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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. 31
    James BC on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Imagine a person who had this as their favourite Oasis song. Imagine what that person would be like.

  2. 32
    23 Daves on 17 Apr 2014 #

    #24 Oh no. I’ve got to contradict that point – I’ve been listening to “Sowing The Seeds of Love” a lot lately, and it’s a track that gets this kind of idea right. In fact, I was planning to mention it when we got to this single anyway. It’s enormous, but only six minutes long in comparison, and contains lots of little diversions and slip-roads away from the dominant, epic highway of a chorus, whereas AATW sticks doggedly to its particularly dull groove, and I don’t think any hook or chorus could really survive the kind of constant hammering this one gets. “Sowing The Seeds of Love” probably owes as much to “Good Vibrations” as it does to The Beatles, and as much as I would like to hate the pomposity and worthiness of it, its far too well executed.

    I recall that AATW was originally supposed to have been Noel’s attempt at writing a Eurovision song – someone should clearly have nudged him about the three minute song length restriction for that contest (he might have written a better song that way). Whatever the original motivation behind it, the only contest this one would be likely to win on any continent at any time is “Worst Oasis number one”. Even Noel himself has openly expressed boredom at the way the thing drags (on the DVD commentary) and I’d half-expect him to agree with Tom’s review above. When even the songwriter can hear the problems with their work and pre-empts criticism, there’s usually a serious, serious problem. A 3 from me.

  3. 33
    Rory on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Possibly because “Hey Jude” was one of my first musical memories, I’ve never minded long songs per se, and find the full version of this listenable enough in an album context. Taken out of that context, I agree that it’s too much. But the 7″/cassingle edit, it seems to me, is as legitimate a contender for “proper” single status as the 9:38 12″/CD single version, so has to be factored into any overall rating. Unfortunately, all that edit does is fade the track at 4:51, just before the most engaging part of the song – the tail end of the video, with the best guitar section and Liam’s megaphoned “I don’t know what I know”. I would rather have seen an edit of four or five minutes that kept the best moments of the full version, not just its first half.

    So: the edit is a better length, but misses some of the best bits. The full version outstays its welcome, but has some better highlights. The lyrics are rubbish, but I don’t listen to Noel Gallagher songs for their lyrics. Not very successful overall, but I still like it well enough. There isn’t much Oasis I go back to nowadays, and certainly not Be Here Now, but I’d give it a 4 or 5, which would have been 6 or 7 if they’d got the 7″ edit right.

  4. 34
    taDOW on 17 Apr 2014 #

    ‘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.’

    this is almost literally the story of guns n roses’ ‘don’t cry’ – written before appetite, spoken of in interviews by axl but saved for a later album when it could be ‘done right’ and would receive the audience he thought it deserved. use yr illusion being a cousin of be here now (and my beautiful dark twisted fantasy).

  5. 35
    iconoclast on 17 Apr 2014 #

    “‘Hey Jude’ by five kids from Manchester” opined Noel Gallagher, typically missing the point. “Hey Jude” still stands as one of Paul McCartney’s finest songs, its warmth, generosity of spirit, and ecstatic release fully justifying its length; whereas “All Around the World”, clearly numbed by far too much cocaine, crassly reduces it to “a long song with lots of na-na-na at the end”. It’s almost impossible to imagine Oasis performing it on TV and being joined by the studio audience singing along – d’you know what I mean?

    If, for reasons you’d rather not make public, you skip “Be Here Now”‘s best song and listen to AAtW and its still-too-long-at-two-minutes reprise back-to-back, you will age by eleven and a half minutes which would be more edifyingly spent with, say, the first live version of “Freebird”. AAtW starts out modestly enough, with acoustic guitar strumming in B major, and if you tolerate the trite Gallagherese of the two verses and choruses (note the very un-Hey-Jude sentiment of “lost at sea, well I hope that you drown”), you can convince yourself that, yes, this could indeed turn into a worthwhile epic, despite the absence of a melody anywhere near as effective as that of “Hey Jude”. But then there’s a noisy bit, a key change to C major, some more choruses, lots of “na-na-na”‘s, another noisy bit, a change to D major, yet more choruses (this time with “la-la-la”), a guitar solo, a bit with horns, more “na-na-na”, what sounds like “please don’t cry/never say die” (which is close)… on, and on, and on, and on, and on, leaving the listener wondering whether, much like this review, it will ever end. The reprise is yet more of the same, finally ending with the tired cliche of the sound of footsteps and a door closing.

    Ultimately, for all its pretensions, “All Around the World” is – like most attempts at being epic – far too much of a chore to get through to be properly enjoyable. It’s sadly fitting that Britpop’s dying rattle before disappearing beneath the avalanche of “boyband” and “girlband” corporate pop should be this bloated monument to drug-addled hubris. FOUR.

  6. 36
    Tom on 17 Apr 2014 #

    #35 contra Iconoclast, I think this is just the first of FOUR choose-your-own-adventure style endings for Britpop that 1998 offers. At least two are happier.

  7. 37
    Cumbrian on 17 Apr 2014 #

    I look forward to hearing how a happier potential ending for Britpop is in remixing old skool rap tunes.

  8. 38
    Mark G on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Kids, don’t do drugs.

    Why? Because, like this song, you might enjoy the experience for the single edit of four minutes, but at eight it’s an experience you have gone past the enjoyment phase of, and at eleven minutes you find the terror of something you cannot escape. Along with the brutal repeating images of the video,and so forth.

    Not that I know anything about it..

    Anyway, seven for the short 7″ version (US cd single, I believe), but as Noel has stated this as his Eurovision song ever since day one, he has only himself to blame for over-inflating a perfectly alright Oasis track beyond the bounds.

    Also, blame the 12″ single for the plethora of ‘long version’ as opposed to ‘remix’ versions, except that Echo and the B’s “Killing Moon” worked, and still does.

  9. 39
    fivelongdays on 17 Apr 2014 #

    @36 – In that case, what are the other three?

  10. 40
    iconoclast on 17 Apr 2014 #

    @36 39: bunnies? Just in time for Easter? I’d love to know!

  11. 41
    Cumbrian on 17 Apr 2014 #

    I speculate that they are a) Midlands bunny, b) Welsh bunny and c) either Stevie Wonder-a-like bunny or Stoke bunny. Probably Stoke bunny.

  12. 42
    Rory on 17 Apr 2014 #

    #41: Do the Midlands, Welsh and Stoke bunnies bring you lumps of coal instead of eggs?

  13. 43
    Cumbrian on 17 Apr 2014 #

    If they’re bringing food, Midlands bunny, according to legend, should probably bring a balti. Welsh bunny could bring us some leeks or a nice Welsh cake. Stoke bunny can bring the crockery to eat them off.

    I probably deserve lumps of coal from them though for taunting the big bad spoiler bunny.

  14. 44
    thefatgit on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Well, bugger! I’ve come too late to contribute anything useful towards AATW.

    But! Stoke and the rest of North Staffordshire are not just famous for crockery but oatcakes as well.

  15. 45
    Billy Hicks on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Aw come on everyone, yeah it’s long and preposterous – and it’s definitely no Whatever/Don’t Look Back In Anger – but it’s a glorious bit of fun. Listening to it now for the first time in a while, it’s pretty much kept my attention for eight of those nine and a half minutes at least.

    I noted the comment at 31 – that was me, briefly, around 2007. I was entering the absolute peak of my late teens hedonism, starting to drink, go out, and everything about it just felt brilliant. That Christmas I got my first iPod and for the first five, if not ten plays of this I’d listen to all nine and a half minutes of it, immersing myself completely in every repeated riff. Both Don’t Look Back in Anger and Whatever had superceded it in my book by the end of the next year but I still enjoy it for the occasional listen.

    Fivelongdays at 30 is bang on and I echo his 8 score.

  16. 46
    daveworkman on 17 Apr 2014 #

    I scored this a ‘6’, I think for two reasons – (a) I purchased it on cassette single, without much foreknowledge of Oasis/ Britpop as a phenomenon, but rather that I’d heard it and liked it on the telly and was then excited at the fact that for the first time I’d bought a single and helped it get to No. 1 (b) for me it marks the very last point when Oasis were listenable. I’d moved on by the time of SOTSOG (sounds like some kind of villanous organisation from James Bond), and was surprised by how underwhelmed I was by the lead singles off that, and so never took much of an interest in their subsequent releases.

  17. 47
    enitharmon on 17 Apr 2014 #

    fatgit@44: I was sad to hear recently that the last traditional oatcake shop had closed, before I ever got the chance to try the real thing. I am quite partial to Staffordshire oatcakes however, and I make them myself from time to time.

  18. 48
    Will on 17 Apr 2014 #

    I kinda expected this one would get a kicking.

  19. 49
    thefatgit on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Start up an oatcake business, Rosie! I’m sure there’s a gap in the market.

  20. 50
    wichita lineman on 17 Apr 2014 #

    I didn’t have any trouble finding oatcakes when I was in Uttoxeter the other week. They were new to me. A bit like a crepe (said the lifelong southerner).

    The less exalted Popular influence on this single, I’d imagine, was I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing, which Noel had already signalled his fondness for on Shaker Maker.

    AATW the label of the same name, was also rehashing old records in another part of Lancashire by this point, and will be exercising us in a few years time. Set You Free was always going to be the label’s unassailable peak, such a shame it fell one place short of no.1.

    As for this AATW – given that I’d always pick the 7″ version as default single version over a 12″ or cd single version, this is merely dull, not overlong. It doesn’t kill me but it’s no Whatever either. 4.

  21. 51
    nixon on 17 Apr 2014 #

    A great big fucking zero, forever. It’s not a harbinger of decline, it’s the absolute nadir. Of Oasis, and quite possibly the singles chart. Awful, awful, awful.

  22. 52
    Cumbrian on 17 Apr 2014 #

    51: Amusing hyperbole – and I agree that it is a bad record – but I really recommend that you don’t listen to any of Oasis’ b-sides post their next bunny or some of the album tracks from, say Heathen Chemistry. Oasis were capable of worse and proved it. Happily for me, they were also capable of a lot better, even when they were proving their “irrelevance” or whatever in their post peak career. The hard work of explaining why I like some of that latter day stuff is something I’ll save for the relevant point, I think.

    As for whether it is the nadir of the singles chart, I’d rather listen to this on a loop forever (so only about 5 times then) than Grandma, The Stonk, R&J or many of the other actually terrible records.

    Really – why on earth do Oasis inspire such over the top criticism? It’s a bad record. It’s not *that* bad though, surely? Is it because they were so arrogant on the way up? Is it because they were the biggest band in the country for a while? Is it that large numbers of their fans were not particularly nice people (especially in groups at gigs/festivals)? Is it because they were able to milk said people for another decade near enough?

  23. 53
    thefatgit on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Just checked out the video for AATW. I got fidgety after 2 minutes.

    “Put your hand on a hot stove for a minute, and it seems like an hour. Sit with a pretty girl for an hour, and it seems like a minute. THAT’S relativity.”

    Albert Einstein was lucky never to experience AATW.

  24. 54
    nixon on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Fair cop, I was trolling a bit there (though it’s not hyperbole that I rank this as a 1, and I don’t think there are any worse Oasis singles to come, though I could be wrong! – I think they got better after Be Here Now, if not necessarily “good” per se).

    But I do think this is indeed “that bad”. This is endless minutes of no ideas, just the sound of sludge squelching on a human face forever. There’s no song here, no spark, just the ambition to make something epic, the inevitability of something pre-ordained to be a single before it was even written. It’s a formula record, and the formula is (Irish boybunnies) for an audience who sneer at manufactured pop.

    So that’s why I don’t like this record. Oasis in general, I can’t speak for anyone else but I just thought they were shit – and not only shit but very obviously so, to the point of being an unfunny joke that got out of hand. This seemed obvious, but everyone was tripping over themselves to declare it wasn’t true, that this was the best band ever, that I must admit that deep down they had some classic songs really, that failure to conform was a result of resentment over their success or a reaction against their fans (“gibbons on shore leave” as the Melody Maker put it). But no, I’ve had plenty of experience of loutish fans and bad chart-toppers that didn’t necessarily provoke the same incredulous dismay; I just thought they were genuinely terrible, and their critical success baffled me at a fundamental level because I simply couldn’t understand it, especially from judges I respected. Genuinely as if Tom had given Robson and Jerome high scores lauding their victory in bringing back everything that was great about British pop.

  25. 55
    nixon on 17 Apr 2014 #

    I’ve just realised I’ve been swearing through both posts there, is that even allowed here? I hope I’ve not broken any work filters.

  26. 56
    Tom on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Popular is a swearing-ready environment.

  27. 57
    Kat but logged out innit on 17 Apr 2014 #

    #50 I literally cannot wait for the AATW bosh to turn up. CLUBLAND LIVE OH DEAR GOD. [A quick look at the wikipedia timeline: I didn’t know Bus Stop were on AATW as well! Also Ultrabeat were totally robbed of a number one…]

  28. 58
    AMZ1981 on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Just listened to AATW for the first time in years. I was a fan, I thought it was pompous rubbish at the time and nothing has changed. There were better songs they could have mined off Be Here Now.

    It’s correct to say that this marks the point where Oasis, a band who had altered the cultural landscape, became a lumbering parody of themselves. However in Popular’s relationship with Oasis it only marks the halfway point and it will be interesting to see what pattern develops.

  29. 59
    Elmtree on 17 Apr 2014 #

    Looking on the other side of the song, the B-sides are…interesting. Both non-cover songs feel like overproduced clunkers too awkward and ill-fitting to go on the album, though both really do have their moments.

    ‘Flashbax’ feels insecure and ranting (clearly intentionally) in a good way, but Noel’s vocal is preposterously overwrought-think bad Elton John-and there’s no lightness of touch in the music. For some reason overdubbed chimes on the chorus rather add to it, and it does make me smile by repeating “in my well-paid opinion” before dashing into some old cobblers.

    ‘The Fame’ is completely unstructured thrash at first, but soon becomes miles better than anything on SOTSOG. Again, another snappy couple of lines (‘I’m a man of choice in an old Rolls Royce/and I’m howling at the moon/is my happening too deafening for you?’) stand out from the nonsense, and it’s certainly nice to see Oasis playing a song fast for once. Would have livened up the album, for certain.

    (I didn’t even bother to listen to the cover.)

  30. 60
    Ed on 18 Apr 2014 #

    @36, @39 I’ve got to a couple of alternate endings for Britpop.

    One is prog, basically: “there’s always been an electronica element to our music”, jazz and non-Western influences, meditations on the human condition and the state of the nation, etc. Fewer tunes, more furrowed brows. That was the Radiohead route, and also unexpectedly the Damon Albarn route as well.

    Another is what you might call “Oasis with insight”: still characterised by bloat, over-production, dragging tempos and self-absorption, but with paranoia, angst and self-loathing replacing the complacency and phony bonhomie. And that’s where Pulp got to. The mention of ‘This is Hardcore’ on the ‘Never Ever’ thread, as it hilariously made an appearance on a Now album, made me dig out the album again, and I was reminded of how brilliant it is. Almost as overblown as ‘Be Here Now’, but to much greater purpose and effect. The common element, I am guessing, is cocaine, but it’s one of the great cocaine albums like ‘Rumors’ or ‘Station to Station’, not one of the terrible ones like ‘Seven and the Ragged Tiger’, ‘Black and Blue’ or ‘Sabotage’.

    It’s not a happy ending, exactly – in fact it’s one of the darkest albums I’ve ever heard – but Jarvis seems to have come out the other side just fine. A few years back I saw him having a coffee with Candida Doyle in the Clissold Park Cafe like the respectable middle-aged people they are.

    So those were two ways out of Britpop. What are the others?

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