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Listening Room: Oasis, Pretenders and more...
"Dig Out Your Soul" (Big Brother/Warner Bros.) ***
The Oasis we fell in love with during the mid-'90s was loud, brash and snotty, wanted to "Live Forever" and unapologetically envisioned itself as the best band on the planet. And that Oasis is back on "Dig Out Your Soul," in a much more pronounced way than its most recent predecessors. After forays into messy indulgence (2002's "Heathen Chemistry") and tight songcraft (2005's "Don't Believe the Truth"), brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher and their cohorts crank up the amps and do their best to fill all the available sonic space on their seventh studio album -- the difference being that, as on "Don't Believe the Truth," chief songwriter Noel surrenders the second half of the album for everybody else in the band to contribute, a move that mostly proves he's still the creative alpha in Oasis. The drug-referencing "Bag It Up" heralds the 11-song onslaught with a sturdy guitar groove and trippy textures while singer Liam announces that he's "gonna take a walk with a monkey man," with a bag of "heebiejeebies" to help move his mojo. The group stays on a rocking groove path for "The Turning" and "(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady," while "Waiting For the Rapture" has a garage blues stomp that would make the White Stripes proud and "The Shock of the Lightning" forays into glam rock boogie. "Falling Down," meanwhile, is Noel's showpiece this time out, a knock-off of his work with the Chemical Brothers that weaves together acoustic guitars, organ, Eastern-flavored synthesizers and a massive drum sound for some instantly addictive ear candy. Oasis' other songwriters don't quite reach the dominant Gallaghers' level, but they still keep "Dig Out Your Soul" on an even keel. Liam continues to grow in that regard, and the Beatlesy "I'm Outta Time," which comes complete with a John Lennon radio interview sample from 1980, is the best thing he's contributed to the group yet. Gem Archer follows the psychedelic path on the flowing raga of "To be Where There's Life," while Andy Bell's "The Nature of Reality" joins Liam's "Ain't Got Nothin' " on a full-on cosmic blues path. The singer laments at one point that "it's getting harder to fly," but the fierce, energetic abandon of "Dig Out Your Soul" shows Oasis is still maintaining a smooth cruising altitude.
Pretenders, "Break Up the Concrete" (Shangri-La Music): ***
Chrissie Hynde has long traded on being the U.S. expatriate with the hot British band, but with "Break Up the Concrete," the first new Pretenders album in six years, the Ohio-born rocker has turned in her most American, and Americana, set yet. Starting with the furious rockabilly shuffle of "Boots of Chinese Plastic," Hynde and company -- actually a solid studio band she recorded with in Hollywood -- get their twang on in rootsy tracks such as "The Nothing Maker," "Love's a Mystery" and "Don't Cut Your Hair," dip into some rural blues on "Don't Lose Faith in Me" and "Rosalee," and channel the Bo Diddley in the title track, a wide-ranging commentary on the ills of American society. "Almost Perfect" has a pleasantly meandering jazzy touch, while the melodic niceties of "You Didn't Have To" and "One Thing That Never Changed" let Hynde's gentle (but never "soft") side break up the "Concrete" just a little.
NEW & NOTEWORTHY:
Antony and the Johnsons, "Another World" (Secretly Canadian): Antony Hegarty and his New York troupe come with an EP of environmentally themed songs, inspired by a recent sojourn to the Arctic Circle, before dropping a new album in January.
Aqualung, "Words & Music" (Verve Forecast): British pop auteur Matt Hales takes a more stripped-down and acoustic approach on his fourth album under the Aqualung moniker.
The Clash, "Live at Shea Stadium" (Epic/Legacy): An official release of the punk group's oft-bootlegged and legendary 1982 set opening for the Who.
George Clinton, "The Gangsters of Love" (Shanachie): The Detroit funkmeister's all-star laden album (Red Hot Chili Peppers, Sly Stone, El DeBarge, Santana) surfaces after a switch from its original September release date.
Bob Dylan, "The Bootleg Series, Vol. 8 -- Tell Tale Signs: Rare and Unreleased 1989-2006" (Columbia): Dylan's latest archival box set mines studio leftovers, film soundtrack contributions and unreleased live tracks from his late-career resurgence.
Godhead, "At the Edge of the World" (Driven Music Group): The industrial rockers move to a new label, owned by former Korn guitarist Brian "Head" Welch, for its sixth album.
Jolie Holland, "The LIving and the Dead" (Anti-): The San Francisco singer-songwriter's fourth album includes contributions from well-credentialed guitarists M. Ward and Marc Ribot.
Lambchop, "OH (ohio)" (Merge): The iconoclastic Nashville group slip the production duties on its latest album between two producers, Mark Nevers and Roger Moutenot, mixing their specific songs together in the sequence.
Margot & the Nuclear So & Sos, "Animal!" (Epic) and "Not Animal" (Epic): Something non-controversial from Alaska; the octet delivers two sophomore releases, on ("Animal!") on vinyl, the other on CD, with only five songs appearing on both.
Tim McGraw, "Greatest Hits 3" (Curb): The country superstar's third retrospective includes his collaboration with Def Leppard, "Nine Lives."
Sarah McLachlan, "Closer: The Best of..." (Arista): The iconic Canadian artist's first hit set includes two poignant new songs inspired by the breakup of her marriage.
Jon McLaughlin, "OK NOW" (Island): The sophomore album from the Indiana-born singer-songwriter fuses some electropop into the more straightforward sound of his 2007 debut.
Gary Moore, "Bad For You Baby" (Eagle): The veteran guitarist and former Thin Lizzy member laces some choice Muddy Waters and Blood, Sweat & Tears covers amidst his latest batch of originals.
Rise Against, "Appeal to Reason" (DGC/Interscope): The socially conscious Chicago punk group continues to rage against the machine on its fifth album.
Eban Schletter, "Witching Hour" (Oglio): The Los Angeles singer-songwriter recruited an assortment of friends -- Jill Sobule, Grant Lee Phillips, "Spongebob Squarepants' " Tom Kenny -- for this set of Halloween-themed songs.
The Status, "So This is Definitely Progress" (Doghouse): The debut from the Atlanta modern rock quartet co-managed by Bayside's Anthony Raneri.
Tesla, "Forever More" (Tesla Electric Company/Ryko): The California hard rockers recruited Terry Thomas, who produced 1994's gold-certified "Bust a Nut," to helm their latest release.
Brooke Waggoner, "Heal for the Honey" (Swoon Moon Music): The debut release from the classically trained piano troubadour hits stores about a month after its online rollout.
Michelle Williams, "Unexpected" (Columbia Music World): The former Destiny's Child member's third solo album is mainstream R&B rather than gospel, with contributions from StarGate and other contemporary hitmakers.
Rachael [cq] Yamagata, "A Record in Two Parts...Elephants and Teeth Sinking Into Heart" (Warner Bros.): The title pretty much says it all for Yamagata's latest outing, a 15-song set split across two very different-sounding CDs.
This week's hottest holiday-themed releases: George Strait, "Classic Christmas" (Universal Nashville); Elliott Yamin, "My Kind of Holiday" (TRP).
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