British pop-rockers Oasis have squirreled themselves away in a studio in France to begin recording demos of 17 new songs for their next album, which by all indications will signal a sonic departure for the band.
The Brit-pop act is experimenting with electronic elements and synthetic drum beats for many of its new tunes, according to a representative from the band's American label. However, some songs fit closer to the style of its popular early work.
"I think it will really surprise some people," said David Massey, executive vice president of A&R (artist and repertoire) at Epic Records. "There's some songs that are almost quite acoustic and others that have [big] beats."
The 17 songs he's heard so far, Massey said, are too eclectic to pigeonhole. But the band seems to be stepping away from the heavy, ominous beats that propelled such Be Here Now (1997) songs as its first single,
"D'You Know What I Mean" (RealAudio excerpt), he added.
In a move beyond the band's trademark mix of soccer-lad swagger and Beatles-styled pop, "D'You Know What I Mean" featured a drum loop from pioneering gangsta-rap group N.W.A, as well as a Led Zeppelin-like crush of heavy guitars and a wash of electronic noise.
The new album, so-far untitled, is being co-produced by the band and Mark "Spike" Stent (U2, Madonna) and isn't expected for release before early next year, according to an Epic spokesperson who requested anonymity.
The band entered the French studio in April to begin work on the new tracks, which may include a song written by vocalist Liam Gallagher, 26, brother of the group's main songwriter/guitarist Noel Gallagher, 31. Last year the irascible singer penned an untitled homage to his 5-year-old stepson, James, said a spokesperson at the band's English management company, Ignition.
It is still unclear whether that song -- a version of which was recorded with Steve Craddock, guitarist for British rock band Ocean Colour Scene -- will make it onto the new album.
"It's not a dramatic departure for them," Massey said, "but it's very contemporary and significantly different from the last album." The Epic spokesperson said the band is believed to have already recorded a handful of the new songs, but the titles were not available at press time.
This would be Oasis' first release of new songs since Be Here Now, the commercially disappointing follow-up to their sophomore album, 1995's (What's the Story) Morning Glory, which sold more than 5 million copies and propelled the band to superstardom in its motherland, Great Britain. That album was the follow-up to group's breakthrough debut, Definitely Maybe.
The band -- which also features guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs, bassist Paul McGuigan and drummer Alan White -- released a B-sides album last year, The Masterplan, featuring such Oasis concert staples as "Acquiesce" (RealAudio excerpt).
In a relatively quiet year for the outspoken group, most of the news surrounding Oasis in 1998 was of the nonmusical variety.
Liam Gallagher avoided charges of attacking a photographer in November when police decided not to pursue the case, citing lack of evidence.
In July the singer settled out of court with Australian fan Ben Jones over an incident in which the 21-year-old Jones was allegedly a recipient of a post-show head-butt from Gallagher.
Guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs was arrested for alleged drunken behavior at a London party. He was released and not charged.
On the music front, Noel Gallagher remixed a song -- "The Knock (Drums of Zep Noel Gallagher Remix)" -- for the experimental Mo' Wax Records band UNKLE. He also supplied vocals to a track from the new album by British electronica stars the Chemical Brothers.
With its electronic/psychedelic bent, the song, "Let Forever Be," is yet another example of the elder Gallagher's ongoing fascination with late-period Beatles music -- a fascination that has led critics to both praise and criticize Oasis.