Sunday, September 18, 2005

Definitely maybe...

I spent the day wondering what could be the next step after posting about The Beatles... I considered several different approaches and decided to make the obvious move...

Oasis shot from obscurity to stardom in 1994, becoming one of Britain's most popular and critically acclaimed bands of the last decade; along with Blur and Suede, they are responsible for returning British guitar pop to the top of the charts.

Led by guitarist/songwriter Noel Gallagher, the Manchester quintet adopts the rough, thuggish image of The Rolling Stones and The Who and crosses it with melodies and hooks of The Beatles, distinctly British lyrical themes and song structures like The Jam and The Kinks, and ties it all together with a massive, loud guitar roar, as well as a defiant sneer that draws equally from The Sex Pistols' rebelliousness and The Stone Roses' arrogance.

Gallagher's songs frequently rework previous hits from T. Rex ("Cigarettes and Alcohol" borrows the riff from "Bang a Gong") to Wham! ("Fade Away" takes the melody from "Freedom"), yet the group always puts the hooks in different settings, updating past hits for a new era.

The group first album, "Definitely Maybe", became the fastest-selling debut in British history, entering the charts at number one. The main reason for this achievement is that it manages to encapsulate much of the best of British rock & roll in the space of 11 songs. Oasis' sound is louder and more guitar-oriented than any British band since The Sex Pistols, and the band is blessed with the excellent songwriting of Noel Gallagher. Gallagher writes perfect pop songs, offering a platform for his brother Liam's brash, snarling vocals. Not only does the band have melodies, but they have the capability to work a groove with more dexterity than most post-punk groups.

But what makes "Definitely Maybe" so intoxicating is that it already resembles a greatest-hits album! From the swirling rush of "Rock'n'Roll Star", through the sinewy "Shakermaker", to the heartbreaking "Live Forever", each song sounds like an instant classic!

This trend would be kept over the course of 1996, when "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" became the second-biggest British album in history, as Oasis became international phenomenon. With this album, Oasis turns in a relatively introspective record, filled with big, gorgeous ballads instead of ripping rockers. Unlike their first record, the production of this album is varied enough to handle strings, keyboards and harmonica.

Gallagher may be guilty of some borrowing, or even plagiarism, but he uses the familiar riffs as building blocks. This is where is genius lies: he's a thief and doesn't have many original thoughts, but as a pop/rock melodicist he's pretty much without peer. Likewise, as musicians, Oasis are hardly innovators, yet they have a majestic grandeur in their sound that makes ballads like "Wonderwall" or rockers like "Some Might Say" positively transcendent.

Where their first two albums were quickly recorded, they took several months to record the third, finally completinmg it in the spring of 1997. "Be Here Now" is a bright, bold, colourful tour de force that simply steamrolls over any criticism. The key to Oasis' sound is its inevitability, and that self-possessed confidence makes this album intensely enjoyable, even though it offers no real songwriting breakthroughs.

Noel Gallagher remains a remarkably talented synthesist, bringing together disparate strands to create impossibly catchy songs that sound fresh, no matter how many older songs he references. "The Girld in the Dirty Shirt" is irresistible pop, and epics like "Magic Pie" and "All Around The World" simply soar, while the rockers "My Big Mouth", "It's Getting Better (Man!!)" and "Be Here Now" attack with a bone-crunching force.

The sprawling sound and huge melodic hooks would be enough to make this album a winner, but Liam Gallagher's vocals give the album emotional resonance. Singing better than ever, Liam injects venom into the rockers, but he also delivers the nakedly emotional lyrics of "Don't Go Away" with affecting vulnerability. That combination of violence and sensitivity gives Oasis an emotional core and makes this a triumphant album.

Not long afterward, typical infighting unraveled the band's tour, and the group disappeared from the spotlight for a time... Enough time for too many changes to happen and for me to stop following their career...


Blogger ice breaker said...

I want to hear something about queen!

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

you definitely may know how to write about music. Were you definitely maybe reviewer or songwriter ?

9:16 AM  

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