Wednesday, February 20, 2008

No. 376: (What's the Story) Morning Glory?

Band: Oasis
Album: (What's the Story) Morning Glory?
Why Rolling Stone gets it right: Oasis' wannabe Beatles record falls short of that line, but remains a classic. It has love songs, awesome post-modernism ("Some Might Say"), piano ballads and soaring pseudo-space rock, all done well in the best English fashion since the Kinks.
Why Rolling Stone gets it wrong: Ultimately, this album doesn't really do anything save for cop classic rock.
Best song: "Wonderwall" is one of my favorite songs.
Worst song: "Roll With It" isn't great.
Is it awesome?: Yes.

I don't remember where I read this, but I remember reading a defense of Jamie Moyer several years ago. It went something to this effect:

"Everyone likes to talk about what Jamie Moyer can't do. He doesn't strike a ton of people out and he can't break paper with his fastball. We should focus on what he can do. He gets people out at a very good clip. Just because he's not Walter Johnson doesn't mean he's not an effective pitcher."

(A paraphrase, certainly)

I don't think it's a stretch to say the same about Oasis. Certainly, Oasis' problems are self-inflicted (their pompous pronoucements about being heir to the Beatles' throne were and are ludicrous). But, buying into a Beatles comparison to any band is stupid, especially for a band 30 years after the Beatles.

But, here's the thing: Let's not focus on what Oasis isn't. Yes, they're not the Beatles, but no one is. However, Oasis is a band that put out two great records. Yes, they're heavily influenced by the fab four, but that's something to be celebrated. Trying to write hooks in the same vein as the Beatles is fine. Comparing yourself to them is not.

(For what it's worth, a lot of things suffer from this problem of comparative analysis. Futurama is a great TV show, but because people compare it to The Simpsons, it will never measure up.)


The album came along in the post-grunge/pre-nu metal void of the mid-1990s. "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" doesn't reinvent the wheel, it's just a straight rock and roll record with nods to those who came before. The opening track takes cues from both Cheap Trick (the theme and lyrics) and "Dark Side of the Moon" (the overture-style sonic montage of the album). The hit single references a little-known George Harrison solo record and the album closer had a video in which Liam Gallagher dressed like John Lennon. "Some Might Say" copped rhytymns from T. Rex and "Cast No Shadow" has tinges of Elton John. The band certainly was able to show off its chops. The title track featured Noel Gallagher's searing guitar and "Don't Look Back in Anger" showed off his vocal ability and piano skills.


I come to "(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" (specifically, one song) with a ton of baggage, though. The album was released during my first sememster of high school and "Wonderwall" was one of the anthems of my freshman year of high school. The beginning of my second semester in high school was the one in which I started dating my first real girlfriend and "Wonderwall" was our song. Juvenile? Probably, but that doesn't make it not so.

"Wonderwall" is a fantastic song on par with few other songs of that period. While not written as a love song -- Gallagher said it was actually written more as a friends concept -- the song's meaning has turned it into one of the great love songs of the decade.

Oddly enough, despite being a favorite of mine, the original version isn't even the best. That accolade belongs here:


"(What's the Story) Morning Glory?" is Oasis' best work and one of the great records of the decade. It would be, in the words of Steve Albini, probably ultimately forgettable were it not so very great. It's not Radiohead and it's not any of the truly influential records of the time. Still, it remains great.


Bradford said...

Ross you need to check out the movie George Harrison's album soundtracked (?), Wonderwall. All the lyrics of the song are basically word for word the plot of the movie. I agree though, a nostalgic ,if not beautiful, song often done better by other artists (the Ryan Adams cover comes to mind).

kellydwyer said...

No mention of the Blur rivalry?

I think I was the only 15-year old in the summer of 1995 that was checking the usenet to see if "Country House" beat out "Roll With It."

God what a fun time that was. Then the Verve broke up (for the first time), Oasis took off, and things sort of fell apart.

Roger said...

Futurama looks better and better as The Simpsons drags on.

I couldn't stand Oasis when I was in high school. Too many kids loved them too much, and they were on MuchMusic all the damn time. I still can't judge them fairly.