in Retrospecticus

Retrospecticus: Oasis

I’m pretty excited to go pick up Oasis’ latest album tomorrow, so in honor of their latest release I figured it was time for retrospective of the Oasis discography, or as we like to call them here at Cat Fancy “Retrospecticus” let’s begin.

Definitely Maybe (1993)

Signed to Creation Records in 1993 this young quintet started the recording of their debut album with some initial difficulty. Working with producer Dave Bachelor, Oasis just couldn’t capture the heaviness of their live sound and soon enough fired Bachelor. Taking the tapes to Tim Abbott to salvage the already recorded tunes, Oasis still struggled to find their sound in the studio. Time passed eventually leading Oasis to re-record the tracks, this time working with producer Mark Coyle. So It was decided the best technique would be to record all the instruments simultaneously, then magic happend. From then on the tapes were sent off to be polished by engineer/producer Owen Morris, stripped of some extra guitar overdubs and eventually remolded. Finally becoming that hard hitting sound that the band was looking for all along.

It was some journey to get this album to perfection but in the end I’d say it was totally worth it. Combining Beatlesesque pop with huge guitars and heavy rhythms, Definitely Maybe would prove to be an instant classic and would pave the way for the blossoming “Brit Pop” genre of music. The dynamic of Liam’s English swagger, obviously inspired by Lennon and Noel’s talent for penning great tunes would become the perfect stepping stone for this band’s fresh new sound and a grand contribution to rock music.

There’s just too many great songs on this album to list and it’s definitely one of my favorite’s of the 90s, Oasis were fresh and in firing form on this balls to the walls British Rock infused record and were ready to take on the scene of the decade of the extreme.

Favorite Tracks: “Live Forever”, “Supersonic”, “Married With Children”

(What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (1995)

Now I already wrote a review for this album a while back on this blog so I’m gonna make this brief. “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” is pretty much the best album these guys have ever put together. With track after of top notch single material and heavy guitars this is a classic staple of 90s music. This was also when Oasis was probably at their peak popularity and an exciting time in music, if you haven’t heard this album than I highly recommend it.

Favorite Tracks: “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, “She’s Electric”, “Wonderwall”

Be Here Now (1997)

After the major success of their previous two albums, Oasis were now riding a huge wave of success. While the band was certainly big on the music scene, the Gallagher brothers had themselves become popular if not controversial celebrities within the media often caught publicly fighting, but of course that would never tear these two apart and soon enough they were ready to start work on their most ambitious album yet.

Heading into Abbey Road in October of 1996, after Noel had recently gone through a stage of writer’s block. Noel had a vision on making an ablum of epic proportions basically deciding to throw the whole kitchen sink into this one. There’s mellotrons, strings, sitar, psychedelic guitars and even slide guitar played by who else but Johnny Depp. The sound here truly is epic but unlike most of the critics who initially praised the album, I was never too big on this record.

Now the compositions here a fairly good, perhaps not Oasis’ most catchy or memorable tunes but the melodies and progressions are pleasant. The main problem here is every song is so god damn freaking long. With most songs well above 5 minutes this 71 minute album is just too tiring to enjoy on the same level as previous Oasis works. I mean most of the songs make their point in about 3 minutes but then just keep going and going. I just find it boring after awhile and I really think this could of been better if Oasis had simply cut back a little.

I’ve never really been sure about what Oasis personally though about this album, but on their 2006 greatest hits compilation “Stop the Clocks” there isn’t a single song from “Be Here Now”… Hmmm, very interesting…

Favorite Tracks: “D’You Know What I Mean?”, “Stand by Me”, “All Around the World”

The Masterplan (1998)

Although a B-sides I compilation I think “The Masterplan” is worth touching on. There’s some really swell numbers on here including; “Acquiesce”, “Talk Tonight”, “Half the World Away”, the moody ballad “The Masterplan”, and an excellent live cover of The Beatles “I Am the Walrus” I’m not sure why these songs didn’t make it on any albums, but I guess that’s the beauty of a compilation disc.

Favorite Tracks: “Acquiesce”, “Half the World Away”, “The Masterplan”

Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000)

In 1999 a Oasis faced a difficult transitional period, with the departure of founding bassist Paul McGuigan and rhythm guitarist Paul Arthurs. Noel, Liam, drummer Alan White and a collection of other studio musicians would make up the body of work for “Standing on the Shoulder of Giants” probably Oasis’ most experimental album to date.

With two key members leaving the group during the recording process, “Standing on the Shoulder of Giants” would not only require lead member Noel Gallagher to fill out the extra guitars and bass work but also push the band to try out some more experimental techniques including; drum loops, mellotron, electric sitar, flute and other unique tricks in the studio.

Looking at this album as a whole it’s neat to see Oasis try out such a psychedelic approach to their new songs but I can’t help but feel this album is somewhat of a bore in spots. I love all the bizarre sounds and textures, not to mention Mark Stent’s producing, but I think they should of set the bar a little higher regarding the quality of the songs. “Go Let it Out” is easily the best song on the album with it’s stadium sounding drums and single friendly melody followed by the Zeppelin inspired/partially instrumental “Fuckin’ in the Bushes”. As for the rest their just typical generic rock wrapped in a trippy package. There’s lots of moments where I find myself really into some of the little grooves here and there but also segments where I’m just tired.

Over time I’ve found this not to be a bad album necessarily but definitely not one of this band’s more impressive efforts. I understand that it was a strange period for the band and I appreciate their attempts to stay fresh, they just needed to work out a few more of the kinks.

Favorite Tracks: “Go Let it Out”, “Fuckin’ in the Bushes”, “Gas Panic!”

Heathen Chemistry (2002)

It was in 2000 that Oasis became whole again (Though this would be Alan White’s last album with the band). After a few setbacks on their last album Oasis recruited Andy Bell, formerly off the Brit Pop band Ride on bass and Gem Archer of Heavy Stereo on rhythm guitar (Both members already having played on the Oasis live album “Familiar to Millions”). Filling in a much needed void in Oasis’ lineup both Bell and Archer would not only bring talented musicianship but as well contribute many ideas to the sound and song writing of Oasis.

Recorded in 2001-2002, Heathen Chemistry was an attempt at getting “back-to-basics” with the strength of the songs being top priority over effects or fancy production. it was definitely a step in the right direction for this band and for the most part was received warmly by fans and critics. Heathen Chemistry was a nice change of pace from the more elaborate Oasis albums that had recently proceeded it and pretty strong regarding the quality of songs.

Liam has definitely improved as a songwriter penning his first Oasis single titled “Songbird” a simple yet sweet acoustic number that’s easily one of the best on the album. Noel’s found a good rockin’ niche here while still managing to whip up another brooding ballad with “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”. There’s some other nice highlights throughout and this album and overall it’s a pretty respectable entry into the Oasis catalog. Aside from the last track having a 20 something minute bonus track that I often skip, it’s good listening and reminds me of why I love these guys.

Favorite Tracks: “The Hindu Times”, “Songbird”, “Stop Crying Your Heart

Don’t Believe the Truth (2005)

Not long after Heathen Chemistry Oasis were already laying down demos and sessions for what would prove to be their most collaborative album yet. For not only would we see compositions from Noel but multiple songs penned by Liam, Andy and Gem rounded off by the fantastic Keith Moon inspired drumming of Zak Starkey.

Now though Oasis’ star status had waned over here in the states I think it’s safe to say that this album was Oasis in top form. I mean sure they were great in the past with former members Paul McGuigan and that bald guy Paul Arthurs but it’s not like thise guys ever made that much of an impression on most listeners. The addition of Andy and Gem on the other hand really seemed to make the band a more collaborative group. Not only do Gem and Andy both play more than their respective instruments on this album but as well write some really great tunes. Archer’s a “A Bell Will Ring” and “Love Like a Bomb”, co-written with Liam are beautiful guitar infused alternative rock while Andy Bell has success with “Keep the Dream Alive” and especially with the opening track “Turn Up the Sun” which immediately grabs you with it’s dreamlike picking that heads right into pure rock heaviness. Liam’s song-writing, while perhaps a little more basic, has found a good middle ground. “Guess God Thinks I’m Abel” is an enlightening acoustic number and “The Meaning Soul” is your basic fist pumping rock number.

Everyone has a lot of great ideas on this album, but you can never count out Noel, who shows he’s still the master of the rock in this band. “Lyla” is your typical catchy Oasis single, “Mucky Fingers” is an energetic riff driven rocker, “Part of the Queue” is a more morose yet intriguing acoustic song, “The Importance of Being Idle” is a retro Kinks sounding tune and “Let There Be Love” is of course a beautiful sweeping ballad. Quite a collection of songs overall and a very satisfying record.

The reception for Don’t Believe the Truth was for the most part pretty positive even if there wasn’t a whole lot of strong promotion behind it. I think this album will always have a place in my heart as the Oasis album that made me a fan, it wasn’t long after that I attended one of their shows and here I am now giving you an Oasis retrospective, it’s funny how things work out.

Favorite Tracks: “Lyla”, “The Importance of Being Idle”, “Let There be Love”

Dig Out Your Soul (2008)
I’ve probably heard most of this album since it was added to Myspace, but I still wait to review it later this week. Based off what I have heard and from Oasis’ show at WaMu last August, it looks like yet another satisfying rock/pop record from the bad boys of Brit Pop. Zak Starkey’s drums sound Zeppelinesque and Oasis has really put together a heavy collection of powerful grooves and melodic pop. A lot of critics are calling it Oasis’ best album since “What’s the Story” so it’ll be very exciting to sit down and groove to the whole album in the comfort of my own home, can’t wait.