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Talented, turbulent rock band Oasis carves out a vastly different sound on Dig Out Your Soul, the group’s seventh studio album.

OASIS HAS MADE several attempts to shake things up by turning its back on its traditional formula of rousing choruses, immense waves of layered guitars, and Brit-pop melodies -- most notably on the disastrous Standing on the Shoulders of Giants in 2000. In just about every case, the attempt failed. Yet the band continued to sell out stadiums on the coattails of a few of their more traditional, flag-waving choruses.

On the new Dig Out Your Soul (Big Brother, $19), Oasis has made a conscious effort to kill not only its original formula but the conventional verse-chorus-verse song structure to boot. And that’s not a bad thing.

“Bag It Up,” the best Oasis album opener since (What’s the Story) Morning Glory’s “Hello” in 1995, is a hypnotic driving force of sonic sludge. The first single, “The Shock of the Lighting,” is the band’s most radio-unfriendly song to date, but that doesn’t make it any less addictive. “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” is a clapboard backyard revival hymn -- a tune that wouldn’t be out of place on a Raconteurs record. But the best track is “I’m Outta Time,” a beautiful, introspective masterpiece. Front man Liam Gallagher gently sings, “Out to sea/It’s the only place I honestly/Can get myself some peace of mind/You know it’s getting hard to fly.”

There are a few stumbles on the album: The lyrics drown in the Noel Gallagher–sung “Falling Down,” and “To Be Where There’s Life,” penned by rhythm guitarist Gem Archer, is just plain boring.

Overall, Dig Out Your Soul is a work that gets in your head, though sometimes for all the wrong reasons. Its shadowy undertones of psychedelia and its irregular song structures provoke questions rather than inspire immediate humming and toe-tapping. It’s a brave thing to play Russian roulette with your career. Sometimes it works, as it did with the Beatles’ Revolver. Consider this album Oasis’s gun.

Jack of All Trades

Who says the life of a musician is all sex, drugs, and rock and roll? Jack O’Shea shares with us his surprising hidden talent. By J. Rentilly

Think of the nine-letter name of the on-the-rise rock star who spends his spare time creating crossword puzzles. If you’re coming up blank, allow us to introduce you to the answer: Jack O’Shea (pictured second from the left), lead guitarist and backing vocalist for Bayside, a punk-rock quartet based in Queens, New York.

An aspiring rock star since buying his first guitar at age nine, the Boston-bred O’Shea also developed an early taste for crosswords, as his mother had a daily routine of doing the Boston Globe puzzle. “I always loved word games, particularly Scrabble, and crosswords were just a natural progression,” says the 26-year-old.

A few years ago, O’Shea -- who has passionately studied the crossword creations of New York Times puzzle maestro Will Shortz -- made a large, hand-painted puzzle as an art piece for a friend. Since then, he has spent hours making puzzles for himself and for his pals, often customizing them for the recipients. (O’Shea completed the accompanying autobiographical puzzle especially for American Way.)

Although he enjoys his hobby, music has always been his first love. In 2000, he and some musician friends formed Bayside, and the band cut a five-song demo before signing with Victory Records in 2003. Since then, the group has written, recorded, and toured “relentlessly,” O’Shea says. “We’ve always been a hard-working band.”

While Bayside has never reached higher than 75 on Billboard’s music charts, that could well change this fall when the band releases Shudder, its fourth full-length album. “We are making an effort to grow musically as a band but to do it in such a way that won’t alienate existing fans,” he says.

Though O’Shea’s puzzles may not have the same effect on people that his songwriting efforts do, he says that the two passions are actually very similar processes. “They can both seem really easy until you feel that you’re almost done, and then you find you’ve worked yourself into a corner and have to start all over,” he says. “They can be really rewarding and really frustrating, sometimes at the same time.”


A playlist to get you through election day and the rest of November.

Johnnie Taylor,
“I Could Never Be President”
The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles, Vol. 2, 1993

Kings of Leon,
Only By the Night, 2008

Super Furry Animals,
“Show Your Hand”
Hey Venus!, 2007

The Spinto Band,
“Vivan, Don’t”
Moonwink, 2008

Ted Leo + the Pharmacists,
“The High Party”
Hearts of Oak, 2003

The Chemical Brothers,
“Midnight Madness”
Brotherhood, 2008

“Silver Sands”
Chemical Chords, 2008

Jimmy Eat World,
“Electable (Give It Up)”
Chase This Light, 2007

Secret Machines,
“Atomic Heels”
Secret Machines, 2008

Eric B. & Rakim,
“Eric B. Is President”
Paid in Full, 1987