Regardless of where you stand on Oasis, there is simply no getting away from the fact that they soared through the 1990s towards the rarefied superlative of ‘era defining’. Following their 1994 debut, Definitely Maybe, their impact was so gargantuan that the feathered-sideburns and paisley-clad reverberations are still felt today. From their very inception, they burst into life as Britain’s answer to Seattle grunge, blasting through the Stateside murk in a Tremolo-driven ego storm.
They might not have been entirely the first of their kind, but they single-handedly ensured that they wouldn’t be the last. The band’s legacy transcended music and entered the realm of cultural phenomena. In some corners of the world, they are perceived not only as one of Britain’s biggest bands but a distilled representation of Britain in general. Much in the same that Tom Waits states ‘every pen contains a story,’ it would seem that every acoustic guitar is born with the inherent destiny to first babble out ‘Wonderwall.’
What started in a glorious tailspin may well have ended up in the car crash of Dig Out Your Soul and relationships left bludgeoned and bloodied beyond repair, but the first few clear-headed miles of their journey saw a scintillating rocket-shot to prominence, comparable only to their beloved Manchester City after the takeover money took root. Before Noel broke up the band in August 2009, they landed more chart-topping hits than your average UFC fight and reinjected the music industry with some much-needed rock and roll racket.
The peaks and the troughs of the band were so pronounced, like the seismic shifts in Elon Musk’s hairline, that ranking their back catalogue in some sort of qualified order should be a simple task. However, despite the fact that the great and the god-awful mix about as distinctively as oil and water, pulling them apart is a difficult task in itself. Their early gold-run offered up a succession of records that prove as difficult to pull apart as chewing gum and hair, whilst Oasis’s 21st Century slump offers an indistinguishable pile of stink that leaves me wading through the murk thinking perhaps the band rightfully should have never survived the ‘90s intact.
Below, we’re ranking Oasis’s albums in order of greatness and there are no surprises for what’s at the bottom of the barrel.
Oasis albums ranked from worst to best:
8. Dig Your Soul Out (2008)
Love them or loath them the one tag they always set ablaze in a cock-sure act of arson was ‘beige’, that is up until the lifeless shop-worn psychedelic abstraction of the tired sounding Dig Your Soul Out. If the measure of Oasis is their all-conquering ubiquity, from wedding sing-alongs to the Thai lads covering their biggest hits in Chiang Mai dive-bars, then the definitive nail in their final outings coffin is the silence in the swansong.
To casual fans, the tracklisting reads like a difficult quiz question and to the faithful masses, it reads as the sorry break-up text long deleted from the inbox of music consciousness.
7. Standing on the Shoulders of Giants (2000)
It is hardly a glowing appraisal of a record when the first adjective to come to mind is ‘puzzling’, but that is the case with their millennial LP. This is the record that seemed to defy the Bowie commandment distilled into rock history, that all acts need to evolve. There is an almost claustrophobic feel to the record that proves proficient in providing a headache and not much more.
Aside from the heavier fare that the album offered up, more conventional tracks like ‘Little James’ seemed to be songs dreamt up and performed by an Oasis tribute act gone rogue. That being said, there are still a few times when this experimentation cooks up a groove worth note in tracks like ‘Go Let It Out’.
There is also something unmistakably Oasis at work here and that offers a semblance of interest in and of itself.
6. Be Here Now (1997)
The opulent decadence that had climbed onto the backs of the band and formed a straining weight, infected the studio with a bit too much glossy-eyed glam for some fans. Whilst the guitar overdubs add an anthemic edge to some songs, they weigh a bit heavy on others.
Oasis were in transition at this stage and it is in this transitory middle ground between blistering departure and fateful destination that this record sits. Some critics called it the end of the britpop movement and whilst this leaving of a natural home might have found the band a little lost, the songwriting tact remained.
Tracks like ‘Stand By Me’ and ‘Don’t Go Away’ may well remain amidst the indie DJ setlists making this far from a failed outing, but after the unbelievable explosion that their first two records sparked, Be Here Now simply can’t escape the taint of queued-up disappointment.
5. Heathen Chemistry (2002)
Britpop had loomed large over the music industry like a great swaggering edifice of reborn rock and roll, and in Europe, it had had it all its own way. Then 2001 saw Is This It by The Strokes, Daft Punks’ Discovery and a plethora of other hits begin the emerge from the mire and throw their weight around.
Oasis’ response was to turn towards a more democratic share of songwriting duties and it is perhaps Liam’s effort that steals the show on the album with ‘Songbird’. Elsewhere there are some very decent songs, but as a whole, it lacks both consistency and sparkle to rank amongst the best.
4. Don’t Believe the Truth (2005)
When the band seemed to be waning Don’t Believe the Truth prolonged the legacy somewhat. More of a return to type than a triumphant return to form, it is the classic Noel Gallagher penned tracks on the album that stand out. ‘Lyla’, ‘The Importance of Being Idle’, and the heavily Beatles-Esque outro track ‘Let There Be Love’ are all songs that can sit nicely in amidst the Europa League places of the band’s back catalogue.
It is not Oasis at their windmill swinging best, but it has songs that pack a punch and others that sit nicely in the corner quietly reflecting.
The issue is that there are other songs that find themselves stranded in between. It is a record that is not quite ‘same old’ but it’s not quite ‘quintessential’ either.
3. The Masterplan (1998)
Although technically a compilation album consisting of B-sides, you’d struggle to find many Oasis fans who don’t feel the record is worthy of the same regard as a studio release. These tracks are gilded pieces of rock-perfection that 45’ singles were invented for, and to relegate them onto the flip side of history is a sin that this isn’t able to permit.
The album serves as the perfect measure of the perfuse creative brilliance that the band coaxed up at this point. There isn’t a B-side on the album that couldn’t at least compete with its A-side counterpart.
Some might argue that they would have been better off holding back on these hits to bolster future records, but there is something in keeping with the Oasis ethos to fling them out as little brothers vying for a punch-up with the fellas on the heavy-hitters that sit opposite them.
2. What’s The Story (Morning Glory) (1995)
The top two places were always going to be the contested spots on this list and Morning Glory is sadly pipped to the post. It is testimony to the cultural impact of these two behemoth records that dividing them has as much to do with the experiential aftermath as it does with the albums themselves.
If you have had some arm in arm singalong to ‘Champagne Supernova’ under a star-clad sky or you’ve joyfully engaged in a horse-throated end of the evening hollering of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ at a wedding, then this record may well take the top spot for you (and I apologise for any distress caused on that front).
It has got the jukebox friendly hits, the pint-fuelled energy and the swaggering originality that singled Oasis out as the group of a generation. The ultimate middle finger from the band is that with this record they etched every word into the mind of anyone who ever listened to it, and that includes the few contrarians that weren’t swept up in the Britpop storm.
1. Definitely Maybe (1994)
These days it is quite hard to comprehend the meteoric rise of Oasis; they crash-landed into the music scene, blew everything else away in a shockwave, and now all we have is the relic of the crater to study as some impossible-seeming legacy of the past. The success of Definitely Maybe was not only measurable by its unit sales or instant uptake, but by the fact that everything from Beatles cuts and parka sales went through the roof too.
This album announced ‘we don’t care what you think, we are the biggest band of our generation’ and we’ve got the tunes to back it up. There is little point in running through the highpoints and merits of individual songs, the sound of the record itself or just how good it is, you undoubtedly already know that – they’ve told you all about it themselves.
The only thing left to do is justify why this takes the top spot above their sophomore effort, and the only reason is I can give you is that it is an album that ineffably has something to say. It is a rare thing indeed for a band to announced unarrived, yet fully formed, fling the canapes of the status quo out of the window and bring the world along for a booze-fuelled knee’s up singing anthems of the unemployed and celebrating life outside of the search for meaning.
The record was a shot in the arm to everybody and a rare musical ‘we were there moment’ for the masses that joined in.