Saturday, April 18, 2009

April 18: Oasis, "Definitely Maybe"

Artist: Oasis
Album: Definitely Maybe
Year: 1994
Label: Epic

The United Kingdom has a storied musical history, featuring many of the most successful rock bands ever. From the "British Invasion" to The Clash to Radiohead, they are often second to none in originality and rock prowess. Though once a certain sound or style has taken off, there is usually a dull period full of imitators, occasionally a band will emerge with a refreshingly new sound. On even more rare occasions, a band will surface that takes the "old" style, and makes it even better. Magically encapsulating nearly everything great about British rock over thirty years, Oasis shot to international super-stardom with their stellar 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe.

Definitely Maybe is simply amazing, featuring eleven perfectly crafted rock/pop songs. Each song is so strong, that in many ways, the record feels like a "greatest hits" album. With beautiful harmonies and catchy, rock music, as much it may be a bit over-reaching, and perhaps border on blasphemy, there are many moments on Definitely Maybe, when Oasis sound surprisingly like an updated sounding Beatles. In fact, upon the release of the albums' third single, "Live Forever," there was buzz across the globe that the song was actually from late-era, "lost" Beatles tape. Obviously, this was false, but the fact remained that the song, and album, were nothing short of stellar. On the power of the single, Definitely Maybe sold more than 100,000 copies in the first two days of its release, helping it to become the fastest selling debut record on both sides of the Atlantic. Three of the four singles off the record broke the "Top 20," and the band decided to forgo a fifth single only because, as Oasis' primary songwriter, Noel Gallagher, put it, ""You can't have five singles off a debut album."

The music throughout Definitely Maybe is as close to rock-pop perfection as has ever been recorded. Bringing an adequate amount of "punk" attitude, the music is as accessible as any pop song, yet the attitude gives it a certain edginess. Careful not to be too aggressive, the songs fit perfectly with nearly every radio format, and garnered a wide audience upon the release of both the singles, as well as the album itself. From amazingly poppy numbers like "Digsy's Diner" and "Shakermaker," to the all-out rock assault of "Bring It On Down," to the charming acoustic sounds of "Married With Children," Oasis executes each song on Definitely Maybe with absolute perfection. Writing all of the music and lyrics for the album, the lead guitar work of Noel is complimented perfectly by the steady, of rhythm guitarist Paul Arthurs. The rhythm section of bassist Paul McGuigan and drummer Tony McCarroll rounds out Oasis' "classic" band style and sound. McCarroll's drumming is superb, and his tremendous talents are highlighted on Definitely Maybe's first single, "Supersonic." Each member of the band knows and plays his role perfectly, and the combined sound truly embodies what it is to write a flawless rock-pop song.

Setting aside the exemplary music, perhaps the most important aspect of the sound of Oasis is the varied vocal style of the always confrontational, Liam Gallagher. Perhaps now best known for his turbulent behavior and generally abusive attitude, the fact is, Liam remains one of the finest singers to emerge in the past two decades. It is clear that Liam understands how each song is best presented, and nearly always providing his own backing vocals, Definitely Maybe presents the "coming out" party for one of the greatest and most pompous singers in history. Whether belting out gorgeous harmonies or singing with a wonderfully sarcastic snarl, Liam shines brilliantly throughout Definitely Maybe. After hearing the initial mixes of the record, Liam demanded that a majority of the vocal over-dubs and "cleanliness" of the vocals be tossed. The results of the change are another aspect that set the vocal sound of Liam apart from a majority of his peers. The final vocal mix on Definitely Maybe are quite far to the front of the mix, and the raw, slightly gritty sound help to catapult the record from "good" to "classic."

Over the past fifteen years, Oasis have rarely been far from the public eye, due to their great rock records, as well as their notorious public antics. From legendary public meltdowns and band breakups to fights over royalties and rights, Oasis is a band that won't be ignored. However, even with all the drama, the fact remains that, at the core of it all, is one of the best rock bands of the past twenty years. Pulling influences from everyone from The Smiths to The Who to The Stone Roses, Oasis is clearly a band that loves their influences, as well as their own music. The peerless combination of the Gallagher brothers' writing and singing is the key behind the amazing music that the band has produced throughout their career. Though they've made many solid records since, there is little doubt that their finest record, and easily one of the best records in history, was their monumental 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe.

Standout tracks: "Rock N' Roll Star," "Live Forever," and "Supersonic."

1 comment:

Jan Everton said...

This has got to be my most favorite Oasis album. "Slide Away" is my ultimate favorite song.