British guitar music had taken a backseat to United States grunge in the early 90’s as it sought to regroup after the failure of shoegazing bands to capitalize on the phenomenal but brief success of the Manchester-led dance rock genre in the late 80s. Bands like Blur had taken the first steps back into the consciousness but when Oasis released Definitely Maybe, they kicked the door in, dragged the plaid shirted usurpers out by the scruff of their necks and packed them off to the airport.
This was a record with guts, anger, humour, and social commentary (albeit hidden in obtuse, druggy lyrics). Few opening tracks by a debut band can rate with the swagger and belief of “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star,” while the first three singles – “Supersonic,” “Shakermaker” and “Live Forever” – encapsulated the band’s range, a perfect showcasing triptych. Laconic, comedic and emotional guitar-driven pop was back and when fourth single “Cigarettes and Alcohol” was released, all bets were off. Oasis were already the biggest band in the world in their heads. Now everyone else would start to believe it too.
From the opening track to the throwaway epilogue of “Married with Children” – with perhaps the greatest comment on the music they were replacing: ‘your music’s shite, it keeps me up all night’ – Definitely Maybe is a chin-out strut down the alleyways of Britain’s rock heritage. Much was made of the band’s love of the Beatles but Definitely Maybe is much more than a Fab Four rip-off and it’s lazy to suggest so.
Liam Gallagher’s fondness for the Sex Pistols is clear on his vocal delivery on “Bring it on Down,” while, at the other end of the scale, “Digsy’s Dinner” in almost musical hall in its jauntiness. Re-recorded on the behest of Creation label boss Alan McGee who said the first version lacked the ‘attack and immediacy’ of Oasis concerts, the band decided the only way to replicate their live sound was to record together without soundproofing between individual instruments. With Noel Gallagher overdubbing the guitars in post-production, a powerful yet cohesive and proficient onslaught was created. This can be heard best on the rumbling, ominous “Columbia” and the balls-out yet beautiful “Slide Away” – one the band’s best and most underrated tunes, described by Liam Gallagher as ‘a rocking love song.’
Oasis were the antitheses of Nirvana’s ‘I hate myself and want to die’ philosophy and this positivity in the face of hardship that the band espoused is most keenly felt on the luminous “Live Forever” and the nihilistic soundtrack to the party at the end of the world which is “Cigarettes and Alcohol.” Whatever mood you’re in, however your day is going, there is a track on Definitely Maybe which will not only match it but will speak to you, counsel you and assure you that everything will be alright. This is a debut album which convincingly and authentically covers every emotion and many of life’s common stories in about an hour of music. It was a remarkable achievement and a high point that Oasis tried and failed to reach again during the following 15 years of their career.
Unless the Gallagher brothers put their differences aside or run out of money (or both), it’s unlikely that we’ll ever hear these songs played live with Liam on vocals and Noel on guitar beside him or be blessed with any new material from Oasis again. Those who lost faith in the band towards the end may say this is no bad thing. But putting Definitely Maybe on and turning it up loud not only reminds me what we’ve lost but also makes me thank God that they managed to get out of a council estate in Manchester in the first place.
First published on: Puluche.com