From back before Oasis were Oasis, the final track to their first album, and the first sign, perhaps, that Noel Gallagher had more to offer than just Status Quo Meets The Beatles in his bag of tricks. The sense of humor at play in the lyrics (Yes, that refrain really is “Your music’s shite/It keeps me up all night/Up all night”) against the gentle instrumentation made this the first Oasis song to actually win me over way back when, along with a bridge that swooned far too close to the sun of sentimental softness – “And it will be nice to be alone/For a week or two/But I know then I will be right/Right back here with you” – making the whole thing into a song that undercut the band’s own carefully cultivated thug exterior.
No wonder Noel kept it in the setlist for decades afterwards (I love the organ in the final version below):
Another day that feels weirdly overwhelming for reasons I can’t explain – although there was an upside of seeing a friend I haven’t seen in a long, long time – and so, a song that (as much as I love it) feels as frantic as my head right now. It’s the drum beat, which feels like it’s come from some awesome jazz record in the past, and the way it doesn’t quite go with the hum of the rest of the song. Never mind all of Noel Gallagher’s Beatles-esque stylings and lyrics – This is definitely a lesser cousin to “Setting Sun” in that regard – because “Let Forever Be” is really all about the aural mismatch in the music, and the way that it sounds like the most pop dream you’ve never had.
I found out, earlier this week, that the remaining members of the Beatles had threatened the Chemical Brothers with legal action over “Setting Sun”‘ s similarity to “Tomorrow Never Knows” from Revolver, only for Sony to hire various musical experts to “prove” that the two songs were different enough so as not to be legally actionable. There’s something amusing about that, in no small part because “Setting Sun” pretty much is “Tomorrow Never Knows,” or at least the younger, angrier brother of that song; I remember when the song was new, and DJs would mix the two together, and all of us Britpop fans would nod our heads and go “yes, the Beatles really did invent everything” as if that was somehow gospel fact as opposed to Brit-centric nonsense.
“Setting Sun,” though, felt like a breakthrough for the Chemical Brothers at the time, at least for me. It wasn’t their first track with a vocalist – Tim Burgess and the wonderful Beth Orton had been on the first album, Exit Planet Dust – but it was their first track that felt as if it was “a song,” with a beginning, middle and end, and enough give and take within it to work as a club track, too. There’s an organicness to “Setting Sun,” the structure of it if not the way it sounds, electronically screaming at you, that wasn’t present in their earlier work, and a playfulness, too; it’s something that works in more locations than just the dancefloor, and a sign of where they’d go on Dig Your Own Hole, the album that followed (and ended up becoming a home to this track).
But back to the Beatles; it’s not just any similarity to “Tomorrow Never Knows” and Noel Gallagher’s vocals that remind the listener of the Fab Four; the drums, if you listen to them as a loop and then separate that loop in your head to the singular beat that is looped, sounds like something Ringo would play (It actually really reminds me of his infamous “Strawberry Fields Forever” drum riff), and the… more choral vocals… (which isn’t the right way to put it, but the vocals that are sampled and used as music as opposed to Gallagher’s lead vocal) are reminiscent of the mythical “Tomorrow Never Knows” that was never made but John Lennon had imagined, with the monk chanting on the top of a hill providing the main musical accompaniment.
It’s odd to hear Noel Gallagher perform this song on his own, and give it – well, a melody, which the original purposefully doesn’t have; it becomes a gentler song, something more melancholy, which is odd to imagine. The “Setting Sun” on Dig Your Own Hole is a battle song, a call to arms for a culture war as much as “Tomorrow Never Knows” was, way back when. I love this song, as much for what it implies and brings to memory as much as what it actually is, but those two things feel very linked: It’s about being young and out of control and now, more than a decade later, it’s become that song for me in an entirely different direction.