When Oasis broke big, I was 14 or 15 years old. And when I was 14 or 15 years old, I thought it was pretty much impossible for a band to have mainstream, commercial radio success, and actually be any good. If the wider community liked a band, then the musical chip on my shoulder meant they had to be sell outs or manufactured puff. So when Triple J, Australia’s national alternative/youth radio network, started to play Morning Glory, it’s loud guitars and alt radio station airplay made me think Oasis might be a band to watch.
But a few months later, when Wonderwall became the inescapable, mainstream hit of the year, I was done with Oasis. No band could be that popular with clueless, middle of the road regular people, and still be good. But in the years since, I’ve softened on at that suspicion of success in general. And even softened in my hatred of Oasis.
Noel Gallagher has proven to be a funny, smart and entertaining dude. And since he was always the clear creative force behind the band, there’s a good chance that his funny intelligence translates to his music as well. And as radio insists on regularly playing several songs from this record to this day, I’ve softened on those as well, and actually come to like most of them. Except Wonderwall. That is as shit and pandering today as it was 20 years ago. But what about the tracks that didn’t become and remain hits? As long as they’re not all in the Wonderwall vein, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory should be worth a (long belated) listen.
Opening track Hello is a little bland and has nothing much to offer, but it’s inoffensive enough that it didn’t really shit me in any way. But things immediately pick up with Roll With It. It’s classic Noel Gallagher song writing. Following all the pop rules, while adding enough rock guitar edge to make it feel a little edgier than pop. Sticking to the rules may not result in anything ground breaking, but that doesn’t mean it can’t lead to something better than good and immensely listenable.
Oasis were often accused of being nothing more than a Beatles rip off. And there’s no better case for making that point than Don’t Look Back in Anger. But again, like his adherence to the most basic pop song writing rules, ripping off the Beatles doesn’t make this a bad song. At least when Oasis ripped someone off, they ripped off the best. The fact that’s it’s almost five minutes long, but doesn’t feel it, is the sign of a pretty great song. Plus, Noel taking lead vocals means you don’t have to deal with brother Liam’s nasal whine.
Hey Now has a darker, sludgier sound than anything else I think I’ve ever heard from Oasis. And while it’s nothing special, it’s always good to be surprised by a band when you think you’ve heard absolutely everything they have to offer. And when put with the faux blues rock of Untitled and arena guitar rock of Some Might Say, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory is definitely shaping up to be more in the way of what I like about this band that what I don’t. Until Cast No Shadow goes and does its best to ruin everything by being Wonderwall Part II.
Saving the best for (almost) last, Morning Glory is so much more ambitious than the rest of the album, and that ambition pays off. It’s also the most unique song on the record. While it clearly has the sound of its mid 90s vintage, Morning Glory is an Oasis song that doesn’t immediately demand comparisons with other bands or songs. Then Champagne Supernova closes things out with a curious and inexplicable combination of what I like and what I hate about the Oasis sound. But there’s enough to like about this song that means it ends up falling on the ‘like’ side of the spectrum
I still don’t think my 14 or 15 year old self was completely wrong for dismissing this band based entirely on Wonderwall. That was then, and remains today, a shitty, shitty song, pandering to the dumbest and laziest of music fans. So at a time when I was boring people about whatever Aussie alt band I was obsessed with that week, I’m glad I was doing my own, probably ultimately inconsequential part, to champion smaller bands. But 35 year old me is OK with Oasis and more than OK with (What’s the Story) Morning Glory.