).

  24. 24
    byebyepride on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Reminds me a lot of Tears for Fears, Sowing the Seeds of Love. Vaguely ‘will this do’ songwriting, with aspirational/feel-good lyrics which could be pastiche or genuine tribute. As ever with Oasis I can’t work out whether Liam’s weird accentuation (sheeiiiiinnneee) is a defiant assertion of provincial accent and phrasing, punk-ish distancing from the sentiments of the song, or art rock affectation.

    #22 “there’s a simple strummed chord sequence over which he proceeds to layer various effect pedals before lurching through the key changes”

    Taking advantage of hindsight I’m tempted to say that this is the endpoint towards which most of the indie guitar/shoegaze of the 1980s and 1990s is pointing. If I’m remembering correctly Spiritualized are out on the road touring Ladies and Gentlemen We’re Floating in Space which is basically the same sort of thing as this but the tunes borrowed from slightly more obscure source material.

  25. 25
    Cumbrian on 17 Apr 2014 #

    #24: The major difference between this and Sowing The Seeds Of Love, is that STSOL is good – I suspect Noel would not really think so, though he might have agreed with “Kick out the Style, bring back The Jam”.

    I also think, as I may have alluded to earlier, that the mangling of shine is not really any of those things. It’s just Liam doing what Liam does – a retread of his own vocal style, calling back to a time when they really did seem to have something to say.

    The other thing is that there are worse songs Oasis released as singles – none of them got to #1 though, so won’t be troubling us here. I cannot imagine what the people dishing 1s out to this would think of Sunday Morning Call or Little By Little.

  26. 26
    Tom on 17 Apr 2014 #

    STSOL really does sound like what people accused Oasis of being – Heritage Industry Beatles. (I kind of like it.)

    Yeah the “sheeine” here is pure sonic branding, it’s Oasis’ equivalent of the Intel loading sound at this point.

  27. 27
    Erithian on 17 Apr 2014 #

    I remember reading how Tears for Fears had spent five years (“not dicking around”) producing STSOL, and heritage industry Beatles nails it nicely. Except that in a similar period of time the Fabs themselves had gone from Love Me Do to I Am The Walrus.

  28. 28
    Tom on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Exactly! Vindication for Roland and Curt – it takes 5 years work to get to something that sounds like I Am The Walrus ;)

  29. 29
    punctum on 17 Apr 2014 #

    It took just over 8 minutes for Oasis to cover I Am The Walrus (in 1994) without it sounding anything like “I Am The Walrus.” This is no bad thing.

  30. 30
    fivelongdays on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Tut, Tom, never heard of the phrase ‘Bunnied Welsh Band’? It’s there for a reason ;)

    With that out of the way…

    At this point, my relationship with Oasis had pretty much soured. 15-year-old me (quickly approaching my 16th birthday) had rejected the band. However, there were still moments…

    There are three points where Oasis should have split.

    Firstly, after Some Might Say got to number one (or, more properly, when Tony McCarroll left the band). Had they called it quits then, they would have been five lads from Manchester who released six singles and one album, who’d topped the charts and shone so brightly it would be a tough act to follow.

    Secondly, after Knebworth. How can you beat the two biggest gigs in British history? Imagine what a statement that would have been. To have had everything and thrown it away.

    Thirdly, after this. This was the end of Oasis as even four blokes from Manchester and one Ringo impersonator from London. This song had a certain reputation before anyone had actually heard it. It had, Noel said, been written before Definitely Maybe came out. It was held off because he wanted it to be done right.

    So what of it?

    Well, it starts off relatively sedately. And it builds, and builds, and builds. Brass honks, guitars squall, and Liam tries to reassure – him? us? someone else? – and then it looks like it’s going to end on some ‘nah nah nahs’. And then you look at the time remaining…and you realise that the song’s only about halfway through. And it keeps going and going and going. This is the sound of Noel Gallagher flicking the Vs at taste, at trends, at the radio, at everyone, while Liam gets his nob out and pisses all over everything.

    It’s big, it’s stupid, it’s over-indulgent, and – sad to say – I really bloody like it.

    8.

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