Best tunes of 2000: #13 Oasis “Go let it out”

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When you get as big as fast Oasis did, there’s bound to be a modicum of backlash, especially from the tastemaker set. We saw a similar phenomenon with Coldplay and more recently, with Mumford and Sons but in the case of Oasis, they didn’t really do themselves any favours. The Gallagher brothers’ constant squabbling was much publicized in the music press, as were their outspokenness and snarky potshots at other bands. It’s like they couldn’t keep their mouths shut and it only got worse as their egos grew. This attitude also found its way into the studio with them. You only have to listen to the all the bombast and navel-gazing on “Be here now” for a point of reference.

Now don’t get me wrong, I love Oasis. Noel Gallagher is as great a songwriter as he is at repurposing hooks and melodies and Liam’s looks and attitude (when held in check) made him an all-star frontman. Their first two albums were brilliant rock and roll records but when it came to the third, I thought it all just way too much. Then, when “Standing on the shoulders of giants” was released in 2000, I didn’t even bother. I mean, just think about what that title means. I only finally listened to their fourth album in full close to a decade after it was released, just after the Gallagher brothers and the new look Oasis lured me back into the fold with albums five (“Heathen chemistry”) and six (“Don’t believe the truth”).

That doesn’t mean I never once heard “Go let it out” in the intervening months and years. How could I not? It was all over the radio, at the least it was on the only radio station I could stomach at the time: Toronto’s EDGE 102.1. My initial response was ambivalence. I didn’t hate it but I didn’t love it enough to make me want to check out the album. It has turned out to be a grower though and nowadays, it ranks up there with some of my favourite Oasis singles. It’s got that cracking drum sample that loops through the entire tune and due to the departure of both Bonehead and Guigsy, Noel does double duty here, providing both the muscular rhythm guitar and the fuzzy bass. Liam, meanwhile, is very present and provides his usual edge, a raw and raspy performance.

“Go let it out” is as stadium-friendly and anthemic as their other work during this period, yet it also feels somewhat restrained, at least as restrained as these guys could ever get (it’s almost two minutes shorter than the average song on “Be here now”). And yes, it has that raise your fist and pump it in the air kind of climax. Pure Oasis.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2000 list, click here.

Best tunes of 2010: #27 Karen Elson “The ghost who walks”

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The next stop on this Best tunes of 2010 list is the title track off Karen Elson’s debut solo album, “The ghost who walks”. This title, apparently, is a nod to one of the nicer nicknames bestowed upon her in school for “being tall, pale and a little bit haunted”.

Karen Elson was born and grew up in Manchester, England, where she was “discovered” at the age of 16 and began working as a model. She met Jack White in 2005 while filming the video for The White Stripes’ “Blue orchid” and they married shortly afterwards. They had two children together and divorced after eight years in 2013. She continues to model but claims that music is her first love, having released two solo albums now, having co-founded and performed with the New York-based cabaret troupe, The Citizens band, and having collaborated with a number of prominent musicians over the years.

A more cynical writer than I might point to her connection with Jack White as the reason this debut album was ever released. He did produce it and release it on his own label, Third Man Records. However, they have both maintained that she had written the majority of the album in secret, keeping it from him until she thought it almost ready to start recording. Still, his musical touch is pressed firmly on the album’s sound and sensibility and one only has to listen to and compare it with Elson’s sophomore solo release, “Double roses” (released last month), for confirmation.

I’ll be honest. I first came across this album because of the Jack White connection. (I was quite enamoured with The White Stripes for a number of years but more on that another time, I’m sure). However, I stuck with it after the first listen, and this on the strength of the songwriting and of Karen Elson’s vocals.

“The ghost who walks” as an album is quite lovely, if not dark and perhaps macabre, and its title track is emblematic of the entire work. It feels like a cabaret number. Listening to the song (not the video, that’s a whole other story), one can almost picture the waif-like redhead in a black cocktail dress and in a murky spotlight, surrounded by cigar and cigarette smoke. She herself sports a lit cigarette in a holder, clasped in a slender, gloved hand, while her other hand rests on cocked hip, standing and singing alone. Her backing band are in the shadows, neckties loosened, hair dishevelled, crashing cymbals and guitars and keys, each climbing and falling, vying for supremacy. For all this, it’s a mellow and morbid number. A song for well after last call, when the last of the party animals have gone home and only the diehards remain.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2010 list, click here.

Best tunes of 1990: #24 Sonic Youth “Kool thing”

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I’ve never seen the movie “He’s just not that into you” but it sounds like a stinker. It was based on a self-help book for single women that took its name from a line from the television series, “Sex and the city”. It would also make a great title for an unwritten list I’ve got going of illustrious bands that manage to make everyone else’s favourites list but that have never managed to win me over. It includes Hüsker Dü, Skinny Puppy, Destroyer, and of course, Sonic Youth.

Yes. I fully realize that Sonic Youth is a great band, forever pioneering and highly influential to a lot of the bands that I do listen to regularly. It’s not them, it’s me. I can’t seem to swallow more than their singles. I guess I am one of those “squares” that they refer to in the (admittedly brilliant) title for their singles compilation, “Hits are for squares”. Of course, “Kool thing” has a place on this compilation, being their second highest charting single (beaten only by “100%”) and appearing on what is arguably their most accessible album: their major label debut, “Goo”.

I have friends that swear by Sonic Youth but these same friends will, I’m sure, sneer at this song choice because as far as they’re concerned, the Youth’s true discography ended at 1988’s “Daydream nation”. However, this is one track by these guys that I absolutely love and for the longest time, I had no idea that it was even a Sonic Youth tune. My only experience with it originally was hearing it played consistently on Toronto’s alt-rock station, CFNY (now EDGE 102.1), and thinking it was by some grrl rock band. It certainly had enough angst to fit that bill.

“Kool thing” features Kim Gordon on lead vocals and a guest spot by Public Enemy’s Chuck D, picking up bonus marks for nostalgia factor in my books. From what I understand, the song has roots in Gordon’s negative experience interviewing rapper LL Cool J for Spin magazine and though it doesn’t overtly mention him by name, it references a few of his songs in the lyrics. There is plenty of attitude, posturing, and the aforementioned angst. The guitars rip and shred and sneer along with Kim Gordon while Chuck D and the high octane drumming just sit back, all cool, and play second fiddle. Of course, it’s Sonic Youth so it’s loud and brash, never taking care to avoid the eggshells.

Despite (or maybe because of) its inherent rage, this track feels perfect for ushering in the weekend so let’s get rowdy and riled up and shriek along with Gordon as she sings “I don’t wanna, I don’t think so!”

Yes. TGIF!

For the rest of the Best tunes of 1990 list, click here.