Today marks a quarter-century since the incomparable British rock group Oasis released their classic sophomore record, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” The album catapulted Noel and Liam Gallagher, the arrogant, misbehaving, and absurdly funny brothers who led Oasis, to the status of global icons.
This was due in large part to the success of “Wonderwall,” a song that was everywhere at the time and remains a touchstone of the era. “Wonderwall” is essentially shorthand for “the mid-’90s.”
The same could be said of Oasis. They are inescapably an artifact of that decade. Although they continued making music through 2008 and never dropped out of the public eye, “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” was the peak of their commercial success and cultural cachet. It’s a big reason they’re one of the best-selling groups ever.
From there, though, they crash-landed and never fully recovered, hampered by addiction, sibling rivalry, tabloid drama, and a constantly changing industry landscape. Their music just couldn’t keep up with the madness.
That’s the Oasis narrative in broad strokes. It doesn’t, however, mean their later records are entirely disposable, a fact I want to highlight with the following list of 10 Oasis songs you should like.
To paint the full picture, I chose one song from each of their albums (including the compilation release “The Masterplan”), supplemented by two B-sides. The list shows how the band evolved over the years but remained true to the striving, unashamed, rock ‘n’ roll spirit that defines their career.
‘Columbia’ (‘Definitely Maybe’)
The singles off “Definitely Maybe” still rule, and “Slide Away” is a bonafide classic, but nothing can top the noisy, swirling, guitar-rich glory of “Columbia.” Check out the B-side “Cloudburst” for a similar style.
‘Some Might Say’ (‘(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?’)
Come for the guitar tone, which is pure classic rock; stay for the well-crafted contrast between verse and chorus; and take a moment to enjoy the use of “shine,” one of those recurring Oasis words that Liam enunciates like no one before or since.
‘The Girl in the Dirty Shirt’ (‘Be Here Now’)
On a record that’s infamously indulgent and unfocused, it’s not surprising that one of the best songs, “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt,” gets by on small charms, like melody, harmonies, and humor.
‘Rockin’ Chair’ (‘The Masterplan’)
For a B-sides collection, “The Masterplan” is an absolute treasure trove. You can’t go wrong with “Acquiesce,” “Talk Tonight,” “Stay Young,” the title track, and more. But I want to shout out “Rockin’ Chair” because it shows Oasis in a much different mode than usual. It has the beautiful faded melancholy of a vintage Smiths song.
‘Go Let It Out’ (‘Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’)
By the year 2000, Oasis had run out of classic albums but not classic singles. “Go Let It Out,” the lead offering from “Standing on the Shoulder of Giants,” is a masterpiece of control, buildup, and textural variety. Everything comes together perfectly. It’s not far behind Oasis’ finest work.
For another winner from “Giants,” listen to “Gas Panic!”
‘Let’s All Make Believe’ (‘Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’ B-side)
“So let’s all make believe that we’re still friends and we like each other,” sings Liam on perhaps Oasis’ darkest and most haunting cut. The vocal is mesmerizing, the lyrics are hard-hitting, and yet somehow “Believe” was relegated to a B-side.
‘Born on a Different Cloud’ (‘Heathen Chemistry’)
Noel (allegedly) said it best: “I don’t believe Liam wrote this, because it’s f-ck-n’ great.” No disrespect to the younger Gallagher bro, whose strengths have always been as a vocalist, showman, and smack-talker, but the high quality of “Born on a Different Cloud” really does catch you by surprise. It’s a tense and psychedelic “John Lennon Appreciation Hour” that takes unexpected turns and is well-executed from start to finish.
‘Idler’s Dream’ (‘Heathen Chemistry’ B-side)
“Idler’s Dream” is another B-side that deserved better. It’s both gorgeous and distinct. Rarely do you hear Noel accompanied by only a piano and strings, and rarely do you hear him so vulnerable. The emotions just flow out of him, unconstrained by normal song structure. It’s a lovely performance.
‘The Importance of Being Idle’ (‘Don’t Believe the Truth’)
Here’s another top-shelf single but one that feels less like an Oasis creation than a solo effort by Noel. The bouncy, Kinks-inspired sound makes it an outlier in the band’s songbook. In either case, it’s loads of fun, packed with catchy hooks, cheeky lyrics, and playful falsetto vocals. Noel’s personality, which is second to none, really shines through.
‘Bag It Up’ (‘Dig Out Your Soul’)
On “Dig Out Your Soul,” Oasis decided to start rocking out again. In this sense, “Bag It Up,” the superb opening track, plays like a mission statement. It’s nothing but a grooving, guns-blazing, rock ‘n’ roll banger. Oasis wouldn’t survive much longer, but for a brief spell, they sounded re-energized and ready to throw down again.