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Feb 17

OASIS – “The Hindu Times”

Popular61 comments • 4,468 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.

  16. 41
    Tommy Mack on 23 Feb 2017 #

    Izzy @37 – I’ve always thought the Gallaghers come across as pretty smart when they’re not being boorish coked-up dicks. Blur, in their reputation for being the clever ones, were beneficiaries of Dave Lee Roth’s “Music journalists like Elvis Costello because music journalists look like Elvis Costello” theorem.

    @12, @21, @38 – interesting to mention the NRR – which, like the early Oasis, ranged itself against other rock: it wasn’t “if you’re sick of R&B and boybands, come get your rock fix,” it was “You must be sick of Coldplay and Papa Roach bleating on, come get some PROPER rock’n’roll” which is probably an even more rockist proposition, tacitly implying that only rock matters (even though most of the journos who championed the NRR also championed loads of the more modernist stuff too). For my part I’d say most of the NRR were pretty fun for their 15 minutes and didn’t outstay their welcome. Didn’t hurt that I was putting together my own brash, punkish band and appreciated the increased interest in such things.

    So…The Hindu Times. Didn’t hear it until months later, I don’t think. April 2002, I would have been holed up in either my parents house or our student gaffe in Tottenham, revising for 2nd year exams and obsessively playing The Marshall Mathers LP which, in retrospect was probably not the best music for studying…

  17. 42
    Ed on 27 Feb 2017 #

    @41 I’m not exactly sure what counts as NRR and what doesn’t, but I do remember how the utter exhaustion of Oasis and their imitators made the Libertines, White Stripes and Strokes seem even more exciting and vital by comparison.

    And the inspirational effect they had on younger bands is the reason we’ll get a chance to talk about them later.

  18. 43
    Miltefosine on 28 Feb 2017 #

    I feel the reverse – that Liam Gallagher’s voice is one of the best things here. It’s restrained, sure, but instantly recognisable and it’s impossible for to imagine the song working with a more generic vocalist. The song is mostly generic trudge though dressed up with a few guitar effects.

    A few nice touches do stand out – the fake-out of building the chorus out of repeating lines that wash over you, pretending it’s ended, then rising up into the “you’re my sunshine” passage is my favourite part of the song by far. And the muted (synth?) choir near the end is not as much of a disaster as it could have been – it blends well with the guitar drone. I suspect we’d like this more if it wasn’t from Oasis. But really, this needed better lyrics, and a more honest editor.

  19. 44
    Tommy Mack on 1 Mar 2017 #

    I think “I can’t swim but my soul won’t drown” is a slightly better (less terrible) lyric now I know Noel actually can’t swim.

  20. 45
    Turn on 4 Mar 2017 #

    @42 – If that’s what the NRR was, the British wing of it convinced me that rock music was essentially an exhausted seam, nice as it was to hear influences of post-punk music I’d discovered several years earlier re-enter currency. The Libertines seemed pathetic, an “important British guitar band” re-enactment society, Pete Doherty’s “Albion” stuff an overdetermined aping of Morrissey’s genuinely idiosyncratic mulch. I still have more time for “The Hindu Times” as pop than I have for the collected works of those groups, although they did find a way out of the nineties’ problem of unintentionally glossy hi-tech tributes to sixties/seventies’ production sounds.

  21. 46
    Mark M on 5 Mar 2017 #

    Re:45
    The scene: the warehouse conversion offices of a style magazine. The passing freelancer who has just popped in to remind the commissioning editors of his existence shuffles by the office stereo, and then turns back to look at it in genuine bewilderment. In place of the expected French dance music or robot r&b is something that sounds like nothing so much as an exceptionally weedy early Wedding Present B-side.

    ‘What the fuck is that?’

    ‘The Libertines! Aren’t they great?’ replies some bright young thing in Evisu jeans with sticky-up hair.

    The freelancer slowly shakes his head, realising once again that he will never understand fashion, and walks on.

  22. 47
    Girl with Curious Hair on 9 Mar 2017 #

    #45: I’m afraid you can probably blame me and my ilk for the Libertines, but that’s a story for another time. Je ne regrette rien. (Incidentally, dropping snippets of French into conversation is the sort of pretentious touch you’ll pick up if you spend your formative years listening to Carl Barat)

    #20: That’s a very interesting comment, and it’s something I’ve noticed too – an element of snobbery that’s not very pleasant. I read something not long ago that called Oasis music for the “hard of thinking” which seems quite sneery. It’s not hard to sense a distaste for working class young men (see also: the moral panic that always seems to be there in every discussion or mention of how much footballers get paid), which I’d imagine is overwhelmingly Oasis’s key demographic.

    I wouldn’t really call myself an Oasis fan, and I’m absolutely not part of that demo (if we’re doing the intersectional thing I tick a fair few boxes: a female muslim immigrant with, err, somewhat fluid sexuality). But I know a little bit about them, and I’ve heard that stuff about how most of their early songs were written on a building site that Noel Gallagher was labouring on.

    And if you listen to their early stuff there’s more wistfulness, and regret, than you might think – wiki and some basic maths tells me that he was in his late 20s when Oasis hit it big. There are songs, mainly the early B sides, where it sounds like he was convinced that life had passed him by. Even things like Rock And Roll Star and Cigarettes and Alcohol aren’t the big swinging dick songs they get characterised as: like Tom says, they’re about an escape from drudgery, however fleeting. A lyric from another band of this era comes to mind: “You dance and drink and screw because there’s nothing else to do…”

    Basically: there’s more depth to these early songs than some of Oasis’s detractors might think. Just because it’s not refracted through layers of irony or knowing archness like a fair amount of Britpop (and I don’t mean this as a dig at Britpop btw) doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    I think this bit chimes especially with Cumbrian’s post. Again, I can’t pretend to speak for working class young men from the north of England, but my guess is their lives aren’t always easy. There are probably a fair few Noel Gallaghers out there, stuck on building sites – who’s to say they can’t have a little bit of euphoria? And yeah, most of the lyrics were gibberish, but inarticulant and stupid aren’t the same thing…

    Having said all that, though, they did get lazy pretty quickly. This is where I’d say something about the song we’re meant to be discussing, but I’ve genuinely forgotten what it sounds like and I only listened to it when I started writing this. I have no urge to go back to it.

  23. 48
    Cumbrian on 10 Mar 2017 #

    The Libertines are a band that mark a real break point for me personally – the first new band in my time listening to music that I “should” have liked that I just saw no redeeming features in at all. And, contra Girl With Curious Hair, I think now might well be the time to discuss them, unless we want to hang around until Arctic Monkeys or Razorlight crop up in these here pages – which is quite a ways off, given the huge number of #1s per year that are a feature of the chart around about now.

    The major issue that I had with The Libertines was the lack of stuff that was that memorable or hooky. I couldn’t tell you how any Libertines song goes with the exception of “Don’t Look Back Into The Sun” and I was somehow unsurprised to learn that Bernard Butler had a very heavy hand in the creation of that song. The New Rock Revolution was a classic hype job by the NME but the leading lights of it (The Strokes, The Hives, The White Stripes) had songs that I found buried themselves into my brain. I didn’t even really like The Strokes that much and, honestly, with the exception of The White Stripes, none of them were able to sustain my interest over an album but almost every one of them had at least one song where I could say, “yep, I get it” (even bands like The Vines and Black Rebel Motorcycle Club managed to get one song where everything came together right). I never got that from The Libertines and I would be all ears as to what people actually saw in them then (and possibly now).

    With respect to Oasis, I think there’s a load of interesting stuff that could be written about the sociological aspects of the band’s fandom and Oasis’ role within their lives. Even digging into Oasis origins and back story more than they seem willing to really do would be revealing, I think. I’ve only just seen Supersonic, as I didn’t get to the cinema when it was released – it hit Amazon Prime recently – and there’s a whole welter of things said in that documentary that could be explored more fully.

    Examples:

    The hero of the film for me is Peggy Gallagher – a woman who put up with a lot of shit, left her husband overnight with “a fork, a knife and a spoon” and never looked back, who talks very honestly about what she experienced. The importance of a protective matriarch for her boys seems loud and clear and worth exploring. Incredibly tritely as well, you could argue that once Noel had had enough of Liam, he left him with a fork (Gem Archer), a knife (Andy Bell) and a spoon (Chris Sharrock) and never looked back. Noel is his mother’s son, in some respects.

    Related to this – and never really given a voice in the film – there’s loads of women around Oasis, who had to deal with them (Maggie Mouzakitis, Anjali Dutt, Emma Greengrass, Jill Furmanovsky, etc), never mind their wives and girlfriends. There’s probably a decent documentary just talking to them.

    Noel argues, frankly heartbreakingly, that he had the talent “beaten into him” by his Dad – forcing him to withdraw into his room and his songs. He also claims he’d never write about this stuff. For a man of his self awareness (mockingly referring to himself in derogatory terms for forcing people out of the band and that their various bassists can’t hack being with the Gallaghers), I find it strange that he doesn’t seem to realise that, at least at the outset, he wrote, albeit tangentially, about little else. As noted above in #47, shit loads of his songs are about how crap life is and how you’ve got to escape. Some of that is surely social but equally, if you’re being beaten up by your abusive Dad, you’re probably going to have a pretty dim view of life in general.

    And perhaps most pertinently, bringing it back to working class white men, the reaction of Bonehead to hearing Noel play “Live Forever” the first time is telling. “You haven’t written that. No. Where did you get that from?” – almost like saying, the likes of us can’t do that. The narrowness of horizons and the expectation that you can’t break out of where you are now and the path that you’re on.

    Finally, thanks to those that spent kind words on my earlier post. Much appreciated. I don’t think I am the person to deal with the topics above really, it was hard enough trying to a) dredge up those memories and b) articulate what this specific band actually meant and means to me. I also keep coming back to something Mark S said on The Clash entry – that there are elements within the Oasis fanbase that are resistant to that type of analysis – which largely means it won’t get done (as the people that could tackle it, probably don’t care about tackling it either because it wouldn’t get read or they’re not interested in the band enough in the first place to do it). I expect these threads to lay dormant.

    Anyway, thanks again – this one is dedicated to all you Gucci bag carriers out there.

  24. 49
    flahr on 10 Mar 2017 #

    It’s a very dull thing to say, I realise, but the 33 1/3 on “Definitely Maybe” is pretty good on some of that re Oasis’s early work. (And it also contains a scathing footnote about the New Rock Revolution – I wasn’t on the scene at the time so I think of it as the post-punk revival, although that goes on longer and encompasses more bands, and better bands tbh).

  25. 50

    pertinent to the libertines and, well, why: sabina tang’s superb OWOB on same — i doubt it will persuade you to reconsider the music (it didn’t me) but it does prove that there was something to what docherty and barat were doing that helped culture a seriously great writer (viz one s.tang)

    http://oneweekoneband.tumblr.com/tagged/the_libertines/chrono

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