What's so special about Oasis, then?

TWO months before (What's The Story) Morning Glory started its residence atop the album charts, another Manchester band, The …

TWO months before (What's The Story) Morning Glory started its residence atop the album charts, another Manchester band, The Verve, released their second album entitled (with Gallagher like modesty) This Is Music. Both records were produced by the same man, but the similarity ends there. For while Oasis recently played to rapturous crowds at Knebworth and Pairc Ui Chaoimh, The (now defunct) Verve collected their dole from Wigan Post Office.

To say that This Is Music is an album of considerably more merit than the modest Oasis offering is not just fatuous journalistic opinion. Noel Gallagher himself said in Q magazine that The Verve were a better band than Oasis, and the Oasis song, Cast No Shadow is dedicated to The Verve's Richard Ashcroft. To any reasonable observer the rise and rise of Oasis is surprising because Oasis seem not to be good or bad enough to become as massive as they have. Not inspired enough to be R.E.M., not shameless enough to be Bon Jovi. And in an identity parade with their peers, nobody would pick them out as the band of musical distinction.

Cast write more buoyant tunes. Black Grape are more fun. Suede write better lyrics. Our own A House write better songs. The Verve had a better feel of how to put an album together.

To dismiss their success as a marketing triumph would be incorrect, though. The Verve were backed by Virgin, hardly an inconsequential marketing force. To glibly put their success down to luck, too, would be incorrect. Certainly circumstances the lack of Feile or Glastonbury left people wanting a big day out this year conspired to help them, but Oasis were the band that grasped the opportunity. And their success isn't press driven either.


Last autumn Blur were every journalist's darlings, but they now he vanquished as the public have taken the Gallaghers to their bosom. For they are the public's band. Populist without being glorified builders, talented without being awesome, fraternally quarrel some without being vicious and ambitious without being maniacal, they have a broad public appeal and no dark side to frighten people (especially parents) away.

But the flip side is that they have too little depth, too little import to truly excite. One sneeze from John Lydon has more significance than Liam's pointless rudeness. Compare them, for example, to those other phenomena to emerge from the Mancunian indie world, The Smiths and The Stone Roses. Neither played stadiums, but both had an importance beyond their sales. And both in their own way had an inexplicable effect upon their fans.

Everyone knows odd Smiths fans demented by Morrissey's morose ways, and Stone Roses fans who waited with six years of bated breath for a second coming. Both bands had an aura that Oasis sadly lack. For all the massed crowds at Cork and Knebworth, it seems that Morrissey at Wolverhampton or The Stone Roses at Spike Island will last longer in the memory than any of Oasis's big concerts. Be cause Oasis's triumph is important only in the same way as the world's longest conga an importance of numbers rather than content. Like the prog rockers, once somebody does it bigger, Oasis won't mean very much.

None of this is Oasis's fault, of course. They're not a bad outfit songs that sound as if they should be great, but aren't. Like Roll With It. Certainly they are not songs that should attract the adoration of quarter of a million people.

EVEN now, despite the increased focus on guitar bands, the most talented ones remain well out of the public's view. The unfortunates now stand to lose both ways when they get caught in the inevitable backlash when guitars once again seem passe and everyone grows tired of the 1960s.

In many senses it is better that a band like Oasis have made it big rather than another Queen or one of the more tedious bands like Menswear. Certainly it is hard to begrudge their success. They all seem pleasant people even Liam's studied rudeness lacks real viciousness write pleasant tunes and if they took more care could be a fantastic group. Yet one senses if it were The Verve or Suede or A House up there we would have something of real quality. Because, for a super group, Oasis are astonishingly unastonishing.

Rather than wonder whether or not they are better than The Beatles, perhaps the real question is, are Oasis as good as their peers?