Since the mid-'90s, Oasis has been Britain's hugest rock act, the group's success forged in equal measure by a melodic but thunderous squall of sound and a tabloid soap opera starring combative brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher. (Noel is the band's brilliant songwriter-guitarist, 32; Liam his little brother and lead singer, 27.) After a 2½-year hiatus marked by band-member changes and, for the Gallaghers, newfound sobriety and children (one per brother), Oasis returns with a moody, dark and exhilarating celebration of rock and roll.
Having studied Beatles records like sacred texts, Noel continues to construct bright-as-a-penny hooks (spreading his wings a little to nick a Doors riff or two as well) on songs that are more emotionally charged than ever. Tape loops, techno beats and murky soundscapes straight out of the U.K. club culture abound, particularly on the opening track, whose unprintable title is an ode to outdoor sexual congress. On the paranoid "Gas Panic," which has the feel of a late-night emotional breakdown, and the reflective "Where Did It All Go Wrong?" the band looks into the mirror and sees (again) the low side of the high life. A mature Oasis? Enough to make things lyrically interesting but not at the expense of the band's musical fury.