Album Review: Oasis – ‘Time Flies…1994-2009 (Big Brother)

All the singles, titanic AND terrible, together in one place – but does it stand up to the greatest collections of its kind?

He’s a coy man, Noel Gallagher. The running order of this collection of his former band’s singles is supposed to equate to the perfect Oasis gig. But it never could.

Aside from the fact there’s over 130 minutes of music here (bit of a tall order live, then), what ‘Time Flies’ proves is just how many different guises [a]Oasis[/a] consumed in their 19-year life. For a band who supposedly stuck rigidly to a formula, they changed a hell of a lot.

Play ‘Supersonic’ and ‘I’m Outta Time’ back-to-back, for instance, and you hear two completely different bands. Liam’s choirboy swoon – albeit a pissed choirboy – on the former is long gone, having dissipated at some point around 1997 into a smouldering Cutters Choice growl. Where did that visionary, soulful voice go, you wonder? As Bonehead’s wife put it in 1993, “he sounds like an angel”.

Of course, classics ‘Supersonic’ to ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ are undeniable. Even ‘Shakermaker’’s gloopy, ‘…Walrus’ like 12-bar shuffle sounds like royalty these days. They may have set the standard for both [a]Oasis[/a] and pretty much every ‘British’ rock band the world over, but it’s these songs that have now become pallbearers for their career.

There can’t be many unaware of this story, but if you weren’t on Planet Earth between 1994 and 2009 (and it’s surely you who this release is aimed at), there’s a couple of surprising moments tucked away. ‘All Around The World’ stands up like a great piece of work now – epic and tantalising – though its length still means it’s marooned inside the endless corridor Noel sings about on ‘The Masterplan’, unable to get the fuck out of there with a bit of dignity. Relative newies ‘Lord Don’t Slow Me Down’ and ‘The Shock Of The Lightning’ both do the business well too, proving that now the ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ late-period era has had time to gestate, it’s worth reappraisal (been a while since you could have said that about an [a]Oasis[/a] LP without sniggering).

Of the stinkers, it’s ‘Who Feels Love?’ (still dirge-like), ‘The Hindu Times’ (still a [a]Stereophonics[/a] rip-off) and ‘Sunday Morning Call’ (still just lightweight) that are most skip-worthy… though you knew that, right? Like Noel says in the notes though, pretty much all of these songs are modern-day church anthems. Perhaps modern day folk standards is even more fitting, though. You remember where you were and what you were about when you think back to them being released.

Like their creators, these singles bulldozed their way through everybody’s consciousness, and that’s something you must applaud. But [a]Oasis[/a] do have a fight on their hands if they want to be considered among the truly classic British singles bands. Albums like this are a beautiful concept – way better than the bog-standard best of – and Madness, Squeeze and The Jam have got to be leaders of the field (they’re all true disciples of the three-minute pop gem, whose collections – ‘Divine Madness’, ‘Singles 45’s And Under’ and ‘The Very Best Of The Jam’ – are as cutting, vital and decent as any of their proper albums). Where ‘Time Flies’ differs from those – and it’s like The Beatles‘1’ in this respect – is that it’s essentially just a series of signposts to better places. Whether those places are albums (the first two and ‘The Masterplan’), DVDs (…There And Then) or bootlegs (MTV Unplugged, Knebworth), it’s still a powerful juggernaut of a swansong; a snapshot of [a]Oasis[/a]’ life that’s both euphoric and tragic in equal measure.

In retrospect, probably the greatest thing about the band was that they pulled off the biggest musical ruse ever. The blustery mouth that backed up the musical trousers of the early stuff was compelling enough to make us believe they could maintain it – and we all got boarding passes to a ship that was doomed from the start.

The songs compiled here were the public face and sound of that – all-inclusive, heroic and, for the most part, bloody catchy. As eulogies go, it’s not half bad.

Matt Wilkinson

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Click here to get your copy of Oasis’ ‘Time Flies…1994-2009’ from the Rough Trade Shop

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