We Get Letters

posted by Tom Moon on October 26, 2009 at 5:46 pm
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A reader writes: “How could someone in their right mind leave off {Whats The Story} Morning Glory? from the list of 1000 recordings to hear before you die? That album was a true cultural event, and not just in the UK ( where it remains the third most successful album of all time after Queens Greatest Hits and Sgt Peppers) Even in America, when this came out it was pandemonium! Few other bands in recent memory had such an effect! To this day that album stands up as one of the greatest British guitar rock albums of all time.”

I’ve had lots of questions about this one, and I guess I should start by saying I really like Oasis and regard Noel Gallagher one of the most talented songwriters to emerge in the last 20 years. I considered Morning Glory not because of the commercial success cited above (my mission was to offer portals into as many different worlds as possible, regardless of popularity) or the “pandemonium,” but because of the songs – marvels built on classic pop form and graced with extra-large, almost majestic melodies.

Like many critics, I enthused about Morning Glory when it was released. So, when building the preliminary lists for the book, I had it pegged as a no-brainer. It had to be there. Then I went back and listened again, after not really paying attention to “Wonderwall” or the other songs in some years. I was astonished to find that just about every song was totally absorbing for a few verses and the initial chorus, and then sorta hit a wall, becoming suddenly and unexpectedly dreary. What kind of cough syrup were we all downing in 1995 to stay with these tunes as they plodded dutifully along? How can a tune as structurally sound as “Don’t Look Back in Anger” resonate so powerfully, and then wear out its welcome so quickly?

Check it out for yourself. Cue up a few songs from Morning Glory and follow them closely. You may find that the luster fades long before the song does. For me, this became a big concern, enough to make me rethink the album’s inclusion. (Just because I’m curious, I spotchecked a few later Oasis records and encountered the same thing, though it was most pronounced on Morning Glory.) It could just be that the songs last a minute or so too long. And it could be something about the songs themselves – when you start paying attention to this, you discover that lots of esteemed hits grow tiresome in this way.

Today’s example: To really hear time stand still, check out Madonna’s “Holiday.” It starts out promising a great exotic escape, and a few minutes later, you’re deep in the drudgery of the slow line at the dry cleaners.

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#1 from frankenslade - 10/28/2009 2:37

I like the way you characterize the shortcomings with Oasis. I think it’s their one-dimensional, hectoring tone. They lay it all on the line in the opening verse and leave nowhere to go. They don’t feature themselves as musicians in ways that allow the songs to breathe.

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