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Feb 17

OASIS – “The Hindu Times”

Popular40 comments • 2,229 views

#923, 27th April 2002

oasishindu The biggest band in Britain grinds on, and as usual when an Oasis single toils its way by, their own past is the best stick to beat them with. In 1994, Oasis’ approach – putting great chunks of rock’s past in a smelter and using noise, hooks and force of will to forge something fresh from it – was a thrill. For all Noel’s occasional trolling in interviews, what Oasis represented an alternative and challenge to wasn’t pop. Instead they rebuked rock as it stood in the early 90s, only sometimes unfairly. British indie, first of all, the wan inbred descendent of punk rock, for its habit of simply aping the past, not trying to match it. Shoegaze and post-rock, for their refusal of the possibilities of a mass audience. Grunge rock, for finding that audience and turning away from it with a shudder. And most of all, the classic rock establishment, packing arenas and scooping BRIT awards by offering the same tired product, year upon year.

That was then. Eight years on, much had changed. Most obviously, Oasis now were the establishment – almost the only remaining British rock group who could guarantee hits and sales. Meanwhile, their artistic fire had conspicuously gone out. The hooks dried up and where they once alchemised the past they now merely and habitually quoted it. And finally, the cultural landscape they were operating in had shifted. The battle with Blur, a media confection the Gallaghers happily dived into, set Oasis’ molten populism against Blur’s art school detachment (one album past both bands’ peak). But Blur and the other Britpop bands turned out to be the last flare-out of the art school lineage as a major commercial force in British pop. An older light entertainment tradition represented by stage school performers (and now reality TV graduates) was now resurgent.

All of this made the likelihood of Oasis producing great records again very low. They had an industry happy to push whatever they did as a return to form, and a fan base ready to accept even their lowest-grade work as plainly and inevitably superior to ‘manufactured pop’. There was no incentive for them to make an effort or change the formula, even if they could have. So they didn’t, and you get “The Hindu Times”, named for no reason other than the lead guitar sounds a bit like a sitar.

This is laziness bordering on contempt, a band trundling along in second gear and telling the world they’re racing. For all that, “The Hindu Times” isn’t a terrible record. It’s marginally the best Oasis number one since 1997, and does indeed clear the mighty bar of being better than “Anything Is Possible”. But next to any of the early fiery stuff, it’s another aimless slog.

The problems aren’t hard to diagnose. After “Go Let It Out”, this is another track proving Liam Gallagher’s voice has turned from the band’s fuel into their biggest liability – he sounds bored out of his skull, and the cramped melody of “The Hindu Times” and its flaccid brain/vein/rain rhymes only make that clearer. But the reason for those lyrics is the same reason the guitar is doing a spot of Eastern cosplay – the song is trying to be specifically Beatley, and its obvious model is “Rain”.

“Rain” is a key track for Oasis in general – Liam’s proto-Oasis band was named The Rain, and its aggressively drawn-out vowels are the Rosetta Stone for his entire vocal approach. It’s one of the bits of the high 60s Oasis and their soundalikes drew most inspiration from – psychedelia, but run through a draggy, heavy, earthbound filter that suited 90s sensibilities better than the more whimsical end of psych. The fact that the band so overtly drew on it at this late stage might be a symptom of creative exhaustion but might also be to do with the arrival of Andy Bell from Ride, another musician with a proud reverence for 1966. Compared to Noel’s other attempts to go back to the source, “The Hindu Times” has more in common with “All Around The World” than “Setting Sun”: the song drones, lifted up by its riff then pulled back down by a pedestrian tune and lyric. Wikipedia – rather generously – compares it to the band’s “Rock N Roll Star”, but in that song rock’n;roll is what lets you tear away from drudgery, if only briefly. In “The Hindu Times” it is the drudgery.

So this song is a worn-out songwriter with nothing to prove, getting an indie supergroup to do “Rain” as a pub rock jam, sung by a man who audibly can’t be arsed. It ends up only a little better than that sounds. And taken with the last two number ones it suggests a fearful doldrum for pop as a whole. Both the main currents the charts took after Britpop (lad rock in the LP rankings, stage school pop for singles) feel exhausted, commercially viable but creatively wiped out, two approaches orbiting each other in futile opposition. There has to be another way.

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Comments

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  1. 26
    James BC on 13 Feb 2017 #

    If there’s anyone in Britain who has this as their favourite Oasis song, I’d like to know more about them (him).

  2. 27
    Steve Mannion on 13 Feb 2017 #

    Worth noting that ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ was bemusing to many of us who recalled Noel’s chastening of HearSay for lifting the ‘All Around The World’ chorus chords for ‘Pure And Simple’.

    “though I’d be interested in finding out how many Oasis fans went on a Women’s March – I’d wager not many”

    I don’t know how you measure “Oasis fan” let alone this but the march I attended had enough people my age or older who probably still own a couple of their albums or like several of their songs…strictly 90s of course (although the best Oasis #1 of the 00s is yet come imo – not that this is saying very much at all).

  3. 28
    Andrew Farrell on 13 Feb 2017 #

    #24 nah in fairness the connection to the adoring masses is a very Oasis thing. Interestingly Rain is from one of the last singles before Oasis gave up live touring, I wonder if there’s a cut-off in Noel’s head?

  4. 29
    Phil on 13 Feb 2017 #

    #28 – it is, but it’s also very much a Rock thing (even Classic Rock) rather than a punk thing – and I’m not sure if it’s even a ‘rock and roll’ thing, in the sense that (say) Mott the Hoople used those words.

    (I am now the only person in the country with a “Rock and Roll Toilet” earworm (nothing to do with Mott the Hoople). Drat.)

    Did Oasis record Rain?

  5. 30
    Turn on 13 Feb 2017 #

    #25 – That was my answer too, at secondary school in around 1995. It was not acceptable, you had to choose one tribe or the other, so the excitement that Cumbrian mentions at #20 was one of many that excluded me. At that time, music seemed to be something like football.

    I wonder if any of those bands who started because of Oasis turned out to be any good? It’s nice that they found something, but ‘you can do this too!’ is one of the cruellest messages art can send.

    “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” was their return to unlistenable awfulness for me, but it seems to have started a subgenre, I can’t think of a comforting ballad before it that was quite so lyrically incoherent, but this seemed to become the norm for a while, perhaps peaking with “Fix You”‘s promise of skeletal ignition.

    I quite liked “Songbird”, particularly for the melodica/mellotron/???? solo bit.

  6. 31
    Nick R on 13 Feb 2017 #

    > Wikipedia – rather generously – compares it to the band’s “Rock N Roll Star”

    Aside from lyric comparisons, the two songs are also in the same key and the verses share an extremely similar chord pattern. In each case, the opening verse phrase ends with a brief two-beat switch from B to E (I to IV), then the whole chord pattern is repeated.

    In Rock ‘N’ Roll Star this happens in the last half of the final bar (after the end of the vocal phrase):
    |B | B E |
    |B | B E | (then into different chords for “the day’s moving just too fast…”)

    Whereas in The Hindu Times it happens in the first half of the bar (going to E on “soul won’t”):
    |B |B |B | E B |
    |B |B |B | E B | (then into chorus)

    @27:
    > (although the best Oasis #1 of the 00s is yet come imo – not that this is saying very much at all).

    I think it’s saying quite a lot! The one you’re presumably referring to is a favourite of mine, and up there with almost anything on the first two albums and The Masterplan.

  7. 32
    23 Daves on 13 Feb 2017 #

    #30 – yes, I’ve got a soft spot for “Songbird” too, but it was on “The Box” and other music video channels non-stop at the point my wife and I first started going out… so I may be giving it a bit of a free pass.

    Only one Oasis number one coming up that I can genuinely say I still enjoy, and I’m assuming it’s the same single everyone else is referring to.

    #20 – FWIW, I’ve met quite a few lefties who are also big Oasis fans. If I’m generalising, I’ve tended to find that it’s Heavy Metal fans who have the biggest right-wing fanbase (with Industrial fans not being too far behind). It’s also metal gigs where I’ve witnessed the most piss ‘n’ beer lobbing in the past, which made the incident at Finsbury Park interesting… it was almost as if that Beavis and Butthead moshpit mentality had crossed over into Oasis’s fanbase. Genuinely can’t think of any other gigs I’ve witnessed it at. You wouldn’t expect to see it at a Stereophonics or Coldplay gig, for instance.

  8. 33
    EPG on 14 Feb 2017 #

    The lyrics are very substance-y; they don’t invite the listener into intrigue or continued engagement in the same manner as their good songs. I’m curious about being a wall, or feeling the pain in the morning rain, but I’m not interested in being someone else’s rain.

  9. 34
    Tom on 14 Feb 2017 #

    #20 Thanks for that, a great comment. It probably isn’t obvious from the reviews, but doing Popular gave me a way into liking (bits of) Oasis, and respecting other bits, and at least trying to think about them sympathetically. Of course, the bits I realised I liked were the bits everyone else realised they liked 20+ years ago, and they also didn’t reach Number 1, making Oasis into one of those bands very poorly served by their chart-toppers.

  10. 35
    IP on 14 Feb 2017 #

    I just pity the SEO guys at the actual Hindu Times

  11. 36

    isn’t the “actual hindu times” actually called the “hindustan times“?

    (there’s also a paper called “the hindu“)

  12. 37
    Izzy on 14 Feb 2017 #

    20: fabulous comment, thanks Cumbrian. As far as I can tell, reinforced by a lifetime of catching express headlines out the corner of my eye as I pass WH Smith, everyone thinks they’re downtrodden in some way; I certainly shouldn’t downplay Oasis’ effect just because their downtrodden isn’t the right kind. It’s slightly curious, if understandable, that their success meant they very quickly didn’t look like the downtrodden at all, and as you say the lazy assumption became that they were the ones doing the treading. Which obviously wasn’t necessarily untrue either.

    The recent documentary I thought did a splendid job in capturing their moment, with all of those contradictions. Noel driving out of Maine Road surrounded by scallies who all look a bit like them, or the goodwill towards their big gig in Dublin, or the occasional references to their dad – none of those are boorish lords of the world things. But obviously they weren’t strangers to dickishness either.

    25: also from the doc, it couldn’t be more obvious how smart the Gallaghers are. Liam in particular is a delight, the way he talks is sharp as a tack.

  13. 38
    Ed on 14 Feb 2017 #

    @12, @21 – If you can wait that long, there is a perfect opportunity to discuss the New Rock Revolution (TM) in 2005-06, when we come across its descendants.

  14. 39
    thefatgit on 15 Feb 2017 #

    Very late to this thread and Cumbrian’s comment is one of the best I’ve read on here for a long time.

    For me, I’m afraid I’m one of those who had forgotten everything about Heathen Chemistry, let alone THT. The problem I have with this song, having reminded myself courtesy of YouTube, is that the “swagger” is little more than muscle-memory. The lyrics are rendered down to something rather soupy and insipid. “God gimme soul in your Rock ‘n’ Roooll, Baaaayyybe” is an attempt to grasp at something that Oasis found effortless a few years before: making something outwardly trite sound vital and new. They fail miserably. Oasis were indeed, much better than this. (4)

  15. 40
    Rory on 19 Feb 2017 #

    I can’t have listened to this more than once before, back in the days when I would reflexively pick up late Oasis CDs for a fiver at Fopp. It doesn’t sound too bad to me, and it has the distinct advantage over some of their hits of not outstaying its welcome. Nothing amazing, but I’ll give it five.

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