Monday, December 11, 2006

Mindless Boogie

Oasis (Lad-Rock)
LP: Stop the Clocks (2006)

Exploding onto the mid-90s scene as heirs to a formidable legacy of Manchester rock legends - The Hollies, Buzzcocks, The Fall, Joy Division, Magazine, The Smiths, The Stone Roses - Oasis received an hysterical welcome from the scally army as they swept away the tedious ennui of grunge.

Calling card of New Laddism, their first LP Definitely Maybe (the hedge in the title exhibiting classic Oasisian befuddled vagueness) was the UK's fastest selling debut ever. Majordomo Noel Gallagher, churning out chart-toppers apparently at will, proved to be a one-man hit factory. Nothing, it seemed, could stop them.

Yet, as the 'best of' compilation Stop the Clocks demonstrates, Oasis rapidly became formulaic and boring, trapped inside an exhausted rock ‘n’ roll fantasy with no means of escape. Early numbers like Rock ‘n’ Roll pack an adrenaline rush, but the Oasis catalog lacks musical depth, a particularly depressing fact in light of their status as a global phenomenon.

Confused stoner lad anthems par excellence, Oasis songs invite you to slip inside your mind to see what you’ll find, only to discover...ulp!...there’s nothing there. Wonderwall, an Oasis 'classic' and one of the most embarrassingly meaningless songs ever recorded by a major band, drones on: “There are many things I would like to say to you, but I don’t know how”.

And the literary nuggets keep on coming: I Hope, I Think, I Know (Lyric: “I feel a little doubt today/And I ain’t got much to say”). Noel never met a rhyming couplet he didn’t like, nor ran out of exciting phrases to describe his mental vacuity.

If Oasis’ music displays a recurring emotional numbness (a common trait among habitual coke users), the band bring their legendary arrogance and self-aggrandizement into play as a psychologically defensive publicity ploy.

Snarling and scrapping and boasting their way through interviews and airport lounges, exemplars of the loutishness which pervades British culture, the Gallaghers are generally too into themselves to be uplifting or profound. They give spoiled layabout rockers a bad name, and make stardom about as glamorous as laying bricks.

Despite their avowed reverence for The Beatles, Oasis rarely exhibit the depth, humor or ironic self-deprecation of their idols. The sonic explorations of a Radiohead, the transcendent emotiveness of a Jeff Buckley or Polly Harvey seem beyond them. Standing on the shoulders of giants, shackled by oafishness, the Gallaghers rarely connect with the deeper possibilities of their muse.

If there's a saving grace, it's that Oasis are expert purveyors of no nonsense mindless boogie, and I admit a grudging partiality to the confident strut of their best songs. Some Might Say, Don't Look Back in Anger, Live Forever still sound great on the pub jukebox, and Talk Tonight even displays a rare sensitivity.

Indeed, the better parts of Stop the Clocks suggest there could yet be a way forward for Noel Gallagher, if he were only to lower his guard and expose the vulnerability inside his Mancunian heart.


Susan Stoute said...

Amen to that!! Oasis are the most boring group ever!!

Conchito Marrakon said...

All the artists you mentioned in your intro are a millions times more interesting than Oasis. I don't think Oasis wanna be deep, and maybe even try hard to seem thicker than they are.

Dr. John said...

Ha-ha, you nailed 'em, man! I gotta agree with most of what you wrote here. I wonder how many people play their Oasis cds these days? Not me. You even coined a new term: "Oasesian"! Like it!