Definitely Maybe (Creation/Epic, 1994)
(What's the Story)
Morning Glory (Creation/Epic, 1995)
Be Here Now (Creation/Epic, 1997)
The Masterplan (Creation/Epic, 1998)
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (Creation/Epic, 2000)
Familiar to Millions (Creation/Epic, 2000)
Heathen Chemistry (Epic, 2002)
Don't Believe The Truth (Epic, 2005)
Stop The Clocks (Epic, 2006)
Dig Out Your Soul (Epic, 2008)
"Tonight I'm a rock and roll star!" Liam Gallagher brayed in the first minute of Oasis's debut album, and although it was all the poor boy has ever had to say for himself, it was enough. The lager-swilling Manchester louts in Oasis probably couldn't have counted to 20 without eating their shoes, but damn, they knew how to shake up a song. Former Inspiral Carpets roadie Noel Gallagher played guitar and wrote spine-rattlingly great tunes, while his little brother Liam sneered through the lyrical platitudes with all the contempt they deserved. The boozing, brawling Gallagher brothers were true sons of the peat, prone to punching each other out, quitting the band midtour, marrying movie stars, moving into stately homes with names like "Supernova Heights," and other feats of rock-star debauchery. But amid all the chaos, Oasis also produced some of the Nineties' finest rock & roll in the cosmic guitar climaxes of "Live Forever," "Wonderwall," and "Slide Away."
Definitely Maybe, which brought Oasis fame and fortune, is a celebration of "Cigarettes & Alcohol" swaggering with hooks nicked from the Beatles, Bowie, T. Rex, the Sex Pistols, and practically everyone ever. Brilliantly crafted, appropriately grandiose, emotionally rousing, Definitely Maybe gets sentimental and slovenly in all the right places. The lads bash out thirdhand glam riffs as if they've spent a lifetime worshiping Bowie without ever giving a moment's thought to his sex life, while the lyrics achieve some kind of cretin haiku: "I know a girl called Elsa/She's into Alka-Seltzer/She sniffs through her cane/On a supersonic train." Genius!
(What's the Story) Morning Glory?, by all the laws of U.K. rock stardom, should have been the flop followup. Instead, it's a triumph, full of bluster and bravado but also moments of surprising tenderness, such as the offhand love ballad "Wonderwall," the majestic "Some Might Say," and the climactic "Champagne Supernova." Morning Glory capped a true golden age for Britpop, the heady days of Blur and Elastica and Suede and Pulp and, er, Menswear. At this point, Oasis was recording more top-drawer tunes than it could cram onto its albums; the fantastic B-sides and outtakes collected on The Masterplan include "Listen Up," "Talk Tonight," and "Fade Away." Fans should chase down the definitive acoustic "Fade Away" on the 1995 compilation Help, possibly Oasis' most moving moment ever.
And then what happened? "I know where we lost it," Noel once observed with customary tact. "Down the drug dealer's fuckin' front room is where we lost it." Be Here Now was Oasis's version of Elton John's Captain Fantastic and the Brown Dirt Cowboy, a concept album about how long all the songs were. It was also the sound of a great songwriter turning his brain to cocaine crispies, with only two kickers: the title tune and the ridiculous "It's Getting Better (Man!!)." Noel quit drugs, shuffled the band lineup, and promised the sequel would be better. It wasn't. Standing on the Shoulder of Giants was the nostalgic mush Oasis-bashers had always accused the band of peddling, complete with sitar, mellotron, and lyrics like "Life is precocious/In a most peculiar way."
Familiar to Millions is a live album about as exciting as its title; Heathen Chemistry is a studio album nowhere near as exciting as its title, though "Stop Crying Your Heart Out" is a great one and Liam's tambourine playing has definitely improved. Stop The Clocks is an odd two-disc compilation where nearly every track comes from the first two albums or The Masterplan; the exception is "Lyla," the last worthy hit from Oasis' final years. By the time Noel broke up the band on the eve of a 2009 festival appearance, announcing he couldn't bear Liam's presence for even one more gig, Oasis had aged into a quintessentially British comedy franchise, never taken seriously but much beloved. No doubt the Gallagher brothers will get a warm welcome the next time they return.
Portions of this album guide appeared in The New Rolling Stone Album Guide (Fireside, 2004).
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