Brit Pack

Illustration by Julien PacaudPhoto: Sandro Campardo/EPA/Corbis (Richard Ashcroft); Getty Images (Liam Gallagher)

A decade ago, Oasis was the biggest band in the world—and constantly reminded everyone of that. Today, singer Liam Gallagher would be laughed out of the pub for suggesting such a thing. Dig Out Your Soul, Oasis’s seventh disc, isn’t a comeback. It won’t topple Lil Wayne’s sales record, and the Jonas Brothers have supplanted the Gallagher brothers as leading cultural siblings. But it is the glorious sound of a band unburdened of hubris.

Not that they don’t also occasionally sound like old cranks shrugging off a hangover. Forget the soaring highs of “Wonderwall”; the psychedelic touches here mostly conjure bad trips. But the hard-edged beats and bristling guitar that define most of the songs, whatever their regret or spiritual malaise, make clear enough that the band means to crash on through, not wallow in their faded glory. The kiss-offs—like “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady”—may be bitter, but they’re also spirited. Oasis are reckoning where they’re at—and realizing that they are, in fact, alive.

As for the Verve, the last time they attempted a perfect album—1997’s Urban Hymns—they burned out and split up, catapulting front man Richard Ashcroft to the cheesiest solo career since Mick Jagger’s. It should probably be a relief, then, that the band’s long-overdue follow-up settles for being just good; instead of recycling Hymns’s pop moves, or masquerading as something they should’ve recorded last decade when people still bought CDs, Forth finds England’s once-greatest jam band returning to the free-form psychedelic meandering of their early material. So, no, nothing here sounds like “Bittersweet Symphony.”

Anthemic single “Love Is Noise” aside, most tracks aren’t built neatly around choruses. Reverb-slinging lead guitarist Nick McCabe does a fair amount of spacey noodling, and he’s good enough at it to keep us engaged, at least till the five-minute mark of each track (after that, “Numbness” starts to live up to its billing). Predictably, the best moments—the gorgeous “Rather Be” and “Valium Skies,” namely—happen when shoe-gazery and songwriting intersect.

As is probably clear to anyone who suffered through the hackneyed hippie-isms on Ashcroft’s non-Verve albums (actual song title: “Music Is Power”), he’s never had much luck with his lyrics, and Forth is not without its clunkers (“Will those feet in modern times / Walk on soles that are made in China?” asks “Love Is Noise”). Still, even hippies blunder into useful insights sometimes: “For a dream to happen,” he tells himself on the ballad “Judas,” “You got to let it go.”

Dig Out Your Soul.
October 7.

The Verve
August 26.

Brit Pack