Thursday, March 08, 2012

Later Rather than Never: Oasis's Definitely Maybe (1994)

Finally got around to listening to this one 'whole', and it's a huge disappointment. I'd been lead to believe that this album was a lean, mean Rubber Soul-esque, pop gem, but that's simply not true. DM's basic sound is cramped and unconvincing apart from standouts Live Forever, Supersonic, and Cigarettes and Alcohol, and around half the songs are simply far too long for their number of musical and lyrical ideas. Individual songs and the album as whole just drag. The seeds of Be Here Now's hilariously awful time-wasting monstrosities are here in spades. And DM kind of churns away boringly, a little like AC/DC or the Ramones perhaps, only without ever really rocking. That your album is chuggy and riffy rather than melodic simply has to be a problem if almost all of your riffs are straight steals from Bolan, Slade, Bowie, etc.! The lack of ambition on DM astounds. It's as if the Gallghers deliberately set out to plod and bore at every turn outside of the three main tasty tracks.

I'd been led to believe that Definitely Maybe was (significantly) better than Oasis's follow-up (What's the Story) Morning Glory, but that's not how I see things. Instead WTSMG seems to me to be a definite improvement on DM (much more air and life in the songs, some subtlety in the rhythm section, better melodies, better singing, etc.). Arguably The Verve is all over WTSMG, and boy was it needed (at least in my view).

Further overall comparisons: DM is far less accomplished than the big alt-rock albums of its year (which I listened to at the time) such as Superunknown, The Downward Spiral, Dog Man Star, Live Through This, and Weezer. DM strikes me as about as good as Green Day's debut Dookie (1994) or, maybe, about as good overall as famously uneven records such as Underworld's Dubnobasswithmyheadman (1994) and Radiohead's debut Pablo Honey (1993). Blur's Parklife (1994) (which I didn't listen to at the time) is again markedly superior (and just feels much more musical than) Definitely Maybe does.

What then explains DM's exalted reputation? Here's my hypothesis: Oasis cribs freely from The Beatles throughout (albeit without quite building up to the sorts of well-worked songs Oasis would achieve on WTSMG, let alone scaling the heights of Beatles-inflected popcraft found on average XTC records). This does momentarily excite the average Anglo-phile pop- lovers ears, perhaps beyond reason. Putting that flirtatious approach to the UK pop audience together with the Gallaghers Bros' swagger and image seems to have acted like catnip for UK audiences and critics alike. Listened to with a clear head, however, DM is definitely average.

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