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“Dolby’s Top 25 Oasis Songs”

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All I remember about Oasis from when I was really young was everybody I knew hating them and thinking they sucked, even my Dad. Granted, his reasoning toward this conclusion, as I’m sure pretty much everybody else’s of that disposition, was that they were “arrogant,” and had really nothing to do with the music. The only other thing I remember was hearing “Wonderwall” everywhere I went, all the time, and thinking that “Champagne Supernova” song was pretty trippy.

It was my senior year in high school, then, when a buddy of mine would play a bunch of songs from their debut album Definitely Maybe (1994) in his car. And it’s just impossible to describe with words how cool the songs were, like “Live Forever” ; “Rock ’n’ Roll Star” and “Supersonic.” Lots of them began with these drum intros that were really simple but really refreshing, for some reason, after a gaggle of guitar-dominated bands I’d experienced years prior from Everclear to Third Eye Blind to The Strokes to The White Stripes and back. Liam Gallagher’s voice had this kind of preternatural sheen to it, as if it had been polished with shoeshine. But they kept it simple and that’s one thing I liked about the music: not a lot of showmanship, the guitar runs tended to feed the larger whole and they had songwriting moxie to spare. 

Later albums would vary in quality but definitely would not completely skimp on the killer tunes. Overall, despite the bad rap they get, you’ve got to give them this: these motherfu**ers loved rock and roll and they got up and did it, contributing something, in doing so, to the larger whole of Western music that demonstrates a certain swagger and expedited focus of songcraft you won’t find just lying under the couch cushions.

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25 “The Shock of the Lightning” (Dig out Your Soul)

When I finally got around to a full listen to what’s as of right now Oasis’ final album, Dig out Your Soul (2008), I really found some gems on it, most notably this breezy, expedited statement in psychedelic twee pop that has a way of playing as both fresh and also quintessential to the band’s erstwhile playbook. One thing that really impresses me about this tune and album is the guitar sound — it seems both cleaner than it was on old Oasis records and also to clamor with more texture and fervency, instituting a theme for noise’ own sake that I guess would be appropriate within this album title.

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24 “Wonderwall” [(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?]

Well, what’s the story with me ranking this song so low? Well, what’s the story with me ranking it in front of “The Shock of the Lightning”? That’s a really good song too. And I know I’m full of cheesy references but I can’t help but identify with that “I don’t believe that anybody / Feels the way I do / About you now” line. That’s kind of how I am with this song: I’ve heard it so much against my own volition and heard so many diatribes on it being their best song, none of which I really agreed with, that it’s almost impossible to handle it objectively, but still, it almost never fails to weave somewhat of a tapestry of beauty and aching melancholy in my mind, every time I hear it. 

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23 “I Can See a Liar” (Standing on the Shoulders of Giants)

My perspective on Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (2000) is kind of weird because in the case of most of the songs, my first experience with them was the band’s solid live album Familiar to Millions, which marked a concert performance wherein these songs were relatively “new,” at the time, and so prevalently showcased. One exception would be the ostensibly orphaned “I Can See a Liar,” which I’ll always embrace as a perfect, snarky and hard-nosed penultimate rock track with the unforgettable lines of “He sits upon a throne / He lives a sleazy lie / But he’s all alone again / Again”. For billing themselves as an oasis, they can sure turn into a bath of fire when they want to. 

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22 “Roll with it” [(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?]

“Roll with it” is just a classic, feel-good song that bats second on what’s probably their most high-profile album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? It directly precedes the venerable “Wonderwall” on this album so credit the band for keeping the subject matter light and positive here, but with lyrics that as usual have a knack for coming off as clever and charmingly flustered: “I think I’ve got a feeling I’ve lost inside / I think I’m gonna take me away and hide / I’m thinkin’ things that I just can’t define”. 

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21 “Hung in a Bad Place” (Heathen Chemistry)

The NME guys dissed this song really bad, as with “Force of Nature,” and I just can’t understand it because these two tracks comprise to me this album’s whole backbone, within a hard-nosed, pithy approach to self-definition through rock and roll. No question, the brothers were still growing up on these tunes, and this song in particular marks an interesting point of introspection where you come to embrace yourself and demand more from the outside world: “I’ve been hung in a bad place / With no sun on my face / I’ve been hung in a bad place / For too long”. 

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20 “Underneath the Sky” (The Masterplan)

1998’s The Masterplan is a curious sort of release. On one hand, it’s billed as “b-sides,” that is, but I mean it’s called The Masterplan, and the songs have this inherent gravity about them, such as “Underneath the Sky,” which is buoyed by this textural, otherworldly guitar intro, and some serious, signature Oasis catchiness. It’s like these are the songs that got the whole thing started around the original Oasis campfire where they were bangin’ on weed and peyote and laying the groundwork for their cosmic musical portals. 

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19 “Roll it over” (Standing on the Shoulders of Giants)

Oasis could be dubbed “a**holes,” sometimes. Actually, I don’t think my dad ever liked them, toting this exact explanation for said aversion. Well, for these detractors, I think the final cut on 2000’s Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, “Roll it over,” would provide, if not a complete non-culpa, then somewhat of a vial of tempering tinge. Liam sings “Look at all the plastic people / Who live without a care / Try to sit with me around my table / But never bring a chair”. And if we get a sense of this hurt inner child within him, well maybe that explains why they’re megastars — the ability to marry this vulnerability with big, stadium-ready bombast. At 6:31, “Roll it over” is wholly expansive and indescribable.

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18 “She is Love” (Heathen Chemistry)

I used to get made fun of by my friends for liking this album — truly it’s got some clunkers on it but “She is Love” is definitely not one, a gorgeous, Noel-fronted ballad with a guitar riff brilliant enough that Califone would rip it off for the star-soaring “Sunday Noises.” Some brilliant background vocals also help send this song into celestial territory, during the quick, expedited choruses that flank focused, radio-ready verses.

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17 “Up in the Sky” (Definitely Maybe)

It’s actually a little bit overwhelming when a band puts out a debut album as muscular and as full as Definitely Maybe, without any sort of precursor like a demo or EP that would have gone toward establishing their sound, et. al. I guess the x-factor is that they just had the songs: Noel Gallagher could have probably released this album as a singer/songwriter acoustic solo act and still gone Gold, or at least gotten booked at the Apollo Theater. “Up in the Sky” is quick-hitting, gratifying Oasis narcotics, vaguely homo-erotic but too self-effacing in its staunch adherence to the pop structure to make for an awkward listen.

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16 “Talk Tonight” (The Masterplan)

“Talk Tonight” is the most streamed tune on The Masterplan and though no I’m not trying to be one of those annoying like Forbes bloggers who’s obsessed with wealth and statistics and such, it is interesting to me because the song is so firmly entrenched within the concept of balladry. It shows, that is, that people, probably British, mostly, really value when the band would sit down and get intimate, stay a while, of course begging the question of why they never did an MTV unplugged. Maybe they were total a** holes to the MTV reps, or something outlandish like that. 

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15 “Cast No Shadow” [(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?]

Keeping things on the balladry tip, here, we’ll go to “Cast No Shadow,” and its position within Oasis’ discography of eighth on their second album that really makes it somewhat of a breakthrough at this point. Up to this spot, that is, the band had for the most part been prone to revving up the Marshall stacks, at least to a median volume, or at least the tempo, as in the soft but romping “Digsy’s Diner” on their album prior. “Cast No Shadow” earmarks a lyricist (which I believe would be Noel Gallagher, though the song is sung by his little brother Liam) still getting his feet wet with narrative kiss-off, but who’s having fun doing it, toggling those brilliant chord changes and weaving in some metaphor, while he’s at it, for all the better.

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14 “Lyla” (Don’t Believe the Truth)

I’m almost positive I’ve included a song on this list from each one of Oasis’ studio albums, by no means deliberately for that objective but just out of happenstance for all of them offering something essential. “Lyla,” the sole constituent from 2005’s Don’t Believe the Truth, seems like a case of just coming up with a chorus that’s so catchy and meaningful that the rest sort of fell around it haphazardly. The song holds up, anyway, as a result, and makes for a great soundtrack to innocent, almost juvenile romance, and also, sadly, makes us remember how much more vital rock music was as a sort of “Cupid” element in 2005 than it is today.

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13 “Don’t Go away” (Be Here Now)

Now we come to the single Be Here Now entrant on this list, “Don’t Go away,” which was a pretty big single in 1997 and rightfully so, with its gorgeous acoustic bareness and simple, haunting and slightly off-kilter chord progression that help the song stand alone in its proud colors. Liam sings the Be Here Now version but there was this other rendition floating around the downloading platforms that was just Noel playing his guitar and singing — the way I imagined that hubristic Definitely Maybe/Unplugged effort playing out, as it were.

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12 “The Hindu Times” (Heathen Chemistry)

This album came out when I had just graduated high school and I was in a huge Beatles phase, particularly for their psychedelic, sound-shifting villainy of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Magical Mystery Tour. So “The Hindu Times,” the brilliant, shape-shifting opener on Heathen Chemistry, was a token of my interest in a big way, where the whole effort seems predicated on sound itself, and the rudiments and tendrils of the songs fall off like leaves off a tree, overseen by a pristine, focused ambivalence.

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11 “Gas Panic” (Standing on the Shoulders of Giants)

A standard Oasis song here, more or less, aside from the lyrics seeming to pertain to something at least vaguely apocalyptic, “Gas Panic” sidles along deliberately and patiently, maximizing the verse/chorus structure like LIVE or Natalie Merchant, coming to a precociously climactic head in the chorus that ties things into a catchy ball. I particularly like the band’s proclivity around this time of etching out long, layered songs, with full-bodied guitar solos bleeding back into choruses that act like addenda to reinforce the band’s melodic vision.

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10 “Supersonic” (Definitely Maybe)

“Supersonic” again is quintessential Oasis, in this case tapping in copiously to their early interest in drugs as a lyrical topic (when they say “She’s into Alka Seltzer”, let’s just say, it’s not actually Alka Seltzer they’re talking about). Sonically, chordally and structurally, it doesn’t deviate too much from the band’s general blueprint, just instead seeing fit to take things to soaring, coked-up heights of rock and roll mania and bombast, all while doing it to enough of an extent within their signature shtick as to make it entertaining and genuine.

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9 “Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth is” (Standing on the Shoulders of Giants)

The highest ranking cut on what I guess is kind of my dark horse favorite Oasis album in Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, “Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth is” I think makes a tickling statement by not really imbuing any unorthodox sound, but rather toting this rhythmic guitar technique of these quarter note burps that give the song this infectious groove. The mix is then spiced beautifully, as it were, by Liam’s shimmering yowl, the timbre of which seems to fit into the sound scape like a Tetris piece.

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8 “Don’t Look back in Anger” [(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?]

This was apparently a pretty decent sized single in the mid-’90s but to be honest I don’t remember ever hearing it until my senior year in high school, when a friend really got me into this band finally and this cut graced their excellent Familiar to Millions live album. If I had heard it, that is, I would have noticed that John Lennon “Imagine” ripoff on the piano intro. The song holds up, though, anyway, on the strength of some amusingly Apollonian vocals from Noel and a pithy guitar solo on which it seems like no note is wasted.

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7 “Shakermaker” (Definitely Maybe)

This is the point in the list where, I have to say, I got butterflies in my stomach, beholding the subject at hand. I’m immediately taken back to my sun-soaked listens of this album in summer, the sitting on the computer with ear buds blaring, letting it rip through my Spotify, with maybe a SweetWater 420 Ale or Red Stripe with a lemon sitting on my coffee table. These choice Definitely Maybe cuts prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that Oasis was a band dedicated primarily to sound, as nothing here sounds like a Stone Roses rehash or a Jesus and Mary Chains — if anything it’s Nirvana made more liquid, stretched out and infused with vitamins and minerals for spanning these stunning five-minute tunes that never seem a second too long. 

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6 “Cigarettes & Alcohol” (Definitely Maybe)

I think I just have to presage this with a mention of this hilarious poster I saw one time of all the guys in Oasis striking these really debauched poses, each one with either a glass or a stogie in hand, or something along those lines. Again, the intro is a ripoff, this time of T. Rex’s “Bang a Gong (Get it on),” but I mean there’s worse songs to rip off than that, and this tune especially is an exercise in sound, with the band for once ushering up enough of a blistering peal to compete with Liam’s wolverine, indefatigable yowl.

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5 “Rock ’n’ Roll Star” (Definitely Maybe)

Sorry to be overly anecdotal here but I have this great memory of hearing this song in a bar in my hometown one time when I was drinking at like two in the afternoon and it just was absolutely the most superbly perfect tune to hear in that setting. I mean, it’s even a song about escape, about wanting to evade the deadening everyday doldrums of city life and declaring “I live my life / For the stars that shine”, and again the sound just seems so perfect, like a more digestible, palatable reincarnation of grunge with all the dangerous, drug-soaked moxie.

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4 “Champagne Supernova” [(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?]

I’ve met people who say this is the ONLY Oasis song they like and I guess in a way it does circumvent the band’s typically poppy approach to structure. Then again, though, it does just repeat verses and choruses again, sort of like Bob Dylan’s “Stuck inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues again” without quite as many annoying platitudes. To me, though, aside from the structure, it gets by on rhetoric, melody and climax, boiling everything down to the simple mantra of “Where were you while we were getting high?” toward establishing both an ideal of companionship and “brodiness” and also an illustration of the fruits of their cosmic, stoned star-sailing, a song that would eventually send stadiums across England and America into lighter-flailing frenzies.

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3 “Live Forever” (Definitely Maybe)

“Live Forever” is a great song for many reasons, one of which being that on paper it’s a gleeful, carefree sort of song, almost childlike with its constant foolish anecdotes of “I just wanna fly” and “You and I are gonna live forever”, but, I think, at its core, it’s a very melancholy song, with that mention of “Baby / Did you ever feel the pain / In the morning rain / As it soaks you to the bone?” coming across as just a little bit more than slightly efficacious. Also, it’s another case of one of Liam’s classic guitar solos, staking a claim to his best ever with weaving riffs and sub-melodies to cement the song’s pantheon status.

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2 “Columbia” (Definitely Maybe)

“Columbia” helps to fix Definitely Maybe’s m.o. as something at least partly related to shoegaze rock, with its scorching, blinding texture of guitar sheen and its apparent obliviousness to everything else in the world, like an updated take on My Bloody Valentine, so to speak. Even the chorus itself would seem to corroborate that this is music for sound’s own sake: “I can’t tell you / The way I fell / Because the way I feel / Is oh so new to me”. And sure, the title is probably a double entendre of a record label and the South American source of much of their recreation fun. The a**holes will say that. And life wouldn’t be any fun without a**holes, would it? 

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1 “Bring it on down” (Definitely Maybe)

On “Bring it on down,” they take much of what I have been talking about — the sound, the lyrical simplicity and approachability, the confrontational aspect of being overwhelmed and inspired at the same time — and roll it all into one glorious, four-minute ball. What’s more, the song seems to actually be centered on a second-person, outside source, and one that’s championed and supported in the lyrics, making it all the more special within this band’s discography. And indeed, sure, it almost plays like a painful goodbye to the band’s underdog status, with the impending glut of commercial success practically already in their laps, to be sure. In preternatural, piercing tone, Liam wails out the central lyrics “You’re the outcast / You’re the underclass / But you don’t care / Because you’re living fast”, almost like an emotionally piqued rendezvous with his former, struggling, blue-collar self that he knows he’ll never be able to be again, without sacrificing the token of these hearty, electrifying vocals he’s bequeathing to the world.

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