By this point, to expect an Oasis album not to sound like a discourse on the history of British rock is like expecting Britney Spears not to bare her midriff onstage. The band is a sometimes cartoonish composite of its predecessors -- not so much a British Invasion as an Evocation. In the aptly named Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, the Gallagher Brothers once again build on the groundwork first laid by the Beatles, the Stones and the Stone Roses. No one will ever accuse them of being original -- it's something people either love or hate them for. Standing on the Shoulder of Giants provides fodder for both camps: It's an uneven collection of songs that portrays the band at its best and its dismal worst.
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The album kicks off on a very strong note. "Fuckin' in the Bushes" is an instrumental jam that proves Noel Gallagher is still fully capable of writing a balls-out rock-and-roll tune, as good as anything they've produced thus far. It's matched by the surprisingly groove-laden "Go Let It Out," the album's first single. Unfortunately, the rest of the album slowly goes downhill from there. "Little James" showcases vocalist Liam Gallagher's first stab at songwriting, and while it has a sort of lullaby sound to it, the song doesn't quite capture the touching quality the band obviously hoped it would. The album's worst moments come when Oasis tries to re-ignite the cocky spirit that made it great -- or at least notorious -- in the first place: "Put Yer Money Where Your Mouth Is," bites the Doors a little too hard lyrically ("Put yer hands right upon the wheel..."), and the simply god-awful "I Can See a Liar" makes Ricky Martin sound poetic. ("I can see a liar sitting by the fire," Liam chides in the chorus.) The title of "Where Did It All Go Wrong?" is, to be sure, much more prophetic than the band intended it to be, and the remaining five tunes are simply Oasis-by-numbers: tuneful, but ultimately forgettable.
Unfortunately, Shoulder ultimately hints at the possibility that Oasis won't be living up to its frequent and arrogant rantings -- remember when Liam called George Harrison a "nipple" on MTV? -- or the promise of earlier LPs.