Rightly or wrongly, Oasis’ success pushed “rock” music forever into “retro” territory. Their music, while admirable in places, drew heavily on past glories of the 60s and 70s (Beatles, of course, but also Mott the Hoople, T. Rex, The Who, The Doors and others) and added a soupcon of punk attitude, and yet really offered nothing new at all. This backward looking rewrap of well-trodden music motifs pandered very close to “lowest common denominator” and, therefore, was hugely successful. They have their moments and I’m a fan, but they remain firmly stuck in the past, and similar bands since then have trodden the same roads ever since.
But there are exceptions.
Take two bands, Radiohead and Blur, contemporaries of Oasis and also lumped into that vague Britpop genre.
Radiohead released perhaps the best rock album of the 90s in The Bends, followed that with the mind-blowing OK Computer, which has so much depth that I’m still finding nuances even now, then knocked it out of the park with Kid A and Amnesiac … both as far spiritually and musically from the pure rock of The Bends as you can possibly get and both stunning pieces of work which may well be regarded as their best work ultimately.
And Blur, always an art rock band with an intriguing chief who is an intelligent writer in many genres – Albarn is not always as brilliant as he thinks he is, but his material with Blur, Gorillaz and his solo work is always worth a listen and frequently challenging.
Oasis? Wallpaper music for the masses. Fun but worthless. The “50 Shades of Grey” of popular music.
Stacy Doller responded:
I agree with the first paragraph. However fleeting his songwriting ability was, Noel Gallagher wrote some great music. Oasis arrived at the same as Paul Weller’s renaissance and there was a direct link to Ray Davies too.
It’s easy to look at things retrospectively, and I believe groups like Pulp and Blur were the real heroes of Britpop because it still stands up now, sounding contemporary and fresh. I didn’t like the swaggering and posturing that came with Oasis, but it’s hardly a new attitude in rock stars.
Radiohead have completely failed to live up to their earlier succees, or it could be argued that the early success afforded them the breathing space and budget to make the music that they currently are. The simple truth is that Oasis were of their time. They represented lad culture and were a bigger influence on youth culture that anything since punk. As people, I think they stink but you cannot deny their impact. There was a real sense of national pride during the 1990’s, certainly amongst the working class and Oasis were right at the front of that. The concerts they played at Loch Lomond were the biggest of the decade, and you cannot take that away from them.
It may have been ‘lowest common denominator’ music, but it regularly punched above it’s weight. Blur really were intelligent but for every ‘Universal’ there was a ‘Country House’ too. There isn’t a Radiohead fan alive that wouldn’t want them to perform Paranoid Android again or Fake Plastic Trees.
Ian Fairholm responded:
For all its weaknesses, ‘Country House’ may be a better song than anything in the Oasis back catalogue. Words are just words. You can’t argue why an opinion is so – there’s no scientific equation or evidence I can provide to argue my case. It moves you or it doesn’t. Writing about music is like dancing about architecture. For me, ‘Country House’ is light and frothy, clever, witty, and Damon can actually sing a tune. Oasis were always vile, laddish, retro and to misquote Damon, the model of charmless men. Bootleg Beatles with a dash of Slade, and mostly all mouth and trousers. Liam may be one of the least appealing singers in music history for me – his vocals grate. And I find nothing of appeal in Noel’s writing, musically or lyrically.