Any dissection of Oasis’s work starts with a reference to The Beatles. “The best British band since The Beatles” was the devotee’s refrain, while the critic said they rode the Beatles coattails to mediocrity.
What this reduction misses is that everyone who made music over the past fifty years was influenced, directly or indirectly, by The Beatles. What pop music doesn’t sound a little like “Love Me Do” or “She Loves You”? Heavy metal took tips from “Helter Skelter” and “I Want You.” Hip-hop was built around the way George Martin used the studio as an instrument on “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper”.
Through this lens, perhaps the highest praise a band can receive is that they’re the most authentic interpretation of the founders’ vision. That may very well be Oasis, who peaked with their second release, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?”.
Almost 25 years out, these songs are hard to evaluate without nostalgia playing a powerful role. “Definitely Maybe” made Oasis an overnight sensation in the UK, but it was “Morning Glory” that blew them up in the US. There was no escaping “Wonderwall”, “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, and “Champagne Supernova” in ’95, and by 2000, they may have been even more omnipresent. That’s a testament to the greatness of the music.
Everyone with an acoustic guitar in their living room has played “Wonderwall” and everyone in their vicinity sung along. “Champagne Supernova” might be the most radio-friendly 7 1/2-minute song ever recorded, justifying every second of its running time. “Cast No Shadow” and “Hey Now” are as strong as the singles and stand up today as well as they did in the ’90s.
If Oasis are just interpreting The Beatles, they’re spanning the entire catalog. Straightforward pop-rockers “Roll With It” and “She’s Electric” would fit on “Beatles For Sale”. “Don’t Look Back in Anger” is simple-but-slick “Rubber Soul” fare. “Morning Glory” and “Champagne Supernova” take enough chances to fit on the white album. “Cast No Shadow” is a more mature statement, worthy of “Let It Be”.
Of course, Oasis were more than Beatles mimicry. These songs are intricate but brash, street-tough but melodic. Liam Gallagher is a punk, but the band add beautiful backing vocals at times. Two guitars play off each other, adding drama and force, but rarely steal the show from the songs themselves. Two untitled instrumentals remind us the band members can play, but Liam won’t let them steal the show.
America’s obsession with British culture ebbs and flows. It may be that it’s peaked twice in the past century: once in the ’60s when The Beatles ruled the world and once in the ’90s when Oasis did.
That’s my 157th-favorite album.