Classic Rock Review

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Oasis Familiar To Millions (2001)


Probably one of the most notorious “love ‘em/hate ‘em” bands of the past ten years, Oasis tended to either inspire or enrage as they gradually took control of the popular music scene in the mid-1990s. Often pegged as a mere Beatles knock-off, I personally have always appreciated much of their work. 1994’s Definitely Maybe and 1995’s What’s the Story (Morning Glory)? were chockfull of refreshingly rich and tuneful guitar-drive melodies, inherently uplifting lyrics, and an irrepressible vocal snarl, all of which was frequently overshadowed by the band’s off-stage antics.

However, 1997’s Be Here Now, a monumental mess of over-production, and 2000’s Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, a primarily limp attempt at a comeback, failed to live up to lofty expectations and match their predecessors. Consequently, the band’s global popularity has tumbled dramatically, which makes the release of Familiar to Millions quite perplexing.

This double live album, 18 songs total, 17 of which were recorded July 21, 2000 at England’s Wembley Stadium (“Helter Skelter,” the final track, was culled from an April 16, 2000 show in Milwaukee), is representative of the band’s much-hyped 2000 world tour. Unfortunately, it seems that Oasis really should have released a live album four years ago when the band’s skill and notoriety were at a pinnacle. At the same time, Familiar to Millions hardly functions as a greatest hits collection, considering that five songs are collected from Standing on the Shoulders… and two others are dull and messy covers. So, why put out this album now? The answer is basically because Oasis can.

They really do not care about their current status in the music industry, and it goes along perfectly with the unabashed, arrogant confidence that the band has always assumed, which also ultimately led to the sharp divide between love and hate for them. This album is not called “Live at Wembley” for a reason: it boasts itself as being “Familiar to Millions.” However, familiarity does not translate into quality.

The biggest problem with this live recording is lead singer Liam Gallagher. Though his voice leaps off earlier records with an unavoidable edge of enthusiasm and power, here his voice sounds hoarse and lifeless; Liam is apparently remarkably disinterested in having 70,000 people chant his name. This lack of vigor is a sharp contrast to the musicianship and production, which is mostly tight, sharp, and energetic.

As a result of this disparity, the vast majority of the songs come off flat, with Liam listlessly dragging a fairly excited band through an array of hits like “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova,” and “Live Forever,” all of which are both intriguing and moving in their original studio versions; the musicianship essentially fails to overcome Liam’s boredom throughout much of Familiar to Millions.

Nonetheless, there are select moments when everything seems to come together, and nostalgia for 1995 blooms. Of course in a live context, these moments occur when Noel’s vibrant vocals take lead, as on “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” “Step Out,” and the chorus of “Acquiesce,” which especially captures the carefree, “live for the moment” attitude that once made Oasis so wonderful. Noel seems genuinely interested in sincerely and properly performing these songs, which are completely composed by him anyway. Liam cannot seem to manage the same.

As for the covers, one of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My {Into the Black)” and the other of The Beatles’s “Helter Skelter,” Noel cannot vocally save what amounts to some annoyingly uninspired arrangements; Oasis is clearly better at using the influence of The Beatles for their own creative means than outright playing one of their songs.

Great live albums should stand on their own as alternatives to studio recordings and examples of how a band can work effectively in two mediums. In the end, there is really no reason to listen to Familiar to Millions instead of Definitely Maybe or What’s the Story (Morning Glory)?. Though they once did have something interesting and vital to contribute, it certainly appears that now Oasis’s current work will not “live forever.”

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Familiar To Millions | | Leave a comment

Oasis Familiar To Millions (2001)


All live albums should be recorded in the UK, preferably Wembley Stadium. Okay, I know Wembley is being rebuilt right now, but anyone who has heard a lve recording from there knows what I mean, but it’s less the building than the fans that make UK live records so moving. They just love to sing along, and not just casually sing along, but sing coherently. It’s an awesome thing to hear. Oasis’ music is tailor-made for stadium sing-alongs…good, straightforward rock music with rave-up choruses, and on Familiar To Millions, the band delivers one great sing-along song after the other.

But this is Oasis remember, and an Oasis live show is also incomplete without the snide, pernickety, taunting banter from the two Gallagher brothers. This album was recorded right in the middle of a controversial time for the band, with Noel Gallagher threatening to leave the band (he did for a while), frustrated at his brother Liam’s idiotic antics. You can feel the uneasiness on Familiar To Millions, but instead of bringing the show down, it elevates it. There’s a bit of an edge to every song, a feeling as if the band will implode at any moment.

It’s not a perfect performance, and the recording quality is barely a step above a soundboard recording, but it’s a memorable one. You can practically see Liam growling into the microphone in that disinterested way of his, while Noel plays the part of Rock God off to the side, ignoring little brother, while the other three members (they do have names, right?) do a workmanlike job in the background. Their Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants album is given a token mention with three songs in the setlist, and when that’s over with, the fun, and yes, the singing along, begins.

The great songs all there: ‘Supersonic’, ‘Acquiesce’, ‘Roll With It’, ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’, ‘Live Forever’, ‘Champagne Supernova’…proof that Oasis have built themselves up an impressive catalogue. ‘Step Out’, known by Oasis fans as the one that was yanked off the Morning Glory album because it blatantly ripped off Stevie Wonder, is a nice surprise addition (complete with co-songwriting credit given to Wonder, finally), as is Neil Young’s ‘Hey Hey, My My’ (the audience indifference to the cover song is a bit amusing). An ordinary version of ‘Helter Skelter’ from their US tour is tacked on at the end, for no other reason than to fill up some cd space.

The absolute high points are during ‘Wonderwall’, and especially ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’, when the crowd takes over and sings as only the British can. It’s something to behold, something that sends shivers down your spine. However, my personal favourite moment from the show is right before ‘Live Forever’, which perfectly sums up the sloppy, uneasy, but memorable feel of the performance. Liam announces that it’s the last song they’ll perform, and right before the song starts, you hear Noel say incredulously, “Did he say it’s the last one?” Ah, brothers…

April 9, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Familiar To Millions | | Leave a comment