Tuesday, October 23, 2007

The first of many Oasis posts

At the behest of my brother in law, I am putting together a string of Oasis posts. This is the first one. It mostly concerns the album Be Here Now, as it was the first Oasis album for which I counted down to the release date, and actually purchased the album at midnight, August 26, 1997, at Tower Records.

Oasis is my all-time favorite band. No, they don't have the musical ability of Rush, or the variety of music & experimentation that Radiohead brings to the table. Oasis being my favorite band has as much to do with their attitude as it does the fact that I'm clinging to the 90's like a madman in advance of reaching a milestone age within two years.

Still, Liam's voice is probably the best rock n' roll voice out there right now, and Noel just has a knack for the right rhythm and melody at the right time. Noel's a true rock songwriter and Liam is your prototype of the rock god: snarling when drunk, cocky all the time, blissfully unaware that his best days are likely behind him. To hear pure classic rock by a young(er) generation, there really is no better, as Noel apparently stopped collecting records sometime in the 70's.

While Oasis have hogged the limelight in the UK non-stop since 1994, Oasis' attitude-filled act wore on American fans in the late 90's and the media abandoned them, after the success of Morning Glory and Definitely Maybe. While everyone - and I mean EVERYONE - was praising Be Here Now in advance of its August 1997 release (yes, even Rolling Stone, content to believe that their 4-star review of Be Here Now never happened because they won't publish the rest of it online despite my repeated, ignored requests), just as many people abandoned ship when they figured out that this was - GASP! - a cocaine album.

OK, it's a bit bloated, the songs aren't as good as on Morning Glory, Magic Pie never happened in the eyes of most Oasis fans, yada yada. For all its faults, the album captured, perfectly, a moment in time: the moment that Oasis didn't sidestep, but barrelled through Bono & the boys to become the best band in the world in 1996 & most of 1997. Unfortunately, that moment was short-lived.

It also captured the same essence of Morning Glory, highlighted by the fact that Noel himself admitted the album was nothing more than glorified pub rock outside Abbey Road studios in 1997: this was a bunch of regular guys making it big, who wore their 60's and 70's rock heroes right on their sleeves, proudly displayed for everyone to see. As with Morning Glory & Definitely Maybe, Be Here Now had b-sides that were better than some of the studio tracks (come on...Digsy's Diner and She's Electric are better than Acquiesce and Sad Song?) only this time, Oasis were on such a short leash and the stakes were so high, they couldn't afford anything less than a five-star effort. When they figured that out, they locked themselves into a studio and snorted cocaine for a few months, then released the results on a disc.

From 1994-1996, Oasis was making headlines in front of a shocked & awkward American public, who had just spent the better half of the early 90's heaping praise on groups like Pearl Jam and Nirvana (lest you think Oasis & their UK brethren is all I listen to, I absolutely love Soundgarden). Well, Noel made his feelings quite clear on "downer" music with this quote:

"Nothing bothers me more than when groups like Pearl Jam and Nirvana whine and moan and complain about life and being famous. Let me tell you, being famous is great! The feeling when someone asks you for an autograph, unbelievable! I just think Americans are tired of people telling them how crap their lives are. I think when people listen to our music, we tell them how good their lives could be. I guess I just can't understand the thoughts of Eddie Vedder or that whole bit... I mean, lad, if you hate your job so much, why don't you fuckin' go work at a car wash or McDonald's or something?"

Wow. A rock star who loved being a rock star. No one in the U.S. had been allowed to love being a rock star since....? Hm, maybe the hair bands of the 80's? The early Stones? At the very least, Oasis reminded of us of what makes rock stars tick, no matter how much Eddie Vedder tries to hide it.

Compounding the 7-million selling "failure" of Be Here Now, the ending of the 'alt-rock' scene of 1995-1998 didn't help Oasis...and this shift in the music scene was one of the strangest things I've ever witnessed in the music industry. Here it is, the year after I started college, a couple years after Oasis made it big, Garbage & the Pumpkins had toured together, Bush blew people away at the 1996 Music Awards...and suddenly people are listening to Limp Bizkit, as if the country had suddenly descended into the depths of white trash. The Smashing Pumpkins released a goth-industrial record that just didn't quite cut it because Billy Corgan forgot how to play guitar in 1998, and the Chemical Brothers just didn't do enough for people in terms of widespread commercial appeal. Oasis were done touring the world and were enjoying their riches and cocaine back in England, and the Verve (hopefully that'll be the comeback of 2008) fell off the map just as quickly as they had stolen some of that limelight away from Oasis. Suddenly the entire alt-rock scene fell apart. Everyone realized that Bush was pretty terrible, and the one-hit wonder bands like Primitive Radio Gods (hey, they did give us Standing Outside a Broken Phone Booth with Money in My Hand) were never to be heard from again.

Oasis formed a decent comeback album in 2005 - they were suddenly selling out the arenas in the US they should have been selling out all along, as Sony finally began promoting them in the States again. This couldn't have had anything to do with the fact that Oasis had just released their last album under Sony's label...could it? Oasis, like Radiohead, are a band without a record deal, so the next few months leading up to whatever they release should be interesting; and they have a reason to be pissed off based on the lack of promotion they received in the States from 1997-2004.

Thanks, I'm here all week. You can always just watch the VH1 Behind the Music special and get pretty much the same information though. Suckers.

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