How To Understand Oasis in 15 Songs

“The Masterplan” – Ambition Minus Bloat

from Wonderwall (single); The Masterplan

If “All Around the World” is Noel Gallagher’s Beatles-esque pop ambitions enhanced by copious amounts of ego-inflating drugs, “The Masterplan” is its slimmer, more-sober sibling. When Creation Records boss Alan McGee told Gallagher, who considers it one of the best songs he has ever written, that it was too good to be a b-side, Noel, in a moment of characteristic confidence, reportedly told him, “Well, I don’t write shit songs!” It’s a big, beautiful slice of orchestral pop with excellent production and a quintessentially uplifting chorus – a grand statement without being in love with its own grandeur, and all the better for it.

“Fuckin’ in the Bushes” – Psychedelic Oasis, pt. 2 (and Intro Music)

from Standing on the Shoulder of Giants

Recorded in 1999 and released in early 2000, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is a transitional album. The period following the coke-bloat of Be Here Now was marked by change, with new band members, a new label, and a new producer entering the fray.

“Fuckin’ in the Bushes” is the tone-setting opener for an album of very of-its-time psychedelic experimentation. Built on samples from the documentary Message to Love: The Isle of Wight Festival (forming the track’s de facto vocals), a hip-hop-esque breakbeat (sounding very much like Noel-collaborators The Chemical Brothers), a thick bass groove, and guitar riffs aplenty, the track sounds unlike anything in their catalog before or after. It would take on new importance to fans as the band’s live walk-on music, anticipation turning into euphoria as the band took the stage.

“Songbird” – Liam’s First Good Song

from Heathen Chemistry

Liam Gallagher’s reputation is built around his singing and swagger – his songwriting, notsomuch. “Little James”, Liam’s contribution to Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, was the first non-Noel song to make an Oasis album, and it is easily the album’s lowlight (and maybe the lowlight of the band’s entire recorded output, saved only by some interesting production). Undaunted, Noel continued to share the songwriting load with the other band members for Heathen Chemistry, Oasis’ fifth album. “Songbird” is one of Liam’s three strong contributions, a beautifully simple, mostly-acoustic ode to his then-fiancée, Nicole Appleton. It isn’t subtle (this is Oasis, after all), but it sure is lovely.

“The Importance of Being Idle” – “Mature” Oasis

from Don’t Believe the Truth

Conventional critical wisdom cites Oasis’ sixth album, Don’t Believe the Truth, as a mature return to form after the relative missteps preceding it. If that’s the case, “The Importance of Being Idle” is Exhibit A. It’s a Noel-sung pop song cut from the classic Ray Davies cloth – gone is the loud, cocky swagger of the early work, as well as the studio experimentation that came before and after. It’s a classically British statement from Britpop’s quintessential band, marking the band’s last UK number one hit before their 2009 dissolution.

“I’m Outta Time” – Liam’s John Lennon Obsession (But Good!)

from Dig Out Your Soul

Dig Out Your Soul continued the band’s post-2000 tradition of including songs from non-Noel members, with each providing some of their strongest material yet. “I’m Outta Time” is one of the finest ballads in the band’s catalog, and one of Liam Gallagher’s best songs for Oasis. He has clearly spent time as a student in the John Lennon school of ballad-writing, but it’s more than a Beatles pastiche. This piano-led contribution reflects the some of the world-weariness that entered the band’s sound in later years; it also marks the logical endpoint of Liam’s post-Be Here Now obsession with changing his singing voice to sound like John Lennon (while retaining just a hint of Johnny Rotten).

“Falling Down” – Psychedelic Oasis, pt. 3

from Dig Out Your Soul

Definitely Maybe captured the psychedelia inherent in the band’s live volume; Standing on the Shoulder of Giants was a studio-driven take on those sounds via The Chemical Brothers’ Surrender. Dig Out Your Soul, the band’s seventh and final album before their 2009 breakup, is psychedelic Oasis mixed with the maturity and hard-earned sense of craft that defined their last chapter. “Falling Down” is a woozy stomper of a song, featuring carefully-considered production magic without dated sonic hallmarks fixing it to a specific time and place. It was later blown up to widescreen extremes for a 12” via electronic gods and studio geniuses Amorphous Androgynous, whose 22-minute-long “The Monstrous Psychedelic Bubble Exploding in Your Mind” mix is a hallucinogenic exploration of every one of the song’s possibilities.

“Cigarettes & Alcohol” – The Mission Statement, pt. 2

from Definitely Maybe

Where “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star” is about dreaming your way into a new reality, “Cigarettes & Alcohol” is about finding joy in the simple, mundane details of the life you want to escape from. “Is it worth the aggravation to find yourself a job when there’s nothing worth working for?” sneers Liam, before answering himself two lines later: “It’s a crazy situation / but all I need are cigarettes and alcohol!” It’s a call-to-arms for listeners to take on life on their own terms, no matter what that life looks like – waiting around to “spend your days in the sunshine” isn’t going to cut it. “You gotta make it happen!”

Andrew Ledford is a writer and musician in Oakland, CA. Find him in your local record store.