Manchester rock band Oasis, featuring the Gallagher brothers Noel and Liam, released some memorable songs during the 1990s. Many of these became an important part of the Britpop soundtrack, shaping the identity of that era. Cocky and cool, yet rarely free of the rivalries which eventually destroyed them, Oasis left us many haunting songs, and some great British rock ‘n’ roll. Here are ten of the best:
10. ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’
This début track from ‘Definitely Maybe’ has the same energy and urgency as ‘Get Back’ from the late-Beatles era. A distorted ‘wall-of-sound’ guitar opening sets the tone for the song which features early-Oasis lyrics convincingly focused on the tedium and boredom of everyday existence. As many have discovered to their cost, the band’s disarming naivety is remarkably hard to replicate successfully.
9. ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’
An inspirational ballad from ‘Heathen Chemistry’, this song has an overwhelming instant appeal – a rare quality in any music genre. Opening with a subdued piano figure, the song builds beautifully, capturing the bleak nature of the lyrics whilst maintaining tension throughout with a masterfully hypnotic crescendo over soaring harmonies. A calm acoustic playout follows, keeping any conclusion just out of reach.
Kicking off with a simple drum pattern, the song adds overlapping guitar riffs building into a lazy but dense set of distorted power chords. Singing in his best Lennonesque drawl, Noel G. sets off on a set of rhyming throw-away lyrics, eventually leaving space for a mildly distorted guitar solo as he pauses for breath. This solo later reappears as the basis for an intense playout.
7. ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’
This is a seven-minute stadium-rock epic exploring new possibilities within the recycled ‘Wonderwall’ chord sequence. Beginning with feedback and guitar-oriented sound effects, the song builds until the vocal enters, then chugs along until its anthemic chorus. From here on, the song remains locked in the hypnotic grip of its repeating hook-line, supported by wah-wah guitars. Finally, a monster instrumental outro fades into eerie guitar effects.
6. ‘Champagne Supernova’
Here, Liam G. delivers a melancholy vocal performance full of whimsical lyrics with lots of references drawn directly from the Lennon/McCartney psychedelic era – such as the slowly descending bass. The song grows in intensity before eventually fixating upon a repeated line: ‘We were getting high,’ leading to a multi-tracked guitar play out.
5. ‘Slide Away’
An energetic love-song from the ‘Definitely Maybe’ album, this epic steers a course fluctuating between optimism and pessimism before its final resolution is celebrated in a soaring high-octane playout. Along the way some aching, yearning vocals set the scene together with a wailing guitar solo of haunting intensity. The ‘slide away’ chorus features a suitably slinky guitar riff.
Featuring the Gallaghers alternating on lead vocals, this track celebrates the positive side of their creative relationship. A strong guitar riff dominates the verses, giving way to ringing guitar chords on the ‘we believe in each other’ chorus. As the song builds, the chorus becomes ever more prominent before reaching its closing multi-repeats over the phrase ‘we believe’.
The trademark Oasis acoustic ballad casts its spell from the moment the laid-back strummed chords begin, providing the perfect backdrop for the vocal entry. Later, other elements gradually build up the initially sparse texture – the drums in particular being held back until way into the song. As the ‘you’re my wonderwall’ chorus develops, a prominent cello line appears and continues beneath the vocal echoes, joined next by a plaintive and repetitive guitar figure. The song’s outro tastefully fades to the opening acoustic chords.
2. ‘Live Forever’
Uplifting jangling chords and bright guitar figures set up the song’s seriously hopeful atmosphere in the intro ready for Liam G.’s celebratory vocal performance. The guitars create a sprawling soundstage as the song evolves. Then, a guitar solo meanders its way along before the re-entry of the vocal freshens things up again. A second, more powerful, solo during the final playout features guitar licks traded between players until a strong chord signals the fade.
1. ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’
Enigmatic lyrics and Beatles-inspired instrumental touches feature prominently in this powerful ballad. Noel G. produces one of his best vocal performances, supported by a brilliantly conceived sing-along chorus and some soulful guitar work. Tasteful and quirky right through to the ‘least not today’ twist in the dying moments.