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Sunday, June 12, 2005
Thought they were washed up? Think again. Here's why ...
The dismissal of Oasis as nothing more than a Beatles copy band is the most lazy musical analysis ever foisted upon the public.
Through sheer repetition, it has been accepted as truth by people who couldn't name or even identify three Oasis songs.
But as the Gallagher brothers themselves might say: Don't believe the truth.
Let's make one thing clear: I'm the biggest Beatles guy ever. As wide as my tastes are, John, Paul, George and Ringo have been No. 1 on my depth chart from the time I was a humming infant.
And, for the record, I think Oasis is brilliant.
Not every Oasis song is a gem (not every Beatles song was, either). And not every utterance from the tart tongue of Noel Gallagher, or the marble mouth of Liam Gallagher, is worthy of inscription on a plaque in their hometown of Manchester, England.
But for my entertainment buck, the batting average of Oasis -- as singers, songwriters and occasionally outrageous personalities -- continues to be far higher than any of its contemporaries.
Respecting both the Beatles and Oasis, rather than pitting them against each other in a bizarre cross-generational rivalry, won't endear me to everyone, I suppose.
And a lot of folks won't like this, either, but here goes: While I recognize the quality of fellow British bands such as Radiohead and Coldplay, I find them to be, well, a little dour and dull.
Oasis songs, on the other hand, make me want to pick up my guitar and learn how to play them.
Noel Gallagher, the driving force behind Oasis, once said, "We've only got half a dozen good bands in England -- there's Oasis and there's five Oasis tribute bands."
Really, how can you not love a quote like that? But there are plenty who openly cheer for Oasis to fail as punishment for such audacity, whether you take Noel at his word or think he's just screwing around.
Oasis-bashing has become a rock-critic cliche. In response, fans of the group have developed a bunker mentality as they continue to buy tickets to concerts and sing along to almost every song.
Most reviews of the band's new CD, Don't Believe The Truth, have fallen between "not as bad as their worst" and "not as good as their best." That last charge is something Oasis always will have to live with, and it amounts to the price of past success.
Since Oasis burst to the front of the Brit-pop scene in the mid-1990s with two seminal albums -- the impudently catchy Definitely Maybe and the anthem-laden (What's The Story) Morning Glory? -- the Gallaghers constantly have been reminded how each subsequent effort has not measured up. Alanis Morissette, coincidentally, has gone through much the same thing in the past 10 years, post-Jagged Little Pill, and you probably can point to other examples as well.
Not every Oasis CD has been a gem. But how many artists who have been around as long as Oasis can claim to be clunker-free? To my ear, on average, Oasis still has more good songs per CD than the norm. Regardless, many critics continue to focus on the worst of Oasis rather than the best.
Oasis has taken far more abuse than has been warranted. Really, in this God-forsaken era of sampling-addicted rap artists and American Idol squealers topping the charts with the most formulaic drivel in the history of recorded sound, how did Oasis ever become the poster-boys for alleged musical thievery?
Not only is it not fair, it's not accurate.
Listen to Rock 'n' Roll Star, or The Hindu Times, or Lyla, the single from the new CD. The Beatles never sounded like that, folks. Listen to everything Oasis has to offer, rather than picking and choosing certain songs to prove some point about how derivative the band is.
Oasis has its own sound. I can pick it out a mile away.
Do some Oasis songs remind you of Beatles songs? Absolutely. But guess what? Oasis is a British group that plays hard-driving, melodic rock and roll. There are going to be similarities, to the Beatles, to the Who, to T-Rex, to countless others.
I had a good laugh last year when, for the first time in decades, I heard a Rolling Stones song from the mid-1960s called Child Of The Moon. It's the closest thing to an Oasis song that isn't actually an Oasis song I ever have heard, right down to Mick Jagger's vocal. All that's missing is updated instrumentation and Liam's voice, and it would fit snugly onto any Oasis CD.
The point is, just about everything sounds a little like something that came before, if you listen hard enough and have a musical library wide enough to recognize it. Heck, the Raveonettes, a critically acclaimed group from Denmark that played at Lee's Palace in Toronto last weekend, owe much of their sound to the Jesus and Mary Chain and almost all of their harmonies to the Everly Brothers. But no one seems to be up in arms about that.
So why does Oasis get picked on so much?
Part of it has to do with the magnitude of the band's profile. But Oasis also has paid for its perceived arrogance, which I find endearing and even humourous, but others do not.
I recall several years ago when Oasis was playing at Molson Park in Barrie. When Noel Gallagher emerged from backstage, he greeted the assembled throng with the words, "Show some respect for the best f---ing band on the planet!"
I thought it was great. To have the nerve to say that, especially in front of a Canadian crowd that primarily was on hand to see Neil Young, showed incredible rock-and-roll bravado. But as Oasis ducked a shower of plastic water bottles for the rest of the afternoon, I had to listen to the grumbling of those around me who thought Noel's words somehow were inappropriate.
Noel's proclamations through the years -- whether he's bragging unrepentently, or ripping himself, or ripping his bands' rivals, or ripping his brother -- have provided me with more chuckles than any stand-up comedian. He's full of bombast. Personally, I think his musical resume gives him the right to say just about anything he wants. But even if you don't agree, why can't everyone just lighten up? When did popular music become so serious?
That the United States largely has shunned Oasis because of the band's arrogance is the height of irony. It appears the U.S. appreciates "attitude" only when it's homegrown.
But Oasis is not exclusively about crazy quotes and battlin' brothers. It comes back to the music, and I am of the strong opinion that Oasis does not get the credit it deserves.
Oasis still takes me someplace.
A place where guitars still are loud.
A place where singers still sneer.
A place where songs still have tunes, not just beats.
Call it my own personal Oasis.
By BILL HARRIS -- Toronto Sun
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