Oasis’ seminal debut album is 25 years old. In fact, it’s actual birthday is on 30th August, since it was released on Tuesday 30th August 1994, yes you read that right, 1994.
I thought it would be a nice idea to review the album. Now, this was one of my favourite albums of the 90s, I was a massive Britpop fan, and this album undeniably changed British (if not world) music in the 90s. Back then, it was very cool to be British, it was also equally cool to have a bowl haircut, smoke B&H; and drink red wine, whilst listening to Burt Bacharach and watching ‘The Good, The Bad and the Ugly’ on television. Ok, I got carried away a bit there, but flying the Union flag for Britain was cool.
I don’t know how many times I’ve listened to this album over the past quarter of a century, but as a good indication of how much I loved it, I own it on cassette tape (I have no idea where this is), 12″ vinyl (still sealed), CD and now (being modern and all that) on digital download. I will try and remain impartial in this review and attempt to listen to this album with new ears…
Kicking off the album is the track Rock ‘n’ Roll Star. The guitar riff, (a sound which Oasis are now known for) is a beautiful sound and a great start to the album. Liam’s voice, which starts 22-bars into the song, sounds so young and clean (compared to him now). The melody is so up-lifting with this song, especially the lyrics “Tonight I’m a Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” kicking off everyone’s dream of being exactly that. This is without doubt, one of the best starts a debut album could ever have and is one of the many stand out tracks on the album, apart from the ending if I’m honest – the echoing “It’s just rock and roll” does go on a bit, but is that my age showing?
Shakermaker is the second track on the album. Lyrically this song has several nods to popular items in the 70’s, along with one to record shop owner Mr Sifter, where Noel used to buy his records from when he was growing up in Burnage, Manchester. The sound of the song is also is a reminder of musical elements from the past, remember the Coca-Cola advert, “I’d Like to Teach the World to Sing (In Perfect Harmony)”? This is a great song but seems slightly lost between the album start, Rock ‘n’ Roll Star and the anthemic ‘Live Forever’, but maybe that was the point?
Live Forever is the third track on the album. Listening to this song still sends chills down my body. This is, without doubt, one of the greatest love songs ever written. It doesn’t necessarily have to be about being ‘in love’ it could be about friendship – ‘we see things they’ll never see’. This song to me is about friends/family/lovers who are ‘gonna live forever’ and makes me think about people who are no longer here or I have lost touch with. If you only listen to one track from this album, make this be it. The guitar solo is one of Gallagher’s most recognisable and in my opinion, this is one of the best songs he’s ever penned.
Up In The Sky, this track starts with another repetitive guitar riff, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s a great track, with some questionable lyrics ‘How does it feel, when you’re inside me’ is this about drugs? Sex? Who knows… If you do listen deeper to some of the lyrics they aren’t Gallaghers greatest, but they’re still pretty cool. As an aside, if you get chance, listen to the b-side (How good were the b-sides?? That’s for another time) of ‘Up In The Sky (Acoustic)’ sung by Noel, it’s much better than the album version.
Columbia, another track with a great guitar riff opening. This song was one of the first demos the newly formed Oasis (after renaming themselves from The Rain) recorded. A great song which departs from Noels writing standard with a Johnny Marr style guitar riff constantly playing in the background. I know where it gets its title from, but for me it’s wrong, I don’t know why but I’ve always felt it should be called something else.
Supersonic. This was the first Oasis song I ever heard and I remember exactly when I heard it. I was stood in a friends room and he played me this track by this new Manchester band. I was blown away by it. In the length of time it took for this song to play out, I knew I wanted to be in a band. Liam’s voice is at its best on this song, better than any song or album that’s been since. If this song were alive it would be the cooler older brother to Rock ‘n’ Roll Star. Musically this song isn’t complex or complicated, but what it is is pure rock and roll for the 90s era. You can listen to this today and be taken back to a time when everything was different.
Bring It On Down – every time I hear this song, I love the studio noise at the beginning, the drum beat and feedback with the inevitable string swipe into the track. I haven’t got a clue what this song is about, all I know is it’s a great track. It’s also pretty rare for Liam to use any effects on his vocals on this album.
Cigarettes & Alcohol – this is the track which takes me back to being a teenager. This is the track which puts tingles down my arms. Such a classic sounding song, from the first time you hear it to the very latest time. The guitar riff is very much a rip off of T-Rex, but who cares? This song is pure rock and roll, even down to the lyrics “Is it worth the aggravation, to find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for?”. History puts Noel Gallagher as writing this on a building site when he was working in the site hut after breaking his leg. This song, without doubt, is one of Oasis’ finest. If you’ve ever seen them live, this is what gets the crowd going. Bottle of Becks and a B&H anyone?
Digsy’s Dinner – this is a fun track, (I think of this as the older brother to the bands later song The Girl In The Dirty Shirt) apparently the band make great lasagna. This pretty much sums up a lot of music in the 90s. Crazy lyrics, but a great melody and a swinging indie-Britpop rhythm.
Slide Away. This track is beautiful, that’s pretty much all I can say. Another love song with a Britpop vibe. In an odd way, this song seems to be about growing up and growing apart, but that doesn’t detract from the beauty of the song. The first time I heard this song, I was blown away. Such a great song. Great melodies and also great harmonies from Noel. This track is the second stand out track on the album for Liam’s vocal.
Married with Children. The simplicity of this song is amazing (this is also a very easy song to play on the guitar – which is also a reason why I think this album was so well received, as all of the songs are very simple for budding Noel Gallaghers to be able to play); an acoustic rhythm guitar, lead acoustic and Liams’ vocal. That’s it. Any more instruments and this song would have not been the same. Noel wrote the song about a girl he was living with at the time, who allegedly didn’t like his music. The perfect finish to this perfect album.
Ok, so I didn’t really do a great deal of listening to it with new ears, the album and the memories it stirred kind of took over. But that’s the best thing about this album, the more you hear it the better it gets. And for a debut album, I’d say it’s pretty impressive. I can’t think of a debut album since which has had the effect on me that Definitely Maybe did and still has to this day.
One final thing I will say is, they definitely don’t make them like they used to, and there’s no maybe about that.