In case you missed 1997, it’s back in full force with this reissue from Oasis. All the hallmarks are there, a whole lot of loud guitars, banging drums and lyrics that you can almost understand when the choruses come around. Oasis was at the height of its hype hipness at this point: the brothers Gallagher were getting up to all kinds naughtiness, including canceled tours, powdery substances and generally obnoxious behavior with each other, the fans and the press. You could be forgiven for buying into it all. The two previous records, Defintely Maybe and What’s the Story (Morning Glory) had delivered the goods with plenty of hooks and ace writing. Mercurial figures such as Liam and Noel are bound to be unable to sustain meaningful artistic output if there’s so much other hoopla going about.

The problems come front and center straight away. The material just isn’t there. There’s no “Wonderwall,” no hooks that grab you by the lobes and drag you down to the stage, waiting for that levitating feeling to overtake you. “Fade In-Out” and “All Around the World” could have been more effective if cut down by a few minutes each, but instead they teeter right at the edge of tedium as one watches the clock for the running time run well beyond tolerable. The main strategy seems to have been turning up to smooth over the lack of attention everyone paid to the writing. The final judgement is that “My Big Mouth” and “Magic Pie” ultimately call to mind the experience of sticking one’s ear into the blades of a box fan. You’ll hear it, for sure, but what will you finally gain?

It remains a bit of mystery why Oasis rose to greater prominence on these shores while Blur and Pulp were creating more succinct and imaginative music at the time. One would easily trade the experience of wading through Be Here Now for only having a single copy of Parklife to dig into for all eternity. There are some, of course, who feel differently and they get their due with a whole second (and, in some cases, third) disc to accompany the 1997 album.

The truth is that the second disc, featuring (wait for it) B-sides and live cuts has a much better good-to-bad ratio. The opening “Stay Young” outdoes anything on the proper record, the collective actually focusing some energy on dynamics, singing and playing. There’s even a hook or two. The same might be said for “Flashbax,” “The Fame” and “Going Nowhere.” The middle of that lot out paces anything on the original record and could have easily given the group a little more longevity had it jettisoned some of the other filler been chosen for the LP. The third disc of demos, of course, might offer some further illumination on where everyone’s head was or wasn’t during that season of madness.

But we’re not dealing with what could have been, we’re dealing with what was and that, it turns out, was a bummer record from a group that could have had the world at its feet with just a little more focus and a little less ego. Such were the times and such was the music. Grab Definitely Maybe or What’s The Story instead.

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