Oasis emerges from its desert
It was easy to see how much times have changed for Oasis when the band’s Noel Gallagher set up an interview for 9 p.m. so he could spend the day with his daughter. A decade ago, the party-minded Gallagher might have just been having breakfast at 9 p.m.
Few British bands ever lived up to the adage of “sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll” more fully than Oasis, which for a brief time in the ‘90s enjoyed a Beatles-like popularity in its homeland.
This decade’s Gallagher, however, has just spent hours wandering through toy stores with 5-year-old Anais, his daughter from a former marriage.
“I hadn’t seen Anais for a couple of weeks because she’s been on holiday,” said Gallagher, 38, “and I didn’t want to tell her to just sit around for a couple of hours ‘while Daddy goes out on business.’ I wanted to wait [to do the interview] until she went to sleep.”
The child may be the songwriter-guitarist’s greatest joy these days, but there is much else to celebrate for a band that nose-dived so dramatically in the late ‘90s that many considered Oasis dead and buried.
The group’s new album, “Don’t Believe the Truth,” has been getting mostly glowing reviews here. The influential Mojo magazine cover declares: “The Kings of British Rock Reborn!” Even America, which was turned off in the ‘90s by the group’s sometimes boorish behavior, seems ready to give the band another chance.
Oasis’ June 22 show at New York’s Madison Square Garden sold out instantly, and its Sept. 12 stop at the Hollywood Bowl is also expected to sell out. Those are their biggest headline dates ever in the States.
“It’s great to sell out Madison Square Garden,” Gallagher said, “because no matter how big we were in England, we were seen by some people as the ‘band that didn’t crack America,’ which was depressing. Ever since the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, that’s been a certain kind of test here.”
One reason for the renewed interest in the States, Gallagher feels, is that lots of new bands, including the Killers and Jet, cite Oasis as an influence in interviews.
Oasis made some of the most invigorating rock of the ‘90s. “Tonight I’m a rock ‘n’roll star,” Noel’s brother, Liam, screamed in the opening tune on the group’s 1994 debut album, “Definitely Maybe.” The line (and album) captured the youthful bravado of the underdog who vows to overcome everyone and everything that made him feel inferior.
Noel, who wrote all the group’s material at the time, also injected such hits as “Live Forever” and “Wonderwall” with the sweetness that makes Coldplay so successful now, along with melodies almost as gorgeous as Lennon-McCartney’s.
But U.S. fans eventually were put off by canceled tours and frequent bickering between the Gallaghers. A bigger problem was a severe drop-off in creativity.
The appealing thing about the new album, which arrives in stores Tuesday, is that several songs, including “Turn Up the Sun” and “A Bell Will Ring,” reflect the energy and optimism of those first two CDs.
When congratulated on the songs, the relaxed Gallagher smiled.
“You know, I didn’t write them,” he said. “Andy [bassist Andy Bell] wrote ‘Turn Up the Sun,’ and Gem [rhythm guitarist Gem Archer], wrote ‘Bell Will Ring.’ Liam also wrote three songs, and the boy did well.”
For a rock band’s primary songwriter to surrender control is almost unheard of. Arguments over whose songs go on an album helped tear apart bands such as the Beatles and Creedence Clearwater Revival.
“A lot of songwriters resist it when others in their group want to write, but I encouraged it,” said Gallagher, who wrote five of the album’s 11 songs. “I wish I had done it earlier. Writing hasn’t been the same for me since the first two albums, and most of those songs were written before the first album was released.”
Then came the pressures of being in a successful band -- and the drugs. When Oasis recorded “Definitely Maybe,” Noel says, the band couldn’t afford drugs. By the time of “Be Here Now” (1997), things were getting out of control.
“I couldn’t believe how popular we were,” he recalled. “I remember coming home from a tour and there were like 600 fans standing in front of my house. It got so bad that the local council put up benches for people to sit on so they wouldn’t block the footpath.
“That’s why I eventually moved out to the country -- that and to get away from the drugs. Like any great party, you get to a point where you realize you can’t keep going on like that.”
Gallagher says he’s been off drugs since 1998, but it didn’t help him regain the songwriting touch. The songs in 2000’s “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” and 2002’s “Heathen Chemistry” were subpar.
Rather than rush out another album, Gallagher vowed to wait until he felt the songs warranted it.
Though one of his new songs, “Let There Be Love,” has the old anthem-ish spirit, Gallagher experiments with different textures and themes on the others. He’s so excited about writing again that he’s already working on tunes for the next Oasis album.
“I’ve never felt better,” he said. “It has taken me until now to find in my private life all the joy I expressed in those early songs. I’ll wake up tomorrow and say hello to my daughter, and then I’m looking forward to going back on tour and enjoying everything in a way I couldn’t really do before.”
Hilburn, pop music critic of The Times, can be reached at Calendar.firstname.lastname@example.org.
Where: Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Hollywood
When: 7:30 p.m. Sept. 12
Contact: (323) 850-2000