London WC2 Sound Republic

It tells you everything you need to know about 1998 that the release of this album should be cause for celebration....

IT TELLS YOU EVERYTHING YOU need to know about 1998 that the release of this album should be cause for celebration. ‘The Masterplan’ might be Oasis’ third best album, a compilation destined for foreign fields and a collection of songs that most UK households own at least once already, but it’s still Everest to the rest of this year’s K2s.

Its success is twofold. Firstly, it rams home just what all concerned now think of ‘Be Here Now’. Its tracklisting, chosen by fans via the Internet and overseen by Noel himself, contains just two tracks from that period – a ratio it richly deserves. Secondly, it also serves as a timely reminder that pre-‘Be Here Now’ and pre- the Noel Gallagher solo experience, Oasis actually were the most exciting rock’n’roll group in the world. No, really.

A distillation of the four greatest British groups of the last 20 years (the Sex Pistols, The Jam, The Jesus And Mary Chain and The Stone Roses), Oasis were always so much more than the clumsy revisionists their critics tried to paint them as. It’s no great insight to say that these B-sides were frequently equal to, or better than, the single they were meant to be supporting, it’s just amazing how often: ‘Aquiesce’, ‘Half The World Away’, ‘Stay Young’, ‘Fade Away’… the list just goes on.

Two other things: for all the cries of MOR, Oasis were as punk as anyone since Nirvana. Listen to the garage rawness of ‘Acquiesce’ and the careering velocity of ‘Headshrinker’, or the primal clatter of the intro to ‘Fade Away’, they’re all underpinned by the same desperate sense of aspiration that informed much of punk’s original output. Take these lyrics from ‘Going Nowhere’, a song actually written before they were signed: [I]”I wanna be a millionaire… Wanna be wild because my life’s so tame”[/I].

That, though, was only ever half the story, because even accepting that lyrically they were never exactly The Smiths, they were still capable of delivering an emotional uppercut when you least expected it. The songs featured here – ‘Talk Tonight’, ‘Half The World Away’, ‘It’s Good To Be Free’ – that Noel recorded in Texas after their first US bust-up in 1994 are proof of that. And if none of that persuades you that ‘The Masterplan’ should be on your shelf, there is one final incentive: nothing else puts Robbie Williams in quite the same perspective.