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Champagne Supernova, or a Babycham Squib?
(What's The Story) Morning Glory? - Oasis
Member Name: cheffrey
(What's The Story) Morning Glory? - Oasis
Date: 12/10/11, updated on 12/10/11 (50 review reads)
Advantages: A bit of atmosphere here and there; a cultural yardstick
Disadvantages: Liam's voice, recycled sounds and songs, risk-free dirge-like bore-fest
I never had time for Oasis in the 90s when I was supposed to. Maybe it was because I was battered from all angles by them on the radio and the TV and schoolmates who thought they were the best thing since breathing. Now that they've gone away and I haven't heard them in about a decade, maybe I'll find something new.
Oasis had already caught the public eye with their fast-selling debut and tabloid antics, and it seemed as if their feuding with rivals Blur had spurred them on to go one better. 1995's 'What's the Story' is lauded as their finest hour, and it certainly contains a slew of hit singles.
'Hello' is a fairly logical song to start things off. It's pretty much a cover of Gary Glitter's 'Hello Hello' - it thumps along at a fair pace and is reminiscent of 70s glam rock such as Slade. So far, I'm quite surprised as it's pretty catchy without irritating too much.
Things nose-dive pretty quickly. 'Roll With It' starts with a jangly chord progression that is immensely annoying, and then 20 seconds in I remember the first main reason why I never liked Oasis in the first place. This may fly in the face of popular opinion, but:
Liam Gallagher cannot sing.
Everything about his delivery is just horrible. His voice is over-stretched, plosive, hissing and grates with a whining timbre that makes me want to stab the cones in my speakers just to distort it beyond all recognition. He has the attitude of a rock star, but doesn't have the chops to back it up. And while I've tried to keep the views I've formed of the Gallagher brothers' antics out of reviewing this, being thoroughly unlikeable doesn't really come into it. For instance, Axl Rose may come across as just as unpleasant, but at least he didn't need a wheelbarrow to carry a tune like these semi-evolved Mancunians.
Next up is Wonderwall, which sold by the bucketload as a single and will no doubt be familiar to most. But to my ears it just adds further weight to my previous statement - Liam is audibly off key throughout, and I'm beginning to wonder if he's actually tone deaf. Underneath it all is a pretty insipid dirge of a few strummed guitars and a quartet part that is pretty simplistic stuff.
'Don't Look Back In Anger' is better, mainly because it has Noel singing instead. OK, the intro is so similar to 'Imagine' that I had to do a double take. Playing them side-by-side, it is rather bare-faced, and it's not the first hint of plagiarism that creeps through.
'Hey Now' sounds like it's going to be OK, with a bit of a groove picking up, but then it's ruined by Liam's vocals. Again. I can't help but think that this album would sound much better as a Noel Gallagher solo record. Tellingly, the parts I find most enjoyable are the ones which are derided as fillers, namely the unnamed ones, also known as 'Swamp Song' 1 and 2, which bridge the tracks with some wailing harmonica work and watery sound effects.
'Some Might Say' echoes more 70s glam, sounding like T. Rex or Slade before slumping into a boring dirge without the hypnotic effect. 'Cast No Shadow' starts identically to 'Wonderwall', with the same few strummed chords and then the drum fill from 'Don't Look Back In Anger'. I'm getting a sense of deja vu here. 'She's Electric' jangles along, and is probably the strongest track here, as its lyrics are quite witty and tell the tale of a bad boy playing the field with the girls of his choice. And for once Liam manages to stay within his limited range and not take his voice beyond the edge of plasticity. Unfortunately, it doesn't last to 'Morning Glory' and whatever grit might be in there is wrecked by his horrid voice returning to the fore.
OK, no more ranting about Liam's voice. I promise.
'Champagne Supernova' drags on interminably. With little variation until the end, Noel dumps out a guitar lead that is beyond boring. I find it very hard to be impressed by his playing, having been lauded as a great guitar player. And while it's possible to make great pop songs without being a shredder, it does take more than a handful of chords and a minor pentatonic to come up with something that stands out. He hardly stamps his authoity on the instrument either. I've always thought that the mark of a truly great player is the extra factor that allows the listener to instantly identify the player; one can tell Tony Iommi's guitar work or Tori Amos' piano playing, for instance, from just a few bars. It's remarkable just how unremarkable the music behind it all is.
Oasis must have done something right to shift this album by the truckload. The cynic in me says that it's because it's an amalgam of familiar favourites, from The Beatles, Slade, T. Rex, Gary Glitter and the Stone Roses, all bundled together to be about everything and nothing at the same time. Perhaps that's its appeal - it is in fact so risk-free in its creation that it can find so many safe musical touchstones to identify with. It's also a horribly compressed album, cut so loud it was bound to stand out in packed bars and nightclubs against any other songs in the DJ's setlist. Oasis perhaps had more than anything else, a canny sense of timing. Providing the soundtrack to 'lad' culture that reared its head in the 90s, Oasis' empty-headed swagger matched it perfectly.
In all, I've come away from this disliking them even more. Reading the praise that's been dumped on this band for so long, I'm finding it hard to match what I hear with what I've read about them. Given that they were prone to avoiding modestywhen discussing their own work, this album and its predecessor pale into comparision with American rock releases of the same time. Stood next to 'Nevermind', Pearl Jam's 'Ten', Rage Against the Machine's debut or 'Vulgar Display of Power' by Pantera, they sound neither fresh nor exciting, nor smart nor intimidating.
Something must be said for music that provokes a reaction has much more to it than music that doesn't; however, in this case my reaction was to give the CD back to the charity shop. I'm probably going to have a virtual lynch mob of online Oasis fans coming after me for this review, but I found this album dull and, at times, painful.
Summary: An overhyped record that failed to impress me.