Oasis: Don't Stop… review – optimistic lost song is a minor gem

Wistful lyrics, a knowing Beatles riff … this demo doesn’t break the mould but it is one of Noel Gallagher’s best latter-day efforts. Just don’t hold your breath on a reunion

It says something about the grip Oasis still exert over the national consciousness – or perhaps about the current lack of any music news that doesn’t involve well-meaning-but-ghastly charity singles – that Noel Gallagher putting out a demo of an unreleased song by his former band is deemed something worth reporting everywhere from the national press to the Dorset Echo.

The news has caused speculation over a reformation of the band 11 years after their split. Noel Gallagher is famously the kind of enigmatic and unknowable pop star who communicates with his fans only in impenetrable riddles, as in his recent response to a question about a possible Oasis reunion: he described his brother Liam as “that fucking idiot” and said he’d instead been considering “burning his house down or smashing his car in”. Who can divine his true intentions when the mystery man of Britpop refuses to speak plainly?

Certainly it’s doubtful whether Don’t Stop… would have attracted the same kind of attention had it appeared when it was written: not at the height of Gallagher’s songwriting prowess, when he could throw songs as good as The Masterplan or Acquiesce away on B-sides, but in the mid-noughties, when Oasis were huffing and puffing their way through lacklustre albums packed with filler, the apparent insouciance that characterised their early work long vanished.

That said, while Don’t Stop… is never going to supplant Live Forever or Slide Away in people’s affections, it’s one of Gallagher’s more appealing latter-day efforts. Noel-sung and largely acoustic, its descending chords are wearily strummed, the shadings of electric guitar eventually bowing to the inevitable and coming up with a Beatles reference: the riff two minutes in is knowingly swiped from Let It Be’s Dig a Pony.

Given the date suggested by Gallagher and its previous appearance on a muffled audience recording of a 2009 soundcheck, it was intended for inclusion on either Don’t Believe the Truth or Dig Out Your Soul, but you can see why he’s chosen to release it now. The lyrics may well wrestle with Noel’s desire to depart the band – “Bye bye my friend I’m leaving” – but they strike a wistfully optimistic note: there are a lot of lines about not stopping being happy and life holding back the night.

It is more puzzling why he didn’t release it then. It’s substantially better than the makeweight stuff that padded out Oasis’s final albums – Part of the Queue, say, or (Get Off Your) High Horse Lady – but then Noel Gallagher always retained a habit of squirrelling away songs that were more interesting than those on their albums. Meanwhile, in the YouTube comments, the song’s lyrical tone has ensured that hope continues to spring eternal: “We are closer and closer to having them back – just wait and see!”; “The comeback is on … come on the lads!”

Contributor

Alexis Petridis

The GuardianTramp

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