‘That’s what I love about music. One of the most banal scenes is suddenly invested with so much meaning.All these banalities – They’re suddenly turned into these…these beautiful, effervescent pearls.’
As soon as I heard those spectacularly delivered words in the film ‘Begin Again’, I knew that was how I’d start my blog, how I’d start my website…Wait, what the fuck am I actually writing here? For all the joy the Internet has brought the world – and it is an insurmountable amount - it has also brought an awful lot of ‘Bootyeater69’s. These keyboard warriors - fresh from their dingy bedrooms, surrounded by an overfilling bin of Kleenex – spout their opinions and thoughts, neither of which anyone else particularly wants to hear.
However here I am, writing to you now, and the hypocrisy is not lost on me. So, why am I doing this, again?
I enjoy talking about what I love, and I love writing about what I enjoy. The first record I ever heard was the seminal album Definitely Maybe – I was three at the time of its release – and Oasis remain a favourite of mine to this day.
There are many, many home videos out there of me performing as Liam Gallagher. I did a lot of these ‘gigs’. I’d force my Mum, Dad, brothers, grandparents, uncles and aunties into my living room, sit them down and start singing. One time in particular that sticks out has me decked out in denim, a straw hat perched on my head and Daffy Duck boots bringing it all together. I sing the chorus of ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll star and not much else. I put my hands behind my back, strut around the front room with a bottle of water, and blow my family away. No? You don’t believe me? Okay, that doesn’t happen. You can actually hear one of my brother’s say ‘do we have to watch this?’ about five seconds in, before my Mum tells him to be quiet. I reward my Mum for her loyalty when she plays the recorder in show number two.
So ‘Definitely Maybe’ feels like a natural place to start, then. I’m going to write about EP’s, LP’s and live music that makes my hair stand on end because that’s how music can make me feel, and that’s how music should make you feel. Liam’s snarl over Rock ‘N’ Roll Star still makes me want to take on the world, and the romanticism of Slide Away makes the thought of falling in love one of the best – but also scariest – things in the world. It’s a song that proves Oasis possessed more than just the sheer rock and roll brashness they were famed for, and there is actually a great tenderness to some of their work.
For anyone who has ever heard an interview with either Gallagher brother, ‘optimists’ isn’t a word they would usually be associated with, but with ‘Live Forever’ Noel has written – and Liam sung – a hopeful song that talks of youth forever chasing immortality, and it would become a defining song of the Britpop era.
A storm of psychedelic guitars greets the introduction to ‘Columbia’, where Liam sings lines such as ‘I can’t tell you the way I feel, because the way I feel is oh so new to me’, and it is arguably one of the most sincere lines Noel has ever written. While any other band of that time may have tried to articulate these feelings, Noel revels in the uncertainty that it all means. The sound of confusion has never been clearer.
But it’s hard to write anything new about Oasis. Definitely Maybe is acknowledged as great worldwide, and has been written about many times already. After their first two albums, however, there is a debate to be had on the quality of their work, and there was certainly criticism arising from the fact that they failed to take many risks when releasing new music. So, what could Oasis have done? What would a Rick Rubin produced Oasis record have sounded like? What if the Chemical Brothers had made a whole Oasis album, instead of just a series of remixes? What if James Murphy brought what he did on Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’ to Oasis’ Big Brother Recordings? I can’t help but wonder…
MANCHESTER, I LOVE YOU BUT YOU'RE BRINGING ME DOWN
LCD Soundsystem disbanded in 2011. In the years since, Murphy has worked with David Bowie, the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, designed his own sound system, written a Daniel Craig led Broadway production, and turned data collected from hundreds of different tennis matches into music. He recreated the various volleys, serves and backhands as effectively as possible using a selection of synthesizers, and over 400 hours of music came from it. James Murphy is a unique, versatile talent.
In 2013 he produced Arcade Fire’s ‘Reflektor’, too. It unmistakably had his mark on it - with a 75 minute running time caked in strange noises, reverb and distortion – and I couldn’t help but think even then what an Oasis – Murphy collaboration would sound like.
In particular, I think what could have been if he’d produced their fourth album - just as he did with Arcade Fire – with Oasis’ ‘Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’ acting as something of a transition record for the band. It was the first album to feature Andy Bell and Gem Archer as replacements for ‘Bonehead’ and ‘Guigsy’, and following the lukewarm critical reception of ‘Be Here Now’ it was a chance for them to really be brave, and come back swinging; Instead, we got ‘Little James’. It’s not a bad album – I don’t think any of theirs were – and there was certainly some experimentation on it with drum loops and backward guitars, but they just dipped their toes in the water. They needed to jump in.
James Murphy would have been the catalyst for that. Looking at his work with LCD and Arcade Fire, ‘Standing on the Shoulder of Giants’ could have been a very different record. The original album had some puzzling pacing, and a half finished feel about it. Just under halfway through the album we’re treated to ‘Little James’, ‘Where Did It All Go Wrong’ and ‘Sunday Morning Call’ and - my god – those are three incredibly dreary songs, and it’s easy to forget who and what you’re listening to. ‘Little James’ also sees the songwriting debut of the younger Gallagher brother Liam, and it’s about as accomplished as you’d expect; at one point he actually rhymes ‘plasticine’ with ‘tambourine’. Dylan, he ain’t.
‘Fuckin’ In The Bushes’, ‘Go Let It Out’ and Gas Panic!’ are the saving graces, and these are the types of songs I can imagine Murphy producing with Oasis. ‘Fuckin’ In The Bushes’ features a frantic drum loop with sound bites from the 1970 Isle Of Wight Festival featuring where vocals normally would, and the track gets your heart pumping like only Oasis could at the time. Produced by Mark Stent, ‘Gas Panic!’ and ‘Who Feels Love’ too dabble with some psychedelic melodies and riffs, but this still feels such a missed opportunity. Again, they dipped their toes in the water, but didn’t want to jump in.
With LCD Soundsystem’s self-titled debut, James Murphy crafted an album of pop, dance music, acid house and pulsating synth. In ‘Too Much Love’ he pines for his younger years, lamenting the fact he is no longer able to party like he used to. It’s like listening to a come down, and watching it unfold in front of your eyes. After the cocaine-fuelled excess of ‘Be Here Now’, I’m sure the Gallagher brothers could have related. ‘Tribulations’ and ‘Movement’ are two of the album’s loudest and brashest songs with thumping verses, guitar solos, synth and exploding choruses. ‘Movement’ has a dirty bass of a guitar solo, before ‘Never As Tired As When I’m Waking Up’ plays; it is an unsettling, creeping, psychedelic track and – My God – Murphy really would have been absolutely brilliant for Oasis.
Think about what he did with ‘Reflektor’. The title track was a magnificent, soaring opening to the album, taking what Murphy is known for with a groove-centric percussion and fusing it with an anthem of a chorus. He brought a ‘Billie Jean’ like bass on ‘We Exist’, and a reggae-rock beat to ‘Flashbulb Eyes’. ‘Joan of Arc’ is formed with a frantic, punk-like opening before morphing into a track of slow bass grooves, before some haunting electronica closes the track. ‘Porno’ is the penultimate track on the album, and is classic LCD Soundsystem Murphy. It has everything; synthezier, disco beats and a synthetic pulses, before ‘Afterlife’ closes the LP.
Now, I’m not telling you to imagine ‘Fuckin’ In The Bushes’ with the same make up as ‘Afterlife’, or ‘Sunday Morning Call’ as a groove focused record with a psychedelic riff, I’m just asking you to imagine what James Murphy COULD do with Oasis. Arcade Fire were a rock band just like Oasis, and Murphy turned them into something more than that. Regardless of people’s opinion on the quality of the ‘Reflektor’ LP, no one can doubt that there was progression from the band, and that they tried something new. Maybe it wouldn’t have worked, but they would have come back swinging, and they would have come back with something controversial that made people sit up, take note, and talk. That right there, was what got people interested in Oasis in the first place, and that’s exactly what would have gotten people interested in Oasis again.