Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Oasis






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The albums covered here are:-

Definitely Maybe (1994)
(What's The Story) Morning Glory (1995)
Be Here Now (1997)
The Masterplan (1998)
and Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants (2000)

Scroll down to read the reviews.

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DEFINITELY MAYBE (1994)


1. Rock 'n' Roll Star
2. Shakermaker
3. Live Forever
4. Up In the Sky
5. Colombia
6. Supersonic
7. Bring It On Down
8. Cigarettes And Alcohol
9. Digsy's Dinner
10. Slide Away
11. Married With Children     

By the time Oasis came on the scene, in 1994, with this hard- hitting breath of fresh air, they were already a band “for the younger generation” for an old veteran of the seventies and the punk era like me. I felt I was too old for them. My time was Mott The Hoople, Roxy Music, The Clash and The Jam. As for these parka-wearing, posturing Manchester oiks, well, I’d seen it all before. I am, unfortunately, (or maybe fortunately) a man of my time. I know nothing about Blur, Pulp, Supergrass or any of that lot. Seriously, nothing at all. However, I do like Oasis. Something about their “in your face” attitude and seismically thumping derivative rock struck a chord in my old punk soul.

This album really blew some cobwebs away after the musical desert that was the synthesiser and drum machine-dominated late eighties. It was real rock - played with electric guitars up loud, big, thumping bass, a proper drum kit and sneering vocals from Liam Gallagher, who owed Johnny Rotten just a little. By 1994, music was crying out for this type of band again.

  
            
Rock 'n' Roll Star was a storming opener, featuring all the characteristics described above and Shakermaker a rumbling, raucous but rhythmic delight. Live Forever has an addictive drum and bass guitar intro, some great lead guitar, straight out of the seventies and some lyrics for twenty -somethings to get all nostalgic about when they were only starting out. “You and I we’re gonna live forever..”. Too fucking right, man. Great song. Seriously great song. These oiks could play. I’ll have some of this.

Up In the Sky is a lesser-known rocker with an excellent guitar intro and some late sixties-influenced lyrics and a Lennon-esque vocal delivery. Oasis took snatches of the sixties and seventies and they put their own unique stamp on it. They certainly had their own identity, despite their obvious influences. The sound on this album, as on all the band’s albums, is loud and raucous. It shakes you floors played through a good system and is an exhilarating experience. Just listen to the bass, guitar and percussion almost menacing intro to Columbia, another rarely-mentioned song which is refreshing to check out again. It is monstrously powerful if you’re in the mood. Not really late night, dim lights stuff though.

What I quite liked about Oasis, unlike some of my punk heroes, who claimed to despise music had gone before, like The Rolling Stones, Led Zeppelin or The Beatles, while secretly liking them, Oasis freely acknowledged their respect for artists like The Beatles, The Jam and even Noel Gallagher’s childhood favourites, Slade. I remember he did an interview early on when he extolled the virtues of Slade’s relatively obscure How Does It Feel. I respected Gallagher from that moment on.

Supersonic is well known, and in many ways, it is Oasis. Whiny vocals, acerbic lyrics. Everything you have come to expect from them, as indeed is the vibrant Cigarettes And Alcohol, with its slight Get It On riff “borrow”. Bring It On Down is a fast-paced number with some excellent drums. Another little-mentioned but quality track. Digsy's Dinner is a slightly punky thrash with a vaguely Beatles-ish tuneful bit in the middle. Slide Away is a lengthy chugger of the kind that appeared on Paul Weller’s Wild Wood, but as alluded to earlier, Gallagher’s vocals render all their songs unique. They also had a real ear for a hook of a chorus. The guitar in this is almost Led Zeppelin-esque in the middle solo.

Married With Children is a semi-acoustic, slightly low-key end to such a bombastic album. It would be the next album What’s The Story... that really did it for Oasis, and deservedly so, but there is a “first album” raw appeal to this one. It was certainly a stunning debut.

As an afternote, the bonus material on the latest 2014 "deluxe" remaster is interesting and high quality. Strangely, the sonic bombast used so blatantly on the eventual album is not used nearly so much on the "alternative" and "demo" versions. They are much subtler, more nuanced and quieter. Acoustic guitar is used a lot more. Listening to them it is almost like listening to a different band. The loudness is toned way down, Liam's voice is much less mannered, nowhere near the same amount of Johnny Rotten-isms. It all sounds very like Paul Weller's Wild Wood material. There are some excellent live cuts too.

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(WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY (1995)

1. Hello
2. Roll With It
3. Wonderwall
4. Don't Look Back In Anger
5. Hey Now
6. The Swamp Song
7. Some Might Say
8. Cast No Shadow
9. She's Electric
10. Morning Glory                 

Oasis's second album was as hard-hitting and anthem-packed as their sonically-explosive debut Definitely Maybe had been. There were several enhancements, however - increased use of strings and other varied instrumentation as well as that trademark guitar bombast.

This more than welcome 2014 remaster gives the album a far more subtle sonic makeover, bringing out far more nuances that were detectable on the crashing original. This improvement is not quite clear on the opener, the Gary Glitter-influenced Hello, which just sounds a little quieter, less clashing than the original. Roll With It, however, sees a vast improvement, you hear all sorts of things in that were previously buried away - a clearer guitar sound, less deafening drums and a melodic bass. The iconic Wonderwall is even better. It sounds bloody marvellous. Sumptuous bass on it and those acoustic guitars are crystal clear. Look Back In Anger has percussion that now sounds much clearer and this is one of those tracks where the string backing really came into its own. These four tracks - HelloRoll With ItWonderwall and Look Back In Anger - one of the finest openings to a album? Up there, surely? Hey Now, the next track, was no slouch, either. It initially suffered from the murky, crashing production, however, and even now that cannot be completely cured. It will always sound a bit like that, but that is part of Oasis's sound. Despite Oasis's (often unconvincing) eschewing of traditional rock (something I was never convinced by), it is packed full of traditional rock guitar, as many of their songs were.

  

Oasis came on the scene a generation after my halcyon days so I was always someone who listened to them from a boring, washed-out old punk's position so I cannot assess their effect on my life (they had none) or even culturally, in a general sense, particularly well. I just know they had something in their chutzpah and raucous, "don't give a stuff" attitude and muscular guitar attack that appealed to me. I loved the cover too - "Selectadisc" record shop on London's Berwick Street clearly visible, a shop and I street I visited many, many times. Pretty much every day during a period when I was walking around London as a publishing company rep.

  

Some Might Say is another classic Oasis anthem, and another one drenched in seventies-style guitar riffs. Liam Gallagher's distinctive, sneering vocal is so redolent of the mid nineties. Again, the remaster tones down a tiny bit of the bombast and that guitar bit around two minutes in comes to a new life. Cast No Shadow is a lesser-mentioned, underrated number and it sounds great here - superb, full and melodic bass and crystal clear acoustic guitars. The rhyme scheme in the jaunty She's Electric is a little simplistic (as were several of their lyrics) but I can't help but like it. It just makes me smile, particularly the "I quite fancy your mother line...." with its laddish cheekiness.

(What's The Story) Morning Glory? is, for me, the weakest on the album. The seems a little to formulaic and lazy to me. This is remedied by the anthemic Champagne Supernova, of course. There has always been something very Rolling Stones in it, in the way it uses acoustic and electric guitars. The vocals are clearly different, but just something about it. On this remaster the bass is once again sublime and the drum sound too. Listen just after the "why, why, why..." bit. Great stuff. A great remastering effort.

The many high quality extras, such as AcquiesceThe Masterplan, their stonking cover of Slade's Cum On Feel The Noize and the superb live cuts make this a more than worthy re-release to get hold of.

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BE HERE NOW (1997)

1. D'You Know What I Mean
2. My Big Mouth
3. Magic Pie
4. Stand By Me
5. I Hope, I Think, I Know
6. The Girl In The Dirty Shirt
7. Fade In-Out
8. Don't Go Away 
9. Be Here Now
10. All Around The World
11. It's Getting' Better (Man!!)
12. All Around The World (Reprise)       

By 1997, Oasis were, supposedly, the "biggest band on the planet", or as Noel Gallagher sneeringly said "bigger than, dare I say it, fucking God...". They had begun to swallow their own myth completely and become arrogant, emperor's new clothes, fawned-over rock star tossers. The media fed, nurtured and perpetuated this until the group became an embarrassing parody of themselves. Relations pithing the group became almost permanently fractured with Noel leaving and then coming back and an atmosphere of drug-addled laziness hardly conducive to producing quality music. The group seemed to think they were untouchable and could put out anything and it would still sell. Their motivations were purely commercial. Rather like their idol John Lennon, they had become cynically arrogant.

The result was Noel Gallagher's equivalent of Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On with its multi-layered guitar tracks all recorded on top of each other, indulgently, delivering a dense, murky, indistinct sound which forever blights it, despite its having been remastered. You can't polish a genuine turd. The tracks are all also excessively long and rambling, although they do possess an anthemic nature and still have some killer hooks in amongst all the sonic mush. The album clocks in at a way too long seventy-one minutes too.

  

Let's be honest, the sound is bloody awful, which is a shame as there are some good songs on here - somewhere. They still shine through the mist, however, which is testament to the fact that, despite everything, some good material ensued from this period. There was so much hype surrounding the album's release, however, that is almost became farcical. The group themselves treated it as if they were releasing Sgt. Pepper.

D'You Know What I Mean starts in the bloated, extended anthem style that would characterise most of the album. The sound is muffled-ish and dense, as mentioned earlier but, as also with much of the album's material has a great hook in the "all my people, right here right now.." chorus refrain. My Big Mouth begins with a cacophony of clashing guitars. Sonically it is exhausting, but it carries a vibrant cynicism to it and a raw, rock edge that is almost "fuck you" punky. Magic Pie calms things down a bit with a slow-paced clunky number that actually has a bit of hidden appeal to it.

Stand By Me is a perfect example of a great Oasis song that still delivers despite its dreadful sound, full of hooks and typically good lyrics. It borrows a chord progression from Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes at several points, something Noel Gallagher freely admits to. I Hope, I Think, I Know is an excellent, vibrant rocker. Look, I could criticise the sound on every single song on this album, it now goes without saying. Every one of them could be improved upon.

  

The Girl In The Dirty Shirt blatantly uses some chords from The BeatlesCry Baby Cry but otherwise it is solid clunker once more. I actually quite like it. Another one that appeals to me is Fade In-Out, that reminds me in slight snatches of The Rolling StonesMonkey Man, and also contains one of the band's heaviest-ever passages. It has a huge punch to it in places. As with a fair few of the tracks, though, it goes on a minute or two too long. Don't Go Away is Lennon-esque in its verses but very Oasis in its singalong chorus. Be Here Now is a typical in-your-face Oasis sneering stomper.

All Around The World is nine minutes long but, even so, it has an appeal. It has that much-mentioned anthem quality again. Once more, I can't help but like it. It's Getting' Better (Man!!) is a copper-bottomed slice of raucous Oasis rock, featuring that ramped-up T. Rex-inspired riffery. The reprise of All Around The World is a brassy, Beatles-esque extended fanfare to finally see out this behemoth of an album.

Some of the tracks that weren't included on the album, like Stay Young and The Fame are actually far more impressive, less indulgent and far more worthy of inclusion than some that did make it on there. They are shorter, less rambling, crisper and basically just superior creations, by far.

The album actually became the UK's fastest-ever selling release, although its reception, once listened to, was distinctly underwhelming and many would argue that Oasis's eventual decline began here. Every subsequent release was received comparatively unenthusiastically. There would be no triumphant "return to form". The had become, by their own hand, the purveyors of formulaic "dad-rock" that they were supposed to eschew. Maybe the final word on the album should be left to Noel Gallagher:-

"....It's the sound of ... a bunch of guys, on coke, in the studio, not giving a fuck. There's no bass to it at all; I don't know what happened to that ... And all the songs are really long and all the lyrics are shit....".

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THE MASTERPLAN (1998)

1. Acquiesce
2. Underneath The Sky
3. Talk Tonight
4. Going Nowhere
5. Fade Away
6. The Swamp Song
7. I Am The Walrus
8. Listen Up
9. Rockin' Chair
10. Half The World Away
11. (It's Good) To Be Free
12. Stay Young
13. Headshrinker
14. The Masterplan            

This album was a compilation of 'b' sides and unreleased material mainly aimed at the US market which contained a quality of songs that many artists would have given their eye teeth to have in their canon. Indeed, it can be likened to as a perfectly credible album and many would argue it is the superior collection of work to its official predecessor 1977's bloated and somewhat indulgent "Be Here Now".

The album has not been remastered, but, via the wonders of digital technology, if you have the first three albums in their 2014 remastered "deluxe editions", you can cherry pick the tracks to make up a 2014 remastered version of The Masterplan. Most impressive it sounds too. Not as bombastic as the original masterings, with some subtleties in percussion and bass brought to the fore.
                          
Highlights are the solid, rocking blast of Acquiesce; a raw live version of The BeatlesI Am The Walrus; the jaunty psychedelia of Underneath The Sky; the plaintive, acoustic, Paul Weller-influenced Talk Tonight; the surprising Burt Bacharach-inspired Going Nowhere. These are all excellent tracks worthy of positions on regular albums.

  

Fade Away rocks frenetically, but no amount of remastering will cure its raucous sound, however. Therein lies much of its grungy appeal, though. The Swamp Song is an excellent instrumental too. Listen Up has a great bass sound and clear, sharp percussion. Rockin' Chair has echoes of The Jam, for me. Maybe that's just me, but there is something about it. The tuneful, emotive Half The World Away and (It's Good) To Be Free both sound excellent in their remastered formats.

Just check out Stay Young. Maybe the best track on the album. Solid anthemic Oasis rock at its finest. Their rock is never particularly fast, or slow. It is always just solidHeadshrinker has a real seventies-style guitar intro and a punk feel to it. Again, it forcefully chugs along. Noel Gallagher reckons the acoustic, bassy and orchestrated The Masterplan is the best Oasis song he ever wrote. When it breaks out into the full band bit, it is easy to agree with him.

All the material is good on this album, let's be honest. It exists perfectly credibly as a bona fide Oasis album.

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STANDING ON THE SHOULDERS OF GIANTS (2000)

1. Fuckin’ In The Bushes
2. Go Let It Out
3. Who Feels Love?
4. Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is
5. Little James
6. Gas Panic!
7. Where Did It All Go Wrong?
8. Sunday Morning Call
9. I Can See A Liar

10. Roll It Over        

After three seismic albums, one compilation of odds and sods, endless, often embarrassing media hype and many destructive rows, Oasis ‘Mark Two’ began here in some ways. In other ways, however, not much really changed - the music was still full of acoustic as well as electric guitars, rhyming lyrics, sneering vocals and a huge wall of crashing sound. Whereas Be Here Now was indulgent and at times rambling, this offering, three years later, contained songs that were more cohesive and concise, slightly better crafted and, it has to be said, less drug-influenced. Noel Gallagher, in particular, was maturing and both the brothers were fathers. Dad rock indeed. It was seen as Oasis’s psychedelic album. Their Revolver. The music is certainly not all crashing guitars, there is more instrumental variety and experimentation present than on any of the band’s output thus far. Having lost two band members the Gallagher brothers took over much of the working out of the instrumentation, using other guest musicians and drum loops and the like too. As I said, like their beloved Revolver. Noel was rapidly becoming a multi-instrumentalist. For example, Go Let It Out features only the brothers and Alan White on drums.

In the fickle world of media-driven music, though, Oasis were already old hat - yesterday’s (now old) men. However good this album may have been, the eventual decline of Oasis, started with Be Here Now, properly set in here.

Not that that really matters now though, as the album is retrospectively viewed as just an album rather than a statement that everyone needed to pay attention to.

  
                                                  
Fuckin’ In The Bushes (great title) begins with a drum intro straight out of Led Zeppelin’s Rock ‘n’ Roll and continues as a psychedelic -influenced, powerful instrumental with a vaguely funky groove to it in places. The backing vocals sort of remind me of Sly & The Family Stone circa 1971. The sound on the track is a bit mushy and indistinct, however. Go Let It Out is one of those semi-anthemic Oasis numbers with a typical Liam Gallagher vocal and lots of Beatles Walrus-era noises behind its singalong chorus. Some Eastern-style percussion introduces the hippy-ish Who Feels Love? It is very Revolver-era Beatles-ish, almost embarrassingly Lennon-esque in its vocals and Harrison-esque in its instrumentation. That said, it’s good, though, by far the most psychedelic the band had sounded thus far. I have always been a bit perplexed by Oasis's Beatles obsession, they actually didn't need to lean so heavily on those influences.

Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is is powered by a keyboard riff more than a guitar one and although the vocals are familiar in style, it is a looser sounding number with echoes of Paul Weller all over it. Little James has Liam Gallagher going all Lennon in a syrupy song about his stepson, it includes very Beatles-style drums too.



Gas Panic! is an unusual number - a lengthy, blues meets psychedelia concoction full of late sixties vibes. It is totally uncommercial, as indeed is the slow grind of the Weller-ish and possibly prescient Where Did It All Go Wrong? which features the less harsh tones of Noel on lead vocals. Sunday Morning Call is also comparatively laid-back and spacily reflective. None of this material is fist-pumping stadium fare. It is mature, adult rock music, everything Oasis didn’t really set out to be, but then again they always lived in a past of their own making.

I Can See A Liar is the closest thing on the album to the typical riffy material found on the group’s first two albums. That rousing feel doesn’t last long, though, and the slow George Harrison-influenced sound of Roll It Over ends what has been an impressively understated piece of work.

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