When last we met we had left the good old boys of the Gallagher clan in the year 2000.
“Standing on the Shoulder of Giants” had served as the first new music of the new millennium from the biggest band on the planet for much of the nineties and, despite not being particularly well received by critics, it had sold well and cemented the notion that Oasis were going to carry on being the biggest band on the planet for a while longer.
Of course things didn’t quite work out that way but there were still gems to be found over the next decade…enough of them to put many other bands to shame.
Hung in a Bad Place, 2002 (Heathen Chemistry)
Mucky swamp rock with enough roll to get you to where you wanna go.
This has the feel of “Definitely Maybe” era Oasis…a wall of sound, a sneering vocal, pounding drums. A look backwards at the start of a new era. “Heathen Chemistry” was all about the singles really, and no wonder…”Heathen Chemistry”, “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”, “Little by Little/She is Love” and “Songbird” were all as good as anything they had released up to that point. That meant that the album itself was, compared to others, a bit heavier on the filler…but “Hung in a Bad Place” proves that even Oasis “filler” can be killer.
Idler’s Dream, 2002 (The Hindu Times, B-Side)
Noel Gallagher isn’t what anyone would call a lyrical genius.
That’s fair right?
He isn’t a Dylan (who is), a Patti Smith, a Weller (at his best moments), a Morrissey (at his best moments) or an Ian Curtis but in the simplicity of his lyrics, in his mastery of melody, in the purity of what he is trying to say and convey he is capable of moments of heartbreaking beauty and intensity.
“Idler’s Dream” is exactly that.
A delicate, heartfelt, yearning, song of love and devotion.
You’ve Got the Heart of a Star, 2003 (Songbird, B-Side)
“Come on my brothers and sisters, if you could see what I could see, maybe we could all get along.”
It’s so simple.
But as the tambourine shimmers, as the guitar gently weeps, as the drums whisper and as Noel sings his heart out…you are reminded, again, of how great Oasis really were. It wasn’t all lad culture, swagger, beer and coke…I mean, it was primarily that for a lot of the time but there is real beauty in the music of this band.
More often than not it is the songs like this that I return to…they lift my spirits, make me feel less broken, offer a bit of hope in an increasingly hopeless world and I don’t think you can ask for more from a band than that.
Keep the Dream Alive, 2005 (Don’t Believe the Truth)
“This was my dream, but now my dream has flown, I’m at the crossroads, waiting for a sign, my life is standing still, but I’m still alive”
With Liam growling his way through the verses before letting his voice soar on the chorus “Keep the Dream Alive” is evidence that, even at this stage in proceedings, he was still a singer and a figure to be admired and cherished.
Very few singers from the nineties have a voice that is so instantly recognisable. Part Lennon, part Lydon and yet all Liam.
The greatest rock and roll singer of his generation?
Of all time?
He at least deserves to be considered in the debate.
There are better vocals from him than this but this always has me swooning.
Won’t Let You Down, 2005 (Lyla, B-Side)
There is an argument to be had about whether or not Oasis had peaked by the time these noughties recordings arrived…that the tension between Noel and Liam, Noel’s clear desire to go it alone, the marriages and divorces, the money and the coke had all taken a terrible toll on the band and they were now nothing more than, well, just another band.
That’s the argument.
But when a band can chuck away a song like this on the B-Side of a single you realise the argument isn’t worth having.
At their weakest Oasis were still capable of trumping not only their peers but themselves at their best.
“Won’t Let You Down” is short, simple and surprising. It is, easily, the match of the single that housed it and wouldn’t have been out of place on “Don’t Believe the Truth”…in fact it probably should have been.
A Bell Will Ring, 2005 (Don’t Believe the Truth)
There are bands right now who are selling out arena venues who would sell their souls to Satan (interestingly if you take the letters E-D-S-H-E-E-R-A-N and repeat them in front of the mirror at midnight you will summon Beelzebub himself…true story) just to have a song as good as “A Bell Will Ring”.
It’s got riffs that Keith Richards couldn’t dream of matching in his prime.
It shakes your soul.
It grinds your guts.
It’s a big, old, chunk of rock and roll of the sort that, truthfully, only Oasis could manage.
Sittin’ Here in Silence (On my Own), 2005 (Let There Be Love, B-Side)
For the first time in these articles I’m going to use the “B” word.
I don’t actually like The Beatles.
When people tell me how great they are I try to imagine what the songs I haven’t heard by them must sound like in order to inspire such rabid devotion from people. It’s obviously not “Yellow Submarine” or “Yesterday” or “All You Need is Love”.
In my mind I hear “Sittin’ Here in Silence (On my Own)” which is the best Beatles song that The Beatles never wrote…because they weren’t as good as Oasis.
Falling Down (Chemical Brothers Remix), 2008 (Shock of the Lightning, B-Side)
In the “Supersonic” documentary Liam tells the tale of being smashed over the head with a hammer and, subsequently, having an interest in music that had, previously, never existed.
This Chemical Brothers remix is the sonic equivalent of that hammer blow to the noggin.
Furious and frenzied in places it also has moments of real subtlety and fragility.
It might not change you in the same way that the hammer to Liam’s skull changed him…but it might.
I know that the song itself was a single and so, technically, I am in breach of my own list of rules for this collection…but this was a B-Side so, well, there.
Waiting for the Rapture, 2008 (Dig Out Your Soul)
A pub rock, glam stomp, thumping, raucous, blitzkrieg bop of a pop song.
Really this is Oasis by numbers…a dot-to-dot version of what they were so good at…but that doesn’t make it any less of a thrill. A song that demands to be played one louder and that leaves you breathless by its conclusion…but then, like a McDonald’s, has you hungry again within a few minutes, wanting more of whatever the mystery ingredient was.
Those Swollen Hand Blues, 2009 (Falling Down, B-Side)
The only new composition on the final single released by Oasis.
It isn’t possible to talk about it without invoking the name of The Beatles again…this is cut from the same psychedelic cloth as some of the trippier moments in the Scousers back catalogue.
This is weird, cosmic, psychedelic, druggy and dreamy.
A world away from the songs that had announced their arrival back in 1994 or that had cemented their place as the biggest band in the world in 1995 but worthy of inclusion in any list of favourite moments from them simply because it is the full stop on the story…