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What I’m listening to this week: Oasis

July 10, 2009

Definitely Maybe – 1994

Oasis launched from out of nowhere in 1994, riding on a cocksure blend of brashness, arrogance, and a wall of guitars, to become one of the biggest rock and roll bands in England.  Definitely Maybe, their debut album, is much heralded in the UK for being a major part of the gladly received resurgence of classic British rock music in the vein of the Sex Pistols and The Stone Roses.  And in fact, Definitely Maybe is now a textbook example of British guitar rock; it’s a classic British album that is chock-full of lyrical references, lifted hooks, and sneering vocals by Liam Gallagher that will make you wish you had a torn up Union Jack safety-pinned to your jeans and cig hanging off your bottom lip.

It’s a well-documented fact that Oasis regularly copped melodies from other bands, even knowingly, and were heavily influenced by the Beatles (and at the height of their drug-addled ridiculousness, once claimed superiority over the band regularly labeled as the greatest of all time), but that doesn’t mean that Definitely Maybe isn’t a fine album.  It’s a loud, thrashing, swaggering album that doesn’t let up from start to finish, and the band does it to tremendous effect.  The other Gallagher brother, Noel – who would prove to be the slightly less boorish one as time goes one – writes some of his best pop songs on this first album, and the combination of songwriting, electric guitars, and hooks affirm that the band isn’t just brazen for the hell of it.

Definitely Maybe begins with the thrilling drive of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” and it basically defines the album from the outset.  Liam’s signature snarl is in full effect, it’s the definition of audacious, and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” probably is one of the best tracks lyrically as well, having more depth than many of the others.  The disintegrating breakdown at the end is very classic rock.  Along this same line is “Supersonic”, an irresistible anthem that is an ode to excess even while the lyrics make no sense whatsoever.  Thankfully, this matters little, thanks to the dynamically deadpan vocal delivery and the catchy guitar solo.  Continuing the theme even further is “Cigarettes and Alcohol” which takes at least some of its cue from American hard rock.

Likely the most recognizable song on Definitely Maybe, and the song most likely to be associated with Oasis period, is the poignant mega-hit “Live Forever”.  Thick with the influence of the Beatles, the song manages to be romantic in its ideal, and it’s also extremely well-written and relatable in an album full of sky-high ambition.  “Slide Away” is the other down-to-earth song on Definitely Maybe; it’s a passionate and plaintive love song that still certainly rocks because of the vocals and reckless music track.  It has emotion and a weightiness that make “Slide Away” possibly one of Oasis’ most underrated songs.

The one thing that can be said about Definitely Maybe is that when a band creates tracks like “Rock ‘n” Roll Star” and “Supersonic” on their debut album without a hint of irony, it certainly gives an indication that they’re dedicated to the lifestyle.  For several years after Definitely Maybe first became a sensation, the Gallaghers pretty much came to define rock and roll excess with brutal fighting, drugs, and regular appearances in the British tabloids.  In fact, Noel Gallagher very recently said that, “Doing drugs is the most beautiful thing about being in a rock band,” even years after becoming sober.

Whatever.  In addition to the tracks above, Definitely Maybe contains many other entertaining songs as well.  This album is worth having if only because bands rarely show this much determination and appetite for success on a debut.  And if they do, they also rarely ever pull it off this well.

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