A lot has changed in the Oasis camp since their latest was recorded: Creation Records has folded, two original members left (acrimoniously) and both Gallagher brothers are more interested in talking about fatherhood than in slagging rival bands (or each other). The only thing that hasn't changed--or evolved--is Noel's heavily Beatles-indebted songwriting: there's no "Wonderwall" or obvious single and the lyrics--once again--are trite scrap phrases from the universal rock songbook. Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is better and edgier than their last, the turgid Be Here Now, but not the promised departure into a harder, more club-oriented sound. (They enlisted Spice Girl producer Mark "Spike" Stent). "Fuckin' in the Bushes" is the album's raucous opener: Grinding Hammond, sampled phrases, sped-up voices and "cut-loose" jams over a edgy drum track lead you to think the album might hold some surprises. It doesn't. "Go Let it Out" is Noel simply self-plagiarizing (with the addition of "Strawberry Fields"-ish mellotron flutes), while track three, "Who Feels Love," is an unabashed Revolver-esque Beatles send-up: tablas, electric sitar, backward guitar tracks and even the "Dear Prudence" riff! Hubris or humor? You be the judge.
Poor, lyrically challenged Liam contributes his first song to the album, "Little James" (for his stepson). Because--duh!--McCartney wrote "Hey Jude" for little Julian Lennon, this simple wisp of a song gets the full Beatles treatment, especially on the outro. Between the Ringo drum fills, piano and Liam's "nah nahs," you wish they'd just flat-out covered the original.
Standing's two best songs feature Noel (the "Unibrower") on vocals. The Gallaghers have forsworn booze and claim to be tired of the hamster-wheel of endless parties, drug buddies and hangers-on. When Noel sings, "Isn't it bittersweet, you're only just getting by," it's the first crack in the pop-star veneer, and, subsequently, the truest thing on the album. But is Oasis standing on the shoulder of giants? Sure ... if you mean Lennon and McCartney.