Well, this shouldn’t be too hard. After all, popular consensus states that Oasis were life-changing, then dog-shit, and surely all I have to do is fellate the first two albums, flagellate ‘Be Here Now’, file my copy and hide under the bed while the online lynch mob debates whether to play ping-pong with my bollocks or just stamp on them (I’d prefer they were turned into furry novelty earrings, if I get any say in the matter…).
And yet, here I am: sat up at midnight, head spinning, tongue lolling like a confused bulldog, so tired that Bonehead appears to be playing a giant doorkey on the cover of ‘Be Here Now’, shuffling the Gallaghers’ seven studio albums on my coffee table like some low-rent Louis Walsh before the ‘X Factor’ Live Finals. Jesus, this is agony. If only Sinitta were here to help break the deadlock…
Album quantification is not an exact science. I’m not wearing a lab coat and I can’t analyse these songs on a molecular level, like the bloke from the Oral B advert. All I can give is my blinkered, biased, best-to-worst countdown of a band that changed my life. After we’ve done that, I’d love to hear your take.
1. ‘Definitely Maybe’ (1994)
With all that said, this decision was a piece of piss. While most ’90s indie bands had a tacit agreement – “Let’s kick off with a shit debut, then we’ll get cracking…” – Oasis burst out of the blocks fully formed, with attitude, chemistry, pull quotes, a healthy contempt for Phil Collins and a Parka pocketful of perfect songs.
Strange to think of it now, but on ‘Definitely Maybe’, Noel actually had something to say, and when he fused dole queue manifestos like ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Star’ to heaven-scraping melodies and Liam’s spit-and-sawdust vocal, the results sounded like the voice of God. ‘Supersonic’, ‘Slide Away’, ‘Columbia’, ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’… circa ’94, Oasis were pissing out classics like a man with a golden cock.
Granted, there are two tracks you always skip (‘Up In The Sky’ and ‘Bring It On Down’) and one lasagne-fixated abortion that’s as irritating as crabs on a tourbus (hang your head, ‘Digsy’s Dinner’). But let’s not split hairs. ‘Definitely Maybe’ is as good as rock ‘n’ roll gets.
2. ‘What’s The Story (Morning Glory)’ (1995)
I struggle with ‘Morning Glory’ these days. Blunted by too many jukeboxes and wedding discos, listening to this second album now feels a bit like watching Del Boy fall through the bar: I buy into it, but only because society demands it. For me, it’s become cultural wallpaper, and it’s got a few skid-marks, too, like the turgid ‘Hey Now!’ and the caveman clatter of ‘Roll With It’. I even considered bumping it for ‘The Masterplan’, until I consulted with my inner ’90s schoolboy and he set me straight: “What the fuck? We loved this! Put it as #2, you raging twat!”
He’s got a point. Suspend your cynicism, wipe away the suffocating context, approach these 12 songs with virgin ears, and ‘Morning Glory’ is still a staggeringly good record. From the knockout one-two of ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, through the haunted strum of ‘Cast No Shadow’, right up to the lapping tide of ‘Champagne Supernova’, these are unofficial national anthems that soundtracked a generation’s coming-of-age. In fact, I’ll stick my neck out and argue it’s the last time that an album – or a band – truly changed British culture.
3. ‘The Masterplan’ (1998)
Advice to fledgling songwriters on a white-hot creative streak: don’t spunk away your youth anthems as b-sides. Your fire will die. Your muse will wither. Before you know it, you’ll be singing about magic pies and wondering why you buried that bristling call-and-response duet with your brother. You may have gathered that I have a tricky relationship with ‘The Masterplan’. I suspect Noel does too. Sure, as those early singles swung in like wrecking balls, it seemed thrillingly cocksure to toss gems like ‘Acquiesce’, ‘Talk Tonight’ and ‘Fade Away’ away as flips, but by the time this compilation arrived in ’98, it came laced with forehead-slapping frustration that Noel didn’t hold them back for a great third album.
4. ‘Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants’ (2000)
In a recent NME blog, I posited the theory that ‘Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants’ is not the musical colonic irrigation implied by its sales figures and critical standing. Some people agreed. Many didn’t. Some felt I should have been throttled at birth with my own umbilical cord. Whatever: I still rate this fourth album, from the loping groove of ‘Go Let It Out’ to the cold-sweat atmospherics of ‘Gas Panic’. Even ‘Little James’ has a certain so-shit-it’s-funny charm.
5. ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ (2005)
Like Quentin Tarantino, TFI Friday and Hooch, by 2005, I had Oasis down as something that should never have crossed the millennial boundary line. They threw me for a loop with ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’: a sixth album that had some blood and thunder, with ‘Lyla’ shaking off the dust and ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’ relocating Noel’s mojo for the first time in years. I wouldn’t quite trumpet it as a Return To Form!, but when someone’s been kicking you in the balls for years, it’s a relative relief when they just slap you in the face, and ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ was a decisive step in the right direction.
6. ‘Be Here Now’ (1997)
We came. We queued. We paid. And all for this: an overcooked dog’s dinner knocked up by five dusty-nosed egotists and a producer who approached his craft with all the grace of a man overfilling a sausage. After an initial music press starburst, ‘Be Here Now’ quickly became indie’s favourite whipping boy, for its slack songs, its gaudy production and its ice-age duration, and these days it sits cowering on the naughty step, covered in critical pinpricks, with its hands over its bloated face. To be honest, I’m not angry with this album anymore, just disappointed. It’s the end of Noel’s imperious early run and the bellyflop that launched a tsunami of duds.
7. ‘Heathen Chemistry’ (2002)
I never liked Oasis as a songwriting democracy and ‘Heathen Chemistry’ was a four-way fuck-up. Noel waded through treacle on ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ and made us dry-heave with ‘She Is Love’. Liam briefly raised hopes that he was a Dylan-esque genius with ‘Songbird’, before revealing that, no, he wasn’t, with ‘Born On A Different Cloud’. Gem Archer and Andy Bell’s efforts go off like damp fireworks. In summary, then, ‘Heathen Chemistry’ is very nearly abysmal, and with The Strokes and The Libertines tearing it up circa 2002, you’d have been certifiably insane to waste time with this rock dinosaur’s dump.
8. ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ (2008)
I’m aware that some press and punters saw ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ as a late return to form, and I’m honestly not trying to stir the shit by handing it the wooden spoon. Personally, I hated this album. Actually, ‘hate’ is too strong a word, implying some kind of emotional response or a quickening of the pulse. I was merely bored by the valium grooves of ‘Falling Down’, the death-march cod-Lennon-isms of ‘I’m Outta Time’ and the half-arsed psychedelic toe-dip of ‘To Be Where There’s Life’. Every other Oasis album has at least one song that stops me feeding it to the bargain bucket. ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ is dead to me.