Release Date: May 19, 2014
Record label: Big Brother
Nothing ages me faster than a deluxe reissue of a college or high school staple for its so and so anniversary. I understand that, financially, the music industry is not in the same place that it was when I was in high school, so I can understand the desire for the industry to want to milk as much as it can from its consumers. But if I’ve said this once, I’ve said it a thousand times: “I don’t recall this much fuss when The White Album turned 20.” In fact, during my high school years (1985-1989), if the industry was as anniversary crazy as it is today, we would have seen the 20th anniversary of 10 — yes, 10! — Beatles albums.
"I don’t want [to] get too big," said Noel Gallagher back in 1994, squinting into the crystal ball a couple of months before the release of Oasis' debut album, Definitely Maybe. "I'd love to do Wembley Stadium, but where do you go after that?" At the time, the guitarist and songwriter was talking to a fanzine and getting ready to play the lame, 400-capacity East Wing venue in Brighton, England. So not only was Noel looking forward to playing the UK's most storied venue—which was more than 200 times bigger than the East Wing—he was basically already over the fantasy.
Twenty years on, Oasis' debut remains one of the most gloriously loutish odes to cigarettes, alcohol and dumb guitar solos that the British Isles have ever coughed up. This deluxe three-disc reissue captures the madness of the Gallagher brothers' early days – even if Noel and Liam couldn't stand to be in the same room together, they boozed and brawled their way to greatness in pub-punk anthems like "Live Forever" and "Slide Away." There are unreleased demos and live treasures, along with essential 1994 singles and B sides like "Fade Away" and "Listen Up," where Oasis first hinted at the dreamy depths behind all the lager-swilling bravado. .
A common misconception about Oasis is that they somehow acted as a catalyst for Britpop. But while no one single band has ever fully accepted responsibility – and Oasis’ battle with Blur was something of a high (or low?) watermark of the period – the Mancunians never represented any kind of shift from anything. There were plenty of blokey guitar bands already and Britpop’s wheels were already turning by 1994.
Well, this is awkward..
When Liam Gallagher took to Twitter last month, cryptically posting the letters O, A, S, I and S in successive tweets, the cyberspace rumour mill went into overdrive. With talk of an Oasis reunion ever since the band's acrimonious split in 2009, now seemed as good a time as any for it to actually happen. It would be fair to say Gallagher junior's Beady Eye haven't exactly set the rock and roll world alight, while older sibling Noel and his High Flying Birds project may have fared better, but his live shows still rely heavily on material from the Oasis back catalogue.
The party line is this: Oasis absolutely defined a generation with their first two albums and then pretty much never were able to match that legacy ever again. Liam Gallagher had the greatest sneer in all of rock history, and for a time his brother Noel just so happened to write the best songs. Following the coke-fueled disaster that was third album Be Here Now (which the band has all but disavowed, refusing to include a single song from it on their 2006 hits compilation), the band was never able to fully recover on an artistic front, leading to some great songs spread out over increasingly-mediocre albums (save Don’t Believe the Truth, of course), thus making most of the UK music press go back and canonize those first two albums in shrines of absolute infallibility.
When it was announced that Definitely Maybe was to receive a twentieth anniversary re-package treatment, Liam Gallagher, rather cutely, tweeted to not buy them, “How can you re-master something that’s already been mastered” he asked. A misunderstanding of modern day music reproduction techniques aside, he does have a point, the eleven tracks that make up what is still one of the UK’s fastest selling debuts ever, have left an indelible mark on the UK rock scene, what else has the album to give? The records may be dust covered and left on our shelves but the memories remain. The early gigs in Manchester and Bradford supporting Saint Etienne or alongside the Verve in Leeds in ’93, selling out Maine Road, to them conquering at Knebworth all happened in a two year whirlwind, this was an upward trajectory that could not be stopped - it’s the kind of thing rock n roll dreams are made of.