Album Review: Oasis – Heathen Chemistry (2002)

“And I get so high I just can’t feel it”

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Rating: 6/10

Hey, I’ll be the first to agree that Oasis lost it at some point. But to lose it implies that you actually had it in the first place and that I very much agree with also. Nowadays, way too many reviewers and music fans disregard this band completely and undeservedly. For a couple of years in the 90’s, Oasis actually were as good as the hype suggests – the tunes were catchy and memorable, the lyrics relatable, the guitar amp turned up (on the first album especially), the voice unique and the rock ‘n’ roll attitude there all right.

But, as one of their classic songs goes, they ‘gave it all they got’ during those first 3 years and spent the next 13 either trying new things that didn’t work or attempting to re-capture the long-gone spirit of those first albums. By the turn of the 21st century, Oasis were simply irrelevant artistically. At best, the highlights of the albums gave the impression of a mediocre band luckily stumbling upon a good musical idea, instead of a great one doing what it knows best. At worst, they’re offensively bland and uninteresting.

‘Heathen Chemistry’ is indeed, for the most part, bland and uninteresting. Maybe none of the songs are truly bad (although ‘Force of Nature’ does get very annoying), but they’re simply Oasis on auto-pilot, both from a songwriting and performance point of view. Some regard Liam’s ‘Born on a Different Cloud’ as the forgotten gem here and it can be appreciated if you get into its mood. But perhaps the band’s previous album would’ve been a better home for it, due to the space-y feeling and all.

I wish I could say that the album’s four singles save the day, but it’s more a case of them being at least interesting and worth of discussion. ‘The Hindu Times’ is not hard to criticize – as far as rockin’ tunes go, it’s still only a shadow of the band’s early material, with the energy level not high enough and Liam’s voice maybe at an all-time nasal worst. Yet it somehow works, due to the infectious riff and the ‘defying’ attitude. When Liam sings “I got speed and I walk on air” it still sounds convincing rather than phony, and that’s a big plus for me. And the 2002 public seem to have been convinced as well, sending this song right to the top of the charts.

‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ and ‘Songbird’ are opposite in many ways – Noel vs Liam, long vs short, big orchestrated arrangement vs low-key acoustic, but I can’t say I’m impressed by either of the two. It is great to see Liam abandoning his tough-guy image for a few minutes and writing something so cute and positive, but that fact is actually more interesting than the song itself. And I feel like I’m repeating myself, but try comparing ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ with say, the majestic ‘Don’t Go Away’ from 5 years before in terms of ballads. It just ain’t what it used to be.

The consensus among fans is that this album is Oasis’ lowest point and at the end of the day I cannot disagree. ‘Be Here Now’ saw them heading for the ditch but it sure was a long and exciting way, ‘Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’ was just as bad song-writing wise but had a cool sound, while the last two were more consistent, if kinda irrelevant. ‘Heathen Chemistry’ is just not worth getting if you’re already familiar with its singles.

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5 replies

  1. Those first two Oasis albums were pretty strong, and it earned them a spot in music history, because people still care about them, and without those two albums, they’d probably be lumped in with other forgettable 90s bands. Every era has them, but nostalgia helps keep some of them alive… not the case with Oasis. They earned their spot.

    I really didn’t think “Be Here Now” was so bad, but the energy had changed, and it was at that point that I stopped paying as much attention to Oasis.

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  2. Great review, a great read as always.

    I personally really like Oasis’ first two albums, and while they are not in heavy rotation, I do listen to them fairly often. On occasion I find myself wanting to listen to Be Here Now as well, but it’s usually when some song gets stuck in my head from outside influence and the only way to remove it is to listen to it. Standing on the Shoulder of Giants was the last album of theirs I picked up, and I’ve only listened to it a handful of times.

    I am curious to listen to the last few albums at least once, but there is always something else I’d rather spend the money on at this point so the probability of me picking up the CD’s isn’t very high. I guess the 1.5 minute preview (or less for shorter songs) in ITunes is probably all I’ll hear, and I am actually completely okay with this.

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  3. Autopilot sums it up nicely – I tend to enjoy the Noel songs and Little by little was a good, if unspectacular, feature for him here

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  4. My vote for ‘autopilot’ too. It all just kind of washed together. Ah well.

    Great write-up!

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