"You don't know what you've got till it's gone," Janet Jackson once famously sampled, and how true it is. Only now that Noel Gallagher has left in a firestorm of brotherly acrimony can I truly take stock of my feelings toward OASIS.
I spent my youth hating them for their worst ballads, "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova" — songs of the round-specs days, the Prince Valiant–cut days. As I grew older and angrier, I resented them for the shabbiness of their pastiches of superior groups, from the Kinks all the way to the Stone Roses. They even grabbed Andy Bell, superior guitarist of Ride, and made him their goddamn bassist. Finally, in recent years, I became engulfed in the total Oasis indifference that's shrouded our continent for a decade. To most Americans, the big shocker this week wasn't that Oasis broke up. It was that Oasis had still been together.
(One could be forgiven for having the vague recollection that they split up back in 2000 or so. This is actually the second time Noel has left the group after a squabble with his brother. I'm writing under the assumption that now it'll stick.)
I never managed to like Oasis. I tried going back and giving them a second and a third chance, but the genuine, empirical crapness of their songs always thwarted me. Even so, the break-up is bittersweet. I'm going to miss the pure comedy of their existence. So, rather than crowing over their demise, I'd like to take a moment to remember all the good stuff:
• With so few enduringly BIG bands left, there was a certain comfort in knowing how huge they were across the pond. To this day, the UK rock press reveres them as gods — probably because their faces still sell magazines after all these years, and interviewers can always count on Noel for a rugged Mancunian witticism and Liam for a dumbshit quotable. The mere existence of such an institution — a rock band who could make headlines just by calling another band shit in a drunken backstage interview — toasted up my cockles a little.
• A credible rock band getting sued for ripping off a commercial jingle seems like an obvious killer blow, but Oasis managed to get through the ordeal only lightly scathed. Their early single "Shakermaker" grabbed the tune from the classic Coca-Cola jingle "I'd Like To Teach the World To Sing," and Oasis paid a hefty fine. You've gotta love them for perfecting the art of the brazen, reckless homage: witness the similarity between "Cigarettes and Alcohol" and T-Rex's "Bang a Gong," or "Mucky Fingers" and the Velvet Underground's "Waiting for the Man," or "Part of the Queue" and the Stranglers' "Golden Brown."
• There was a certain magic in their unwavering view that they were the greatest thing in history. From their frequent proclamations that they'd be bigger than the Beatles to their condemnation of Keith Richards as "senile" and George Harrison as a "nipple," their resolute commitment to delusion and obnoxiousness was as inspiring as it was irritating.
• Those YouTube videos of Noel Gallagher getting toppled like a bowling pin by some nutcase at a Toronto-festival appearance! I must have watched it happen a hundred times, from multiple angles, and seeing Noel getting hurt was the greatest sort of wish fulfillment.
• Ah, those faces! Music be damned — every photograph of the Brothers Gallagher and their ridiculous mugs brought me joy. Liam, always sullen and glassy-eyed, frequently V-signing the camera, monobrowed, uncomprehending. Forever a model for the latest cutting-edge British haircut — many of which have not stood the test of time and have become retrospectively hilarious. And Noel, with that wondrous sphere of a head, those squinting, wide-set eyes, the fixed, toadlike grump of his countenance. Such a gruesome pair of walking carnival caricatures we may never see again.
"Live Forever" indeed, Noel and Liam. Thanks for the laughs — you can keep the songs.
DAVID THORPE |firstname.lastname@example.org