Monday, December 1, 2008
So when did it become uncool to like Oasis?
I remember in, like, '94 or '95, when "Definitely Maybe" came out, it was so goddamn cool to be an Oasis fan. Ed Ackerson from Polara, who was and still is the coolest guy I know, hipped me to them early on -- I remember him telling me they were like the Stone Roses only more rock, "and what the hell is wrong with rock?" he asked. When my old band Lunar 9 got accused of "aping Oasis" -- which we never did, it's the same reason Oasis get accused of aping the Beatles, its so easy to pigeonhole melodic rock music with whatever's the handiest and easiest correlate -- it didn't really seem like an insult. In fact, I took it as quite flattering -- it meant my songs were, y'know, memorable if perhaps a bit easy at times (true!) and that we had pudding bowl haircuts.
Then, at some point, the tide fucking TURNED, and boy did it turn hard. I suppose Oasis didn't help matters by making "Be Here Now" which is the very definition of rock n' roll coke bloat (but, then, do we fault Fleetwood Mac for making Tusk? The Stone Roses for making Second Coming? The Stones for making Goat's Head Soup? No, we do not, or should not). They followed it up with "Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants" which got more attention for the title typo than the music within, and "Heathen Chemistry" which didn't get any attention at all for anything. At that point, saying you liked Oasis was just about like saying you liked Matchbox 20 -- it meant you sucked. It wasn't even cool anymore to say you liked the first two albums, which I think we can (or should!) all agree were fucking great albums, top to bottom. It wasn't even cool to have pudding bowl haircuts anymore.
Meanwhile, though, it was really quite okay to still like the Dandy Warhols (for a while) or Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or the Brian Jonestown Massacre or any number of other fuzzy/melodic bands with interesting hair. In fact, it was actively encouraged. If you were in a band, and you had Oasis influence you buried it deep under a layer of dark black fuzztone and sang in a really LOW REGISTER (see: my heavy metal post) and that pretty much covered it up like a thick layer of pancake over a zit.
And like, for a time, I was Oasis Fan #1. And I'm not usually prey to Public Opinion about SHIT -- hell, I'm the guy who'll stand up and say he likes JOURNEY, full stop. I'm not afraid to express an unpopular opinion if, in fact, I believe strongly in it, and I'll defend it eloquently. And yet, even I fell prey to the anti-Oasis sentiment. When someone likened my new batch of songs, which are far more fuzzy and rawk, to Oasis, I remember being a little stung. Hell, I'd been trying to do the Dandy Warhols or the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club or the Brian Jonestown Massacre, why the hell do they think it sounds like Oasis?
Then it struck me, and I'm about to express an unpopular opinion: Oasis are basically those bands, only they write better songs. It's true. Honest to god. The difference between a Darker My Love or a Morning After Girls and Oasis are really quite minimal. I bet they have the same batch of influences -- the Beatles. The Stooges. The Small Faces. Psych-rock in general. The Stone Roses. Ride. My Bloody Valentine. The Velvet Underground. They probably dress the same (only the American bands have beards, now) and they probably think the same and maybe they do slightly different drugs (coke vs. heroin, or coke vs. heroin, coke, whiskey, more coke, and some pot) but they're basically the same type of bands. And its not like the Cool Bands write better lyrics -- shit, the lyrics on the Dandy Warhol's best record fucking quote "Charlotte Anne" by Julian Cope, and I'm hard pressed to understand the sentiment behind Darker My Love's excellent but really-equally-lyrically-vacant-to-Oasis "Two Ways Out," as much as I adore it. They aren't even more consistent -- was there even half a good album in the Brian Jonestown Massacre's latest, "My Bloody Underground?"
The crime Oasis seem to have committed, then, is simply that they write songs with memorable hooks. They're those bands, only with Memorable Hooks.
For some reason, this has Fallen Out Of Favor with the hipster contingent. It is now far more cool to write long droney songs with maybe one or two notes involved in the melody. Unfortunately, this does not result in More Better Songs. It might bring more to mind the Velvet Underground and the long bits of "Sister Ray," but what it alas means is that you can go to shows by lots of these bands and go home without remembering a single song. This is not good, people. This is bad. The Velvet Underground, I'd like to remind you, also wrote "Sweet Jane" and "Who Loves The Sun" and "What Goes On" which are nothing if not big gigantic hooks.
Meanwhile, the new Oasis record is receiving the predictable "best album since..." type of reviews, and their star is rising ever so slightly as a result. Most American critics fall back on the usual "they suck 'cause they ape the Beatles" trope -- which has never really been true except in the occasional ballad, if anything the group started out aping T. Rex and moved onto louder things -- and treat the band as a kind of hysterical British joke, like the rock equivalent of a Roger Moore Bond film or something. They somehow failed to notice that "Don't Believe The Truth," their album previous to this one, was also mostly great, or that "Mucky Fingers" on that one was a more believable and likeable Velvets rip to ANYTHING on the latest Brian Jonestown, or that "Lyla" was the great comeback single that never was. Never mind, though, "Dig Out Your Soul" is as good as some of the critics who listened to it are saying it is -- you'd have to be braindead not to feel a thrill from "Shock of the LIghtning" or to feel the awesome psych-groove in "Falling Down." And c'mon -- if "I'm Outta Time" isn't Liam's prettiest, best singing ever, I'm a Monkey (Man)'s Unkle, okay? There's great songwriting all over the thing, and great playing, and great production, and its subtle and psych and kool and dark and all other manner of adjectives and its time you took another look and maybe realized its cool and maybe they always were rather cool, okay?
I realize, though, that at the end of the day it is still basically pop music, and if you have a problem with pop music IN GENERAL, like songs with hooks that are 3:30 and get played on the radio, you're not gonna get turned on to Oasis. No matter, though, next time someone says my songs sound like Oasis I'm gonna be more than okay with that, thank you very much. I've come to terms with it all.