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Holy Hell! (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Turns 20

Holy Hell! (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Turns 20

Oasis is and was arguably the last of the great rock ‘n’ roll bands.

Oasis is and was arguably the last of the great rock ‘n’ roll bands. At the peak of their commercial success, they brought a heightened level of decadence and debauchery to popular music, one that had largely disappeared with the arrival of grunge and the more sensitive alternative nation. Theirs was an approach that openly aspired to rock star excess and everything associated with the then somewhat antiquated notion of just what that meant. Because of this, they were largely viewed as derivative, mere imitators who copped riffs and lyrical ideas from rock’s pantheon of greats.

There is, of course, no denying that they aped the likes of the Beatles’ music and the Stones’ attitude. But what so often gets forgotten is how these acts cribbed from their heroes while attempting to establish a look and sound of their own. Glossing over blatant musical thievery, these and a host of other groups have long since been lionized, made untouchable gods among men whose influence has since spread across the vast expanse of the pop universe. Only with time and distance can we gain the necessary perspective to properly evaluate the lasting contribution of an artist without being blinded by the hype, positive or negative, surrounding a release.

With the release of (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, Oasis crafted a sonic template that influenced countless lesser acts that sought to jump on the Britpop bandwagon, just as had happened with grunge’s unlikely explosion after Nirvana. Because of this, it’s interesting to look back at the fairly divisive reviews the band received upon the album’s initial release. Scorned for their derivative approach to pop song craft, many critics at the time still labored under the delusion of grunge’s “authenticity” and sincerity, arguing the lyrics didn’t mean anything significant and felt more or less tossed off.

But listening to songs like “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back In Anger,” “Cast No Shadow,” and “Some Might Say,” it’s clear this initial assessment was well off the mark. It’s easy to question what the hell a “wonderwall” is (as Travis, an early Oasis clone, went on to do), but the basic sentiment behind the song is universally relatable and it’s little surprise it’s gone on to become a modern day standard. Similarly, these other songs deal with subjects far deeper than the rock and roll excess with which Oasis has long been (rightly) associated.

On Morning Glory?, however, they were able to temper their rock star excesses with quality material. Boasting nearly half a dozen singles, there is no shortage of great songs on the album. Together, these helped it reach number one in nine countries and become one of the fastest selling albums ever in the UK, eventually going 14 times platinum. It was here that they reached their peak, perfectly mixing their rock star aspirations with the material and sales figures to back it up.

At the center of all of this were the feuding Gallagher brothers, Liam and Noel, who so excelled at hating one another they regularly made the front page of tabloids beyond the usual music journal rags with their exploits. Together, their ultimately toxic level of tension, much like that of the Kinks, helped push the band to greater and greater heights before flaming out somewhat less than spectacularly.

Where once Morning Glory? was scoffed at for being a lesser album than their rambunctious debut, Definitely Maybe, today it largely dwarfs the latter in terms of influence and overall quality. Rather than a mere retread of Maybe’s sound and style, Morning Glory? saw the group growing musically and lyrically while becoming the biggest band in the world and falling apart in the process. A creative apex, it today stands as one of the best rock albums the ‘90s had to offer.

Much of this is due to more expansive sound and stylistic diversity. Where before they were content to bash away and carry on about wanting to be rock stars, on (What’s The Story) they were rock stars, able to craft stadium-ready anthems alongside sensitive, introspective ballads.

Proving their confidence to be well founded, they went on to become one of the biggest bands of the decade, historically selling out Knebworth Park on back to back nights in 1996, playing to a now unheard of quarter of a million people combined. Twenty years on, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? has lasted the test of time, showing itself to be a remarkable achievement and one deserving of the commercial success, if not critical scorn, it received.

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