Be Here Now was a triumph that turned, with rapid hindsight, into a crisis. By “Go Let It Out”, the lead single from its follow-up, the crisis had become material. Two members and a record label down, Noel Gallagher was forced to re-record much of the music on Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants by himself. Meanwhile, the world had changed. For all the big talk – the band whose only peers were the classics – Oasis had hit their peak very much as part of a movement, coming up alongside Britpop and then becoming big enough to carry a revivalist rock wave with them. Now that lairy peloton had fallen away, and Oasis found themselves just another part of a broad and comfortable pop establishment: ensconced on Sony and with Mark “Spike” Stent producing. Stent, who had won his rep working for the KLF on their Stadium House 12”s, had become the safest imaginable pair of hands – he mixed everyone from the Spice Girls to Massive Attack, and his approach seemed to be running highlighter over things that made a band themselves, making sure the British pop ecosystem sounded diverse. So where did Oasis fit in?
They hunkered down. “Go Let It Out” is the point at which Oasis become, defiantly and unashamedly, Quoasis. A closed-in gang, arms folded against fashion and critical spite. A belligerent chug. It’s also a record that makes it clear that – whatever Noel’s position when interviews came around – the band regretted nothing. The critical take on Oasis at this time was one of a group in a cycle of trying to make amends, desperately groping to recover their classic, world-striding form. A lot of this feels like wishful thinking on behalf of the press – for whom Be Here Now was just as much a fuck-up as it was for the band. It was wishful thinking encouraged by the Gallaghers, though who publically flip-flopped between the Denial (still the biggest band in the world) and Bargaining (some of these new songs are the best we’ve done) stages of grief.
Except, when you listen to it, “Go Let It Out” is transparently no kind of change in direction, just progress along one. With its simmering, rolling aggression and its mellotron trimmings it actually feels like a mid-point of “D’You Know What I Mean?” and “All Around The World”, Be Here Now’s two big hits. Sure, they’d cut back on the coke bloat, but the line of development from “Live Forever” through “Wonderwall” through “D’You Know..” to this song is very clear. It’s a band becoming more reliant on groove, building their songs around their rhythm section to a greater degree, always with the failsafe of a big chorus, but with those choruses becoming a little weaker every time too.
There’s an obvious problem with this. Oasis do not have a world beating rhythm section – in fact, at this point, they didn’t have a rhythm section at all – and groove was not their strong point. Defiance exposes these limits just as much as experiment would have. So while “Go Let It Out!” sulks at you quite effectively, it can’t build much steam until it kicks into the chorus, which gives Liam something to bite on too after drawling through the verses. It’s not a bad chorus: in spirit, and halfway in sound, their most sixties-esque statement yet. And it sounds like a songwriter making an effort – whatever the merits of lines like “Is it any wonder why princes and kings / Are clowns that caper in their sawdust rings?” they aren’t throwaway. The message – that shout out to “ordinary people” – hasn’t changed since “D’You Know What I Mean” any more than the sound has. Oasis are the people’s band, even if they’ve been disenfranchised, they and their tribe sent into exile. They are still big: it’s the charts that got small. It was something to cling to, anyhow.