The big question as we enter 2004 is simply “Do you want some?” The answer will come when Liam Gallagher and elder brother Noel return to the fray with the new Oasis album later this year.
Although to some the Mancunian brothers’ group may be too tied up with the hangover of ’90s Britpop to ever be a potent force again, they are still undoubtedly one of the biggest rock groups in the country. They do like to tread water, however, and a much-needed change in direction may finally come with the introduction of Death In Vegas man Richard Fearless as producer.
And the ageing Oasis fans should be, if not mad for it, at least reasonably excited. Even so, Liam’s drive to be Top Rock Dog will have stiff competition from acts both old and new.
For a start, there’s U2 who’ll be back to apply for the job of The Best Band In The World. Bono’s mob are giving usual studio accomplices Brian Eno, Steve Lilywhite and Daniel Lanois a rest and have drafted in legendary Brit-rock producer Chris Thomas (The Sex Pistols, Roxy Music, The Pretenders and Pulp) for the follow-up to All That You Can’t Leave Behind.
They said it couldn’t happen, but after the death of bassist John Entwistle, even those legendary rock survivors The Who are back in business. Britain’s greatest living rock songwriter Pete Townshend and singer Roger Daltrey are together again on their first album since Face Dances in 1982.
The Gallagher brothers and everyone else will also have to be on their toes to better a raft of inspired up and coming British bands. The ones to watch out for include euphoric tunesmiths The Stands, angst rockers The Veils and prog-accented The Open. Also in contention are The Coral’s soul-mates The Zutons and Scottish rowdies Franz Ferdinand.
Even so, the old men of rock still won’t be silenced. So expect celebrations of late-flowering fatherhood and his Fab life from Sir Paul McCartney who has a new album due. Other pop royalty pushing the solo boat out include Sir Elton John and Led Zep singer Robert Plant. Guitar god Eric Clapton will step up to the breach before the summer, with a customary live run at the Royal Albert Hall included.
Aerosmith will deliver a back-to-their-roots blues album and Modfather Paul Weller will celebrate his new deal with Richard Branson’s V2 label by releasing a set of cover versions.
Bridging the gap between the old and (relatively) new, Plant’s Led Zeppelin partner John Paul Jones will produce the new album from Kiwi AC/DC soundalikes The Datsuns. Lenny Kravitz will have a new album out in May and we’ll all have a chance to ask the fake Hendrix, Who are you trying to kid man? while Nicole smoulders to the sound of his axe.
Prepare for a rush on bouffant hairdos, mascara and goth-rock reminiscences as Robert Smith leads The Cure through their umpteenth revival. The garage rock gravy train will get a further fuel injection when sharp-suited Swedes The Hives re-release their first album since their homeland was declared the new musical epicentre of the known universe. Their fellow countrymen, psychedelic maestros The Soundtrack Of Our Lives, will release the follow-up to their Grammy-nominated Behind The Music album.
Sweden is also where emotive Scottish rockers Idlewild have been recording their fourth album, the follow-up to the acclaimed The Remote Part. They’ll be hoping to build on much goodwill and a future in Coldplay territory.
Mike Skinner’s alter ego The Streets will follow up his groundbreaking Brit garage rap album Original Pirate Material. Among the most eagerly anticipated rap albums of the year from across the Atlantic will be the new one from the eccentric but inspired duo DM & Jemini and a solo outing from former Organized Konfusion member Prince Po.
If she gets her childcare, drug and legal problems sorted out, everybody’s favourite celebrity freak show Courtney Love may finally unleash her American Sweetheart solo debut and, a decade after her husband’s demise, finally prove whether or not she has artistic life beyond Kurt Cobain. REM will also be releasing the first album since their career-embracing In Time hits collection.
So, the end of the road or the start of a new era? The final decision as always will rest with you, the listener. Unless of course Liam Gallagher has something to say about it…