Oasis: Definitely Maybe
For four or five years in the mid 1990s, Oasis was if not the biggest, than one of the biggest bands on the planet. The only possible exceptions may have been Radiohead and Pearl Jam. Definitely Maybe is their debut album, but already their core sound was solid. They were a rock band, singing about rock band things and living the rock band life. The world was eager for the next big thing in a post-Nirvana world and Oasis rose to the challenge. In the UK, their third album held the record for being the fastest selling album in history from 1997 until 2006. Yeah, Oasis were that popular.
I saw Oasis when they came to Seattle in the mid-1990s. They played Key Arena and the opener of the concert was Cornershop (of Brimful of Asha fame). There was little audience interaction between Oasis and the audience, but for those of use who knew every track, it was a show never to be forgotten. My feelings about the band have tempered somewhat through the years, but there are still some not-to-be forgotten tracks from their first two albums. Tracks that belong to be mentioned in the chronological history of rock and roll from the blues through the current times. Live Forever and Married with Children immediately come to mind.
The album kicks off with a 1, 2 punch of Rock ‘n’ Roll Star and Shakermaker. Rock ‘n’ Roll Star is an up tempo number and Shakermaker is a slower track, which serves mostly to set up expectations for track 3.
Live Forever. If this were the only hit Oasis ever had, they would probably still be considered among the best groups of the 1990s. Sure they wrote better songs on their second album, but this is the song that ensured they would even get to a second album. Snearing British accents, great guitar swirls and a steady drum beat all combine to propel the song toward something more than the sum of its component parts.
Jump past the next two tracks, bringing us to Supersonic, Oasis’ second big U.S. hit from this album. Looking back on it now, there’s some terribly sloppy lines in here. Supersonic should probably never be rhymed with gin and tonic ever again. Elsa and alka-seltzer only rhymes properly when spoken with a British accent. But that doesn’t matter, because somehow, in spite of all these drawbacks, this song still chugs along at it’s own unhurried pace and does exaclty what it intends. Which is show people how talented Oasis were as a band.
Track eight is titled Cigarette & Alcohol and basically celebrates the debotched lifestyle. A story about somebody looking to get laid, but only finding, wait for it, cigarettes and alcohol. A story about not feeling like the main character needs to work because all they need are cigarettes and alcohol. For a group who were sure they were going to make it, but still had to convince the english speaking world, this was a gutsy move. Given today’s music culture, i’m not sure this could still be a hit on alternative radio. It didn’t do too much on US radio, but it was a subtantial single for the band in Britain.
Slide Away sets the album up for the still-achingly phenominal closer (more on that in about a paragraph). Slide Away is a track about trying to get somebody to fall in love with you so that you can enjoy each other’s company. Nothing more, nothing less. Man those are great guitar lines, though. The song goes on perhaps too long, but what’s mostly to show off those guitar licks, performed by the inimitable Noel Gallagher, sorry Liam, but the more talented of the brothers Gallagher.
Which brings me to my most played song from this album, the closing track, all acoustic guitar with Noel vocals, ladies and gentlemen, Married with Children. These lyrics actually mean quite a lot to me, in some where. “There’s no need for you to say you’re sorry/goodbye i’m going home”. “I hate the way that even though you know you’re wrong/you think you’re right/I hate the books you read and all your friends/your music’s shite it keeps me up all night”. Simplistic yet snearing, obviously about a bitter breakup, the reason this song hits so hard is precisely because it doesn’t try too hard to overstate the point. At this point in my life, I wish it didn’t contain the line “but I know that I’ll be right back here with you”, because there’s no way I’d go back, but this song symbolizes a time in my life that lasted way too long. Although I tried to make a shitty situation work, and there were good times, the bad times were so much more frequent than the good. 20 years on, this song still makes me want to crank it loud and shout the lines “I don’t care no more so don’t you worry/goodbye…i’m going….hoooome”.
Oasis released a total of seven albums between this, their debut and 2008. The first four have an air of striving for greatness to them; their fourth, Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, has decent tracks such as Go Let it Out. Their final 3 albums feel like they’re trying to recapture the heights of their glory days. Noel Gallagher left the band and started the band High Flying Birds, bringing the band he started with his brother to an end. That same year, Liam started the band Beady Eye with several former Oasis bandmates including long-time guitar player Andy Bell.
Oasis decided to release many of their albums on vinyl in 2014 in order to mark the 20th anniversary of Definitely Maybe. I’m tempted to get Morning Glory, but not at full price, even thought I’d still dig hearing many of those songs played loud. Guilty pleasure be damned, sometimes when the feeling is right, it’s just a pleasure to hear this band.