Heathen Chemistry is the fifth studio album by the English rock band Oasis, released on 1 July 2002 by Big Brother Records.
The album was written and recorded with a back-to-basics sound with a more rock feel to it; the more crude and simple sound differs from the musical grandiosity of their previous records, Be Here Now (1997) and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000), being more comparable to their early work.
Heathen Chemistry is notable for being the first Oasis album recorded with guitarist Gem Archer and bassist Andy Bell, who both joined the band after work on previous album Standing on the Shoulder of Giants had been completed. It would also prove to be last album to feature the band's longtime drummer, Alan White, who left in early 2004, with Noel Gallagher claiming White's commitment to the band was not adequate. He was effectively replaced with Ringo Starr's son, Zak Starkey. The album was released to generally mixed reviews from critics.
The name "Heathen Chemistry" was taken from a second hand T-shirt that Noel had stumbled across.
Heathen Chemistry was recorded during 2001–early 2002 and is the first Oasis album to have significant writing contributions from members other than chief songwriter Noel Gallagher. Front man Liam Gallagher contributed three songs, and new bassist Andy Bell and rhythm guitarist Gem Archer contributed one song each as well.
Although most of the song's instrumentation was complete by mid-to-late 2001, Noel indicated that the release date of the album was being needlessly delayed by Liam's apparent reluctance to lay down his vocal parts at recording sessions, and went on to state that he was "livid" at the lack of work being done:
Despite the setbacks during the recording process, when the album was finally complete Noel was confident that it was the group's second best album to date, behind their debut Definitely Maybe.
The title of the album, according to Noel, came from a T-shirt he bought in Ibiza which featured a logo reading, "The Society of Heathen Chemists". Similarly, the name of the first single, "The Hindu Times", originated from a logo on a T-shirt that read the same thing, which Noel saw during a photo shoot for GQ's 100 Greatest Guitarists edition. The name was given to the track when it was just an instrumental and the name stuck once the track was finished.
The release of the album was overshadowed by an Internet leak of all 11 songs almost three months prior to release, which was evident at a Las Vegas show the group performed where fans knew the words to several new songs before the album's release. However, listeners of the commercially released album heard slight differences to two tracks, "Little by Little" and "Better Man."
The length of track 11, "Better Man" is 38:03, this is because of a hidden track called "The Cage", which begins after 30 minutes of silence. In some digital version, "Better Man" and the hidden track "The Cage" were separated.
The album has sold around one million copies in the UK, being certified triple platinum, and 154,000 copies in the US. Upon release, Heathen Chemistry went straight to number one in the UK, though it fared rather poorly in the US, only entering at number 23.
It was the 11th biggest selling album of 2002 in the UK with just over 800,000 copies sold.
It spawned four singles, each of which made the top three in the UK charts: "The Hindu Times", their sixth number one single in the UK, "Stop Crying Your Heart Out","Little By Little/She Is Love", the double A-side sung by Noel Gallagher, and "Songbird", the first single written by Liam.
Reception for the album, which garnered a Metacritic score of 55 out of 100 (indicating mixed to average reviews), varied wildly. Some reviewers noted that it was better than the band's last effort, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, with Blender writing that Oasis was "a band back on track". However, a number of other reviewers offered scathing assessments of the album; notably, Drowned in Sound, Pitchfork Media, and Stylus Magazine.Notes
In some digital version, "Better Man" and "The Cage" were separated.
Liam Gallagher – lead vocals, tambourine, acoustic guitar on track 5
Noel Gallagher – guitars, keyboards, backing and lead vocals, drums on track 11
Gem Archer – guitars, keyboards, piano on track 4
Andy Bell – bass
Alan White – drums, percussion
Paul Stacey – mellotron on track 1, piano on tracks 2, 3 and 11, hammond organ on track 6
Mike Rowe – piano on tracks 4 and 10, pump organ on track 9, hammond organ on tracks 8, 9 and 10
Johnny Marr – guitar solo on track 8, slide guitar on track 10, guitars on track 11, backing vocals on track 11
London Session Orchestra – strings on track 4