Rating Oasis albums – with a surprise near the top!

The last blog entry suggested in a somewhat tongue-in-cheek way that the band we all know as Oasis may not have actually been a “band” at all but rather a morphing vehicle for a songwriter with a great ear for a tune and big production, coupled with a powerhouse singer with enough energy to keep Blackpool illuminated from now to eternity.

You can debate for that long about how true that is and ultimately, it doesn’t really matter.

It’s all about the music.

With that in mind – and because someone suggested it – how does the rock and roll guy rate the original studio LP output of the mighty juggernaut that was Oasis?

Like this:

7. Dig Out Your Soul (2008)

This was their last album of original material and for me, the weakest. That may be unfair given that the band broke up the following year and as such, this record never really got the momentum it could have had. However, it is interesting that, aside from Falling Down, another of Noel’s obvious forays into Tomorrow Never Knows territory, I think my favourite cut on the record is one of Liam’s songs. I’m Outta Time is actually a great tune and was a highlight of their later shows (I know, I was there). Other than that, a fairly pedestrian effort from the group and not one I play that often. Didn’t stop it rocketing to number one in the UK, like all their studio albums.

6. Don’t Believe the Truth (2005)

This is a tricky one. There are some good, even great songs here, but somehow the album never really resonated with me. Maybe that’s my fault. I bought it certainly, on the day it came out, like all the others, but maybe I found it a bit ‘patchy’. Noel’s altruistic desire to include more material by other members of the group (or possibly his own output slowing down?) results in a mixed bag. His own material consisting of the stompy crowd-pleaser Lyla, the Kinks-influenced The Importance Of Being Idle, the Stranglers-esque Part Of The Queue and John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band inspired Let There Be Love is just about enough to keep the record buoyant.

5. Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000)

I was debating whether to put this at number four on the list and I suppose it’s interchangeable. Recorded in the post-90s madness era, much of the soundscape here is pretty bleak by Oasis standards. Owen Morris is not involved in production and many hailed it as a departure of sorts at the time – at least, a departure for Oasis, especially the opening track. Anyway, Go Let It Out remains one of my favourites by them and that’s on here. Also, the seldom mentioned closer Roll It Over is one I like to play loud. The rest of it is a trifle introspective – as I say, fairly unusual for Oasis, a group who usually like to project invincibility. Tracks like Where Did It All Go Wrong? and Sunday Morning Call give us a glimpse beyond Noel’s bravado and are perhaps the natural follow-ups to earlier songs Don’t Go Away or (I Got) The Fever.

4. Heathen Chemistry (2002)

When Oasis put out The Hindu Times it was obvious what was afoot. Noel was out to steady the ship with a blast of positivity and reclaim Oasis’ place at the forefront of guitar music (at least in the UK). The previous album had looked inwards and this one was about to do the opposite. Granted, Stop Crying Your Heart Out can have the power to induce the opposite reaction to the one demanded by the song, when used in the right context and it is a further indisputable example of Noel’s ability as a tunesmith, but I think it’s Little By Little that really catapults this album up the list. A monster tune and a live favourite, it’s a great example of Oasis at their best – with only one essential ingredient missing – Liam. He might have been off somewhere writing his own contributions.

3. (What’s the Story) Moring Glory? (1995)

Okay – I know what you’re thinking. Why isn’t this top? And why is its mostly-panned follow-up obviously above it on the list? Valid questions, both. But remember this is a subjective list, reflecting only what I think and I can well imagine people not agreeing with this. Let me try to explain my reasons. I cannot deny the greatness of some of the tracks here. Don’t Look Back In Anger, for one, is an all-time classic cut, one of the greatest pop/rock songs ever recorded and certainly in contention for the most memorable tune of the 90s. The same can be said of Wonderwall, though I’ve never been as sold on that song as some. Without these two massive hits though, the album becomes significantly less majestic. I’ve warmed greatly to Champagne Supernova over the years, having always been inclined to view it as a weaker attempt at capturing the magic of Slide Away. I also enjoy immersing myself in the massive sound of Hey Now! I always found the independent listing of what became known as The Swamp Song as two separate tracks to be a little irksome, especially when so many sublime efforts were being cast on to B-sides on singles (Acquiesce, The Masterplan etc…) This is a very hackneyed fan’s argument though – I mean, one thing you definitely could not accuse Oasis of in the 90s is short-changing people with the content on their singles. I suppose that, for me, this album was the one everyone sat up and took notice of, after I’d been a major advocate for the debut album since the day it came out, so I felt like the masses had finally woken up to Oasis… and the only way was down from there… wasn’t it?

2. Be Here Now (1997)

You might think I’m taking the p*** here, but I assure you, I like this album. Very few others have come in for so many retrospective maulings. After the music press famously dismissed Morning Glory early on, by contrast the critics initially fawned all over this one, as did the wider media, thereby whipping up such a level of hysteria that it could never, ever, live up to it. What were you all expecting? A Sgt Pepper-style move after Revolver? Like I said in the last entry, Oasis are not The Beatles. Such comparisons are pointless. Yes, this album is full of overly-long, production heavy tracks which don’t really say a lot… but, so what? Isn’t music just meant to be fun sometimes? Can’t we all just lighten up and enjoy it as a crazy piece of rock’n’roll excess? I was at the live shows in 1997 and yes, they had a ridiculous stage set, yes, it was a bit silly at times BUT and this is crucial, I had a great time watching the shows and I had a great time listening to the album. D’You Know What I Mean?, Stand By Me and All Around The World are all fine examples of the aforementioned madness, but, sorry to shock you all, I still play these tracks with more frequency than anything from the later Oasis period. And, in 1997, if you were totally set on trying to read hidden meanings into music and intellectualise it to the nth degree (which there’s nothing wrong with either) then… OK Computer.

And at No. 1: Definitely Maybe (1994)

What else could I put here? This album was great then, it’s still great now and will continue to be great for evermore. A superb piece of work, containing a quintessential selection of songs from Rock’n’Roll Star to Live Forever, Cigarettes And Alcohol to Slide Away, this record is a classic. Had Oasis stopped here it would have been enough and really, everything that comes after is just bonus material, with one or two exceptions. Of course, they were never going to stop – they were just getting started. As debuts go this has to be one of the greatest ever. This is one case I think where Oasis can truly be said to win over their great idols The Beatles. The fabs’ debut was a blast, but doesn’t match this – it’s just the taking-over-the-world-and-not-letting-go bit that came later which sets them apart. Still a regular on the rock and roll guy’s turntable after all these years, this album is a masterpiece. If, by some strange chance, you’ve never heard it – get it and play it LOUD.

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