Oasis still rakes in the pounds and can sell out a Scottish sheep pasture before tea, but American kids would rather crank Hoobastank than that whiny British band their older brother used to listen to. Too bad, because Heathen Chemistry is a ripping album--reminiscent of Definitely Maybe and (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, but more consistent throughout. "The Hindu Times" and "Force of Nature" get the disc rolling in classic Gallagher brothers style, with crushing guitars and majestic leads, the latter a roadhouse stomp featuring saloon piano and older brother Noel's smoother-than-Liam vocals. And no Oasis album would be complete without the obligatory power ballad: "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" sounds like "Don't Look Back in Anger," soars like "Wonderwall" and is equal to them both.
Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of Heathen Chemistry is that Noel's songwriting monopoly has been broken up by Liam and the band's two recent additions, bassist Gem Archer and former Ride guitarist Andy Bell. Archer's "Hung in a Bad Place" is sure to become an Oasis standard, and Liam's contributions are surprisingly stout: the folksy singalong "Songbird," the Stone Rose-y "Better Man" and the epic "Born on a Different Cloud"--a nice effort despite the generic rock lyric, "Living on borrowed time/You're my sun and you're gonna shine." Not to be outdone by his little brother, Noel has turned in a couple of his most memorable songs, including "Little by Little"--which may or may not be one last jab at ex-wife Meg--and "She is Love," an ode to her replacement.
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Though there are still, of course, echoes of the Beatles (Liam recently told Spin he was John Lennon in another life or Lennon reincarnate, or something like that), it's done well, suggesting a level of maturity in the Gallagher brothers never thought possible. Sure, Noel still hates Radiohead and all their "fooking stoodent" fans, and Liam is still a cocksure drunk with more swagger than a New York City pimp, but even the biggest hooligans have to grow up someday. Don't they?