12
Feb 17

OASIS – “The Hindu Times”

Popular63 comments • 5,412 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.

4

Comments

1 2 3 All
  1. 51

    the def maybe book is by alex niven, who has been present here in the comments now and then :)

  2. 52
    Izzy on 10 Mar 2017 #

    48: I never read Bonehead’s comment in that (heartbreaking) way. I think it’s more about the cognitive dissonance in hearing a standard for the first time – I certainly had it on first hearing Live Forever, and I’m sure Alan McGee is on record with the same reaction (“ehh, how come I haven’t heard that before?”) – which must be all the more bewildering when it’s your pal’s big brother playing it to you in his bedroom.

  3. 53
    Izzy on 10 Mar 2017 #

    48: I’m much the same on The Libertines, with more or less the same exception (add Can’t Stand Me Now as the other example of where it all hooks up).

    I can totally see the appeal of the gang, and their creation of their own universe and myth is almost MSPine. The main issue for me was how they (meaning Pete basically) immediately took it all into cliché. I guess I was too old to be impressed by that and I came to them late anyway, but in truth I never did see the appeal in musicians and smack. It already seemed lame when Kurt did it – I mean how many more cautionary tales does rock’n’roll need. And there was other, more horrible stuff too, that happened to other people around them – that the internet was now a thing meant that that window was open to peer in, without waiting for the biographies.

    Yeah, all that and the songs. Doherty evidently did have something (Barât seemingly not) because there are fragments (Music When The Lights Go Out for me, or Back From The Dead) where he sounds like he’s about to justify everything, but they always have a clunker of a chorus, or run into the sand somehow.

    I remember the judge’s assessment at one of the many trials – “you have acquired great reward without having to work hard” – and Pete’s supposed hurt response – “…but I have worked hard”. I feel like if he’d only worked a bit harder, those records might be something more than just a scrapbook of having a blast.

    Edit: I just remembered that the ticket collector on one of my commutes last summer had a sleeve rolled up, allowing a ‘libertine’ tattoo to show. That’s their legacy, for me.

  4. 54
    Turn on 10 Mar 2017 #

    #47 – As a white working class man, I don’t feel discriminated against by those comments about Oasis. I feel far more discriminated against by the idea that Oasis are *for* people like me. It’s as though the thirty-odd years prior to Oasis hadn’t really meant anything. We never learned anything, we never invented anything. Philistinism and plagiarism is *our level*.

    #48 – I haven’t seen the documentary, but Bonehead was surely just reacting to Noel’s open compositional lightfingeredness and obvious actual capacity? Noel Gallagher’s famous “here’s what you do” quote reflects the decline of working class self-respect, happy to be conflated with the underclass (ie. thieves) for a cheap laugh. I’m all for reevaluation, but we have to begin by being honest. Feeling empowered and being liberated are two different things. I used to feel really empowered when I got hammered. Gallagher seems to believe that that’s about all the liberation you can expect in life – I don’t see how that can have helped anyone.

    #53 – That short last paragraph, while concerning a different group, implies a lot that I’ve been trying to say. Thank you.

  5. 55
    Girl with Curious Hair on 10 Mar 2017 #

    #54 – Mea culpa if that’s how I came across, because I absolutely wasn’t trying to prescribe Oasis as being “for” white working class men, or to suggest they represent some kind of ceiling of ambition. If I’ve come across as patronising*, I apologise as it completely wasn’t my intention.

    Trying again… my point was I’ve noticed a characterisation of Oasis (and to a lesser extent their fans) as mindless thugs that feels reductive and lazy. They weren’t for everybody, but they clearly were for some people – as Cumbrian attests – and I feel like a lot of those constituents were responding to something more than old T-Rex riffs.

    Of course, Oasis had pretty massive flaws, and the majority of the criticism they get is entirely legimate – those charges of philistinism and plagiarism aren’t particularly unfair – but I do think they receive a disproportionate amount of brickbats out of distaste for who they are, or for their percieved characteristics.

    (Admittedly I was too young for their tabloid heyday, so maybe they were massive arseholes after all, and I just missed it…)

    *Now I read back, there’s parts where I do come off as a conceited dick. Saying things like “inarticulate doesn’t mean stupid” while spelling “inarticulate” with two N’s… not my proudest rhetorical moment.

  6. 56
    Turn on 10 Mar 2017 #

    #55 – You didn’t! Apologies if I seemed to be blaming you for that characterisation of Oasis or working class people, I’m not, it’s long-established, and probably began before Oasis, with the Happy Mondays.

    The main reason for the brickbats, I think, is how unneccesary and avoidant the Oasis phenomenon seems in hindsight.

    I heard Steve Lamacq, on Radio 1 when they were mourning John Peel, say something like “it didn’t matter that he wasn’t there so much for Britpop, because he gave exposure to so much of the music that inspired it”, desperately hoping that there were people listening who didn’t know how discredited it was. The neediness in that is echoed by the recent repeated token attempts to make a Britpop-centred 90s revival happen, because… the 90s came after the 80s?

    Anyway, I’m rambling. The main thing is, I don’t think you came across as conceited at all!

  7. 57
    Phil on 13 Mar 2017 #

    #48 – I’m still not convinced that Noel did write “Live forever”, or that anyone did. He really tapped into something for a couple of years back there – I still find it hard to listen to some of those early songs without thinking where did that come from?, or else welling up. (Status: damp-eyed just from the thought of “Half the world away”.)

  8. 58
    Matthew on 22 Mar 2017 #

    No nostalgia whatsoever for this song, which, gosh, is exactly like Rain now that I listen to them side by side, but with any interesting qualities ruthlessly removed; but I do have nostalgia for the days when I could imagine a song like this taking the number one spot. And sure, maybe that’s idiotic, because there’s nothing particularly sacred about the rock tradition. Especially if the “rock tradition” is allowed, as many Oasis songs were allowed, to consist of pure sonic back-references and soundbites suggestive of having meaning, but really just being half-remembered echoes of meaningful statements heard in Noel Gallagher’s childhood. Oh the charts. They’ll rot your brain, you know…

  9. 59
    Turn on 23 Mar 2017 #

    #58 – I think you’ve summed up there why it doesn’t happen anymore.

    (Without wishing to repeat myself, I’d just like to add that, further to my comments in #54 and #56, on reflection I’d say the problem with the working class representation idea isn’t so much the suggestion that Oasis are for working class people as the suggestion that their music is as much as you can expect *of* working class people. Considering his background, of course Noel would be what he is as a composer. Well, not necessarily.)

  10. 60
    Mark G on 18 Apr 2017 #

    C’mon chaps! Been a long time since February!

  11. 61
    Tom on 18 Apr 2017 #

    I know! Sorry. Hopefully the PopCon in Seattle will inspire me….!

  12. 62
    Keley Ann on 28 May 2017 #

    Looking forward to the next installment in this series, always essential reading for me. Had a bit of a moment listening to several bunnies last night, which reminded me how keen I am to hear your thoughts on the next few.

  13. 63
    Lee Saunders on 1 Jun 2017 #

    Just heard this for the first time in a long time. Honestly it gave me a fuzzy nostalgia feeling, albeit one that recalls playing it on pub jukeboxes with the pound my dad gave to me and hearing it on compilations like Smash Hits Summer 2002 and indeed my mum’s copy of Heathen Chemistry. My main compliment for the track would be the swirly drone in the intro and outro, but I’m finding it hard to divorce the track from the memories of hearing it as a little boy. Same with the other Heathen Chemistry singles actually, and sadly.

1 2 3 All

Add your comment

(Register to guarantee your comments don't get marked as spam.)


If this was number 1 when you were born paste [stork-boy] or [stork-girl] into the start of your comment :)

Required

Required (Your email address will not be published)

Top of page