Oasis Mini-Retrospective: Tonight, I’m a rock and roll star

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If you haven’t heard, Oasis broke up last week. Even though smart money is on the band getting back together within a few months, I figure now is as good an opportunity as I’m going to get to reflect on the band and their work.

In their honor, here is a brief summary of the band’s history.

The heart of Oasis was and always will be Noel and Liam Gallagher, two brothers from Manchester. They make an incredible, explosive pair. Noel is the genius and the musical talent of the group. He has written virtually every song of import ever recorded by Oasis. Plus, he always plays the most interesting guitar parts and is easily the most naturally talented vocalist of the groupo.

Liam is the band’s true frontman, though. What he lacks in vocal range, he makes up for in swagger and the attitude. Many — including AllMusic’s Stephen Thomas Erlewine — have called him one of the best, most distinctive singers in rock. The recordings make his voice sound more versatile than it actually is, and his songwriting chops are limited. But the most important part of the Oasis sound is that Liam snarl.

There’s a side effect to the Gallghers’ talent and attitude, though: egoism. The Gallagher brothers have said some of the cockiest, most self-absorbed remarks to ever to grace human lips. Liam compares himself to God on a regular basis, and Noel considers his songs slightly superior to the works Mozart.

Like Paul McCartney and John Lennon — Beatles comparisons are always abound when discussing Oasis, which Liam and Noel love — the Gallaghers have sharp, hilarious tongues. It’s always good fun to read about their hijinks and recite their always-funny quotes, but I can see how actually interacting with the two on a regular basis would be unbearable.

That’s why it comes as little surprise how many people have joined then quit the band. The Gallaghers notwithstanding, every founding member is long gone, as are a few generations of replacements. It’s hard to view the evolution of Oasis as anything other than the evolution of Noel and Liam Gallagher.

Fortunately, what those two bring to the records is incredible. The band stormed onto the music scene in 1994, steamrolling over trendiness with timeless, sexy, explosive rock and roll. As if a force of nature, the band couldn’t contain their incredible aptitude at producing great tracks. One after another, Oasis released not just singles but B-sides and demos that most bands would kill to have headlining albums.

Their effinciency at turning out great music is perhaps unprecented among great arena rock bands. For example, the band would sometimes release a monumental single off of an album with three previously unreleased B-sides — and have each of the B-sides be better than the single. Though the band collected many of the important rare tracks onto a collection in 1998, many of the gems remain in the vaults, with ripped or bootleg copies floating around the internet.

Eventually, the storm subsided. Reality came crashing down on the band. After two near-perfect albums — Definitely Maybe in 1994 and Morning Glory in 1995 — and nearly a dozen great singles, the band finally turned in a mixed effort in 1997 with Be Here Now.  The stream of great music became muddied with self-indulgence and excessive pride.

Matters only worsened after that. As original members started quitting, the band entered a three year hiatus after the Be Here Now tour. When they returned to the scene at the turn of the millennium, they sounded more depleted than ever. Their 2000 effort, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, gave the impression that Noel had taken complete control of the band and that he was trying too hard to be hip and important again — when, in fact, his ability to transcend trends was what made the band appealing in the first place.

After hitting this ground bottom with their 2000 effort, Oasis slowly but steadily recuperated. The 2002 album Heathen Chemistry was again beat down by critics and fans, but it’s a definite step up from Standing on the Shoulders of Giants. The band still dwelled too much in murkiness and psychedelia, but the powerful melodies were returning.

That recovery continued in 2005 with Don’t Believe the Truth, which included some of the best Oasis tracks in a decade. Though the disc lacked consistency, many of the hooks and best tracks were better than they had been in a long time. The recordings even showed Oasis regaining a bit of its stomp and swagger.

Finally, in 2008, Oasis saw a true return to quality with Dig Out Your Soul. Perhaps the big Gallagher babies were growing up; the album sounded like it came from battle-scarred journeymen instead of snarling youth. Instead of murky and diluted, Dig Out Your Soul was lean and muscular and nearly as towering a triumph as the band’s early masterpieces.

The recent tour cancellation and dissolution of Oasis — temporary though it may eventually be — is made particularly sad at this point in their trajectory. It seemed the band had really found some stability and could produce three or four more great albums. By my guess, the Gallaghers and their new companions have the chops, talent, and drive to make music for another decade still. Let’s hope they get back together as soon as possible and continue making music again.

Oasis is perhaps the most enjoyable rock and roll band to form in the past two decades. Their glory years in 1990’s saw the release of some of the best rock and roll to ever come out of England. Despite drops and spikes in quality since then, Oasis has a tremendous library of great music I’d recommend to any music lover.

Dan S.

Dan is the editor of Earn This. He co-founded the site in 2009.

One thought on “Oasis Mini-Retrospective: Tonight, I’m a rock and roll star

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