The Gallagher Brothers: Oasis and beyond
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Liam and Noel Gallagher are famed for their petulant bickering and self-indulgent egotism, and I should probably be a bit sheepish to admit I am fan of all the various iterations of bands and albums they have put together over the years—yet I find I can’t help but like their music very much! There’s no doubt that their obsession with the Beatles affects their music and is a draw for a Fab Four fan like me. Beyond that, however, they both have a real ear for simple catchy and rhythmic melodies and choruses that come across almost as natural as spoken word. These are layered over either sneering British rock with bold creative flourishes on the one hand or symphonic multi-layered British invasion ballads with rock swagger on the other.
For the longest time Noel Gallagher was the drive of the group’s writing and layered production while his brother Liam offered the perfect vocal flavor for both the edgy songs and ballads—alternately rocking and gritty or light and melodic. I didn’t really discover the group until “Wonderwall” by which time they had already become highly popular and their Morning Glory album had become the rage. In later years, the massive popularity of the band faded but I still found their albums to contain continued high quality work that pulled together many elements into great catchy songs–with songwriting eventually shared by many of the band members.
Definitely Maybe (1994) The group’s first album was very popular in England on its initial release though it would have to wait a few years for them to find a massive following in the US. It’s a bit rougher in style than some of their later production—showcasing energetic guitar and a youthful attitude that hearkens to some of the heyday of British rock.
(What’s the Story) Morning Glory? (1995) This is the album that really raised the popularity of the band in the US based on songs like “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova”. The group definitely tapped the resurgence of interest in the 60s and the Beatles in particular with the very British sound of this release. The album flows really well with a lot of catchy rock guitar and is often considered the band at their best.
Be Here Now (1997) Be Here Now is a bit grander in scale than their previous releases with much more strings and other elements as well as a bit more of pop-oriented flair. It was the last album of the group to really do hugely well on the charts. It has a great opening with the roar of a jet that breaks into a hard rock song that grabs you, but I especially like some of the later songs on the album that are softer and more playful such as “Magic Pie” and “All Around the World”.
Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (2000) Though the album still consists of their signature rock sound, you hear lots more elements of electronica throughout this album (including Mellotronic swoops a la “Strawberry Fields”). There are some decent tracks on the album at the beginning and towards the end, but much of the album falls flat; many songs seem rather lacking both in melody and energy. The fact that most of these are grouped in the middle ruins the flow of the album–and may be the reason that it was one of the first Oasis albums not to do well commercially.
Heathen Chemistry (2002) I’m not sure why people do not seem to like this album. I suppose it has less of the edgy guitar sound of the group’s early works, but the song tunes are solid and well-written and offer a lot of interesting and elaborate production. There’s also a bit more variety since the songwriting duties were shared among members of the band. Check out “Songbird” and “Hindu Times”.
Don’t Believe the Truth (2005) The album Don’t Believe the Truth again failed to recapture the enormous popularity that the group once had, but it did get a bit more critical respect. There are a number of solid songs that go back to the guitar-centered basics of the group’s sound. In addition to the more gritty electric, there is also a lot of jangling acoustic guitar. My favorites are the rhythmic “Part of the Queue” and the Beatlesque “A Bell Will Ring” that sounds like it could have been pulled right of the Revolver album.
Dig Out Your Soul (2008) After a turn of more acoustic-laden fair in their previous albums, Oasis bounded back with heavy guitar songs on Dig Out Your Soul that were the closest they’d sounded to their original release in years. The overall feel of this last regular album of the group is of a stomping beat, most notable in “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” or rolling drum loops such as on “Waiting for the Rapture”. A continued nod to the work of the Beatles appears throughout with everything from riffs out of “A Day in the Life” to a voice over taken from an interview with John Lennon himself.
The Masterplan (1997) At the height of the group’s popularity, they had so many songs that they had to release a whole album of just B-sides from their singles. It’s not the most interesting album to listen to but there are a few highlights that show that even the B-sides were not necessarily throwaway songs for the group.
Time Flies…1994-2009 (2010) As far as compilation albums go, this one has just the right amount–a double disc with enough songs to feel like all the important ones are there but not so many that it’s a burden to pull out and wade through. There are a couple of forgettable new releases but more importantly I feel like I am getting most of my favorites when I listen.