Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (and yes, that is a singular "shoulder," because Noel wrote down the title when he was drunk and stuck to it) is such a weird album. It had a lot going against it: it was their first album after the grandiose failure of Be Here Now; it's Noel's first post-cocaine album, when he was treating his addiction with over the counter drugs and by his own account fairly miserable; it's their first album without Owen Morris, the producer who helped them find their studio sound in the first place; it's their "psychedelic" album, and it turns out the world probably didn't need Oasis's idea of a psychedelic album.
Put all that together, and you've got a lot of mediocre songs with muddy production where Noel is bitter about pretty much everything and everyone - even the songs that don't seem to be about anything in particular at first glance, since Noel's *cough* impressionistic lyrical approach got turned up a few notches around this time.
This comment from him, about "Roll Over It," pretty much typifies his attitude on this album:
It’s just about the inane people you tend to meet when you’re out, who talk to you like they’ve known you for 15 years, whereas they’ve known you for 10 minutes, they’ve just heard a couple of your records on the radio. It’s like, ‘Fuck off!'
I get where you're coming from, but also maybe chill out a little.
BUT. But, this is also the first album with a Liam song on it! While Noel's been stewing in misanthropy, Liam's written "Little James," a song about and dedicated to his girlfriend's son. It is painfully sincere and unbearably saccharine, and I'm sorry to say that it is just really terrible, but at least it is a different kind of unpleasant from most of Noel's stuff on this album. In general, Liam seems more comfortable with sentimentality in songs than Noel does, at least based on this and "Songbird" from Heathen Chemistry, and that kind of fits my perspective of both of them as people.
What's more, this song comes with a weird story that I'd like to know more about. Per Noel:
This is Liam’s first song, it’s dedicated to Patsy Kensit and James, her son with Jim Kerr. One day when Liam was in one of the rooms we put a microphone on when he was singing the song for himself. We recorded it without saying anything to him. Some days later he went on holiday with Patsy and we wrote down the words, made the melody and when he came back from Tenerife the song was finished and he could go into the studio and sing.
I greatly enjoy the image of Liam in the studio singing his song to himself purely for his own entertainment, and I want to believe all the subterfuge was because they wanted it to be a pleasant surprise for him, but it's got a whiff of high-handedness about it. Did Liam want the song to be recorded? If he did, wouldn't he maybe have liked to have some say about the music side of it? I would just like more context here.
In conclusion, this album is a weird one, it's got some weird tonal whiplash on it, and boy do you get a sharp contrast between the Liam song (admittedly a sample size of one) and the Noel songs.
Crossposted from Dreamwidth. Comments welcome over there. ( DW replies)