Classic Rock Review

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Oasis Definitely Maybe (1994)


Review Summary: Founded by the legendarily smug Gallagher brothers, Oasis was one of the key bands at the epicenter of the Britpop craze that swept over Europe in the early 90’s. Definitely Maybe was their debut album, and remains a fan favorite despite its arrogance.

“Rock and Roll Star,” shows us just how arrogant and flamboyantly brilliant the Gallagher brothers really are. The guitars are loud, the drums are ferocious, and the egos are enormous. Noel Gallagher, doing his best rendition of a Sid Vicious-Paul McCartney hybrid voice, is already screeching out lyrics about how he is a star before anyone outside of a Manchester pub even heard of the band. The song is a loud, gaudy, obnoxious tribute to excess and underachievement, and, yet, Noel Gallagher still manages to sneak in some lyrics touting his unrecognized genius and how he is destined for greater things.

And, yet, they’re only getting warmed up.

Liam takes up vocal duties in “Shakermaker”. Hearing Liam churning out drug-addled lyrics in a rough Manchester accent is strangely endearing even though it sounds like he’s reading a nursery rhyme on acid. The song itself is a sweet little drunken lullaby backed up by a steadily swaying guitar and bass riff that makes it meant to be sung as a drinking song.

The album gets serious with “Live Forever.” European fans cite this song as one of the greatest rock songs ever written, and it’s easy to understand why. Noel’s talent as a songwriter shines through here. He manages to write lyrics about alienation, love, youth, and disillusionment that actually come off as honest. The chorus is the best: “Maybe you’re the same as me/We see things they’ll never see/You and I are gonna live forever.” It’s a chorus that became an unofficial manifesto of the Britpop movement, a movement that ran contrary to the negative attitude of the Grunge phenomenon that was sweeping America at the time. Ultimately, it’s why Britpop never made a huge dent in the U.S. market.

“Columbia” borrows a lot from the shoegaze sound of the time. Noel most likely took some inspiration from Ride since the sound in “Columbia” is strikingly akin to the soupy, heavily layered sound of Oasis’ British contemporaries. “Supersonic” makes a nice follow-up and comes off as a stripped down version of its predecessor. By now, Noel has shed all seriousness and his lyrics reflect a how little words really matter to him as long as there was a good rhythm guitar to carry them. The whole thing could really be written off as a coke fantasy considering some of the absurd drug references involved: “I know a girl called Elsa/She’s into alka-seltzer/She sniffs it through a cane on a supersonic plane…” Ugggh…

“Bring it on Down” is the album’s hidden gem, a guitar throwdown that every pub crawler and soccer hooligan should be proud to call “their song”. The whole thing is basically a raucous shout-out to the thrill of the Manchester nightlife, but that’s all it has to be. “Cigarettes and Alcohol” is the underachiever’s anthem and a champion’s the blue collar life of the young and unemployed, a drinking song for the ages. It’s safe to assume that this is the only song on the album Noel wrote based off of real life experience.

When the album is finally over, it feels like the end of a story. Looking back, the tracks could be connected to form a tale of a stereotypical rock star who lived fast and ended up back in the real world with responsibilities like everyone else. His days of partying and boozing are now long behind him. I don’t think that Noel intended for this to be, but it’s interesting to think he made an unintentional concept album. It’s a thought made all the sweeter when one listens to the chorus of the final track, “Married With Children,” and imagines the supposed hero as a tired family man going through all the pains of married life: “Your music’s ***e/It keeps me up all night, up all night”

The only real pitfall this album falls into is a lack of any real content. Noel seems perfectly content to hack up old riffs from bands like the Buzzcocks and pass them off as original, most of his lyrics sound like a collection of drunk nursery rhymes. After the album was released, the band was even sued by Coca Cola for ripping off their theme “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing” for the song “Shakermaker.” In later interviews, Noel admitted to writing the lyrics for some songs in the car on the way to the studio before recording. But, you could easily turn that sort of behavior on its head and compare Noel to a dj chopping up beats to make something fresh.

Definitely Maybe is a beautiful mess.

March 31, 2013 - Posted by | Oasis Definitely Maybe |

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