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Pop Will Eat Itself: Oasis As Mass-Catering Phenomenon
Roy Wilkinson , June 14th, 2010 10:02

As Oasis release their Time Flies... retrospective, Roy Wilkinson recalls various encounters which argue that this most patchy of British groups have much in common with cheap eat catering

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Hungry for unlimited sausages? Up for endless potatoes, chipped, wedged, fried and baked? Oasis aren't the only good-time guys to have arisen in the north and successfully supplied satiation on a mass level. Recently the Taybarns all-you-eat chain has been packing them in across the high latitudes, from Barnsley to South Shields. In mildly ethnographic style, Taybarns has been fascinating the London-based media. The press have been intrigued by the "34-metre food line" and an all-inclusive £5.99 meal-deal (weekdays from 11.30am to 5.00pm). Things were perhaps similar with Oasis's initial bloom – a soft south bewitched by these brusque northerners and their mass pop provisioning. But, isn't this latest Oasis best-of a bit like Taybarns in reverse? Paying again for stuff you've already had?

Oasis and their then label Creation once really did run an all-you-can-eat spectacular. All-you-can-drink as well. The backstage bounty at Oasis's 1996 shows at Knebworth was astonishing. An immense marquee was lined with bars, all fully stocked with any drink you could imagine. A barbecue sizzled eternal. To anyone with a pass it was all free, all day. It wasn't that exclusive either. The music-industry types were diluted by numerous family and friends. You could tell this because, when Noel Gallager wandered in, he was instantly mobbed by autograph-seekers. Within this moderately-exclusive marquee, there was a separate VIP quadrant. This roped-off corner was soon besieged by people who all stood there staring at Kate Moss and Patsy Palmer.

Backstage at Knebworth there were also free ice creams and lollies, plus portraitists and magicians permanently on call. Professional entertainers wandered the marquee offering tricks and caricature sketches. Completing the deranged mood of mass munificence, on the roof of the tent was a slogan in huge letters: 'CREATION RECORDS – WORLD CLASS'. It made sense that you'd need a helicopter to really appreciate this inscription. By this point, Oasis had become a kind of Eddie Stobart space shuttle, constructed largely from old second-hand parts but still blasting off into space. This Knebworth gluttony and Taybarns-style super-consumption chime with Oasis in several ways. In their new hits compilation Time Flies…, Oasis once again feast on the fat of their own back catalogue. As well they might – perhaps more than anything else, Oasis are an astounding manifestation of David Quantick's theorem that 'Pop will eat itself'.

Quantick's phrase appeared in an NME article on Jamie Wednesday, a Streatham indie band which included the two men who would become Carter USM. Quantick's observation was to acquire even more chilling associations – a prediction of pop's ever more repetitive instinct for recycling and recombination. Noel Gallagher, of course, has been utterly brazen in his pop larceny. Various admissions and legal interventions have confirmed the way he's been unafraid to draw on extant composition by anyone from Burt Bacharach to Stevie Wonder to The New Seekers.

'Cigarettes And Alcohol' appears again here. On the face of it, it amounts to a gang of Manchester urchins strolling up to Marc Bolan's 'Get It On': "Hey mister, we'll mind your song for a quid." But, 'Cigarettes And Alcohol' is also an ineffable, timeless concentration of human pleasure, like the film of Saturday Night & Sunday Morning condensed into a few minutes of audio. To hate Oasis seems a bit like hating humanity en masse – or at least the British public en masse. Oasis cleverly capitalise on this aspect with the CD booklet here. There's a collection of testimonial quotes from Oasis fans. "When I hear Oasis," says Marty Corry of Belfast, "they change me from being a factory worker into a rock star." Simon Baddeley, Stoke-on-Trent: "Oasis reminds me that one day I'll get away from the job centre and council estates." And, casting the net further afield, Joaquin Lios of Costa Rica: "Without this song I would not look, think or feel the way I do now." It'd take a cold heart to damn all of this – or to even think about denying the way Oasis have recorded many songs of undimming everyman-and-everywoman (but mainly everyman) transcendence. The gauchery and man-with-a-van mysticism that often colours Oasis' words only accentuates this feel of a universal human voice: "We'll find a way to do what we've done," as Liam sang on 'Slide Away'.

Even when Oasis are terrible they are at least catastrophically terrible, as, in extremis, on the Be Here Now album (an LP this reporter awarded full marks at the time. I was wrong! I wasn't alone!) They're at their worst when they're merely competent in this catastrophe, as on a good few tracks here: 'Lyla', 'The Hindu Times', 'Lord Don't Slow Me Down'. But even at his nadir Liam can be not just a goon but also someone with a kind of free-associating absurdism that verges on The Goon Show. Liam's bipartite presence and his representation of man-on-the-street-on-the-stage maybe came to a peak with the disastrous Wembley Stadium show of 22 July 2000, where a hugely drunk Liam mixed surreal slurrings with gormless requests for girls to get their tits out for the benefit of the video screens.

On the way home from this Wembley show, I found a little tableau that seemed emblematic of Oasis's impasse. In one of the Wembley underpasses, there was a forlorn and massively inebriated Oasis fan, shirtless and stumbling. He was attempting, vainly, to start a fight with a street-sweeper who was clearing up the post-gig detritus. The drunk Oasis-ite would periodically lunge toward the street-sweeper. The man would casually step away from the confused attack and carry on with his work. How symbolic. It wasn't Noel Gallagher turning out some typical pop-eating-itself variation on the Stones' Street Fighting Man. Just a man fighting a street-sweeper. By whatever means the Oasis fan had evidently found his way to some all-you-can-drink nirvana. The infinite consumption hadn't necessarily led to best possible conclusion.

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Johnny Nothing
Jun 14, 2010 4:21pm

I would like to add: Ugliness can be a virtue but not when it is clumsy and boring.

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Jun 15, 2010 3:14am

Another critic putting down "Be Here Now." Shocking. Did you ever think that maybe that album was really good, and that you just decided to jump on the bandwagon of all the other critics that decided to change their minds when a few others did?? Sure its long, it's not radio friendly...who cares? If you really listen to that album it is brilliant. As Noel himself said, it was a bunch of guys with too much money and too much coke....hasn't a lot of great music come from that combination?

Every tired criticism of them is true...yes they sound like the Beatles, yes they ripped off other bands, etc., etc. But they have never pretended they didn't. They have ALWAYS been honest and unapologetic. Oasis has always been about a "feeling"...about giving the world a big middle finger when it needed it, about believing you would figure it out, that you would be alright, that you'd make it. Some people will never understand that.

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Jun 15, 2010 4:19am

Oasis was uninhibited, no pretense, it was what you call - ugly side that actually made them real ie "show your tits on the screen" IT WAS AUTHENTIC. They don't care if its not politically correct.
That Wembly gig is punk rock, so entertaining, Liam had broken up with his wife, pissed off his head about it and thats what we saw... you seem to think there is some connection there with how drunk fans react after the gig - thats pathetic man, Oasis can't control what idiots do after there gigs over, just like Bono can't force people to save Africa.

they were awesome and BIG. Too bad that bigness clouds your view. You seem to think to be cool, you can't be big. Shit way of thinking. (beside no band will ever be as big as Oasis was in the 90's.. not in this age of 1000 niche musical tastes, the Beatles Stones, none of those bands would be as big they were in the 60's , 70's or 90s anymore.. and I AM glad it happened, more variety, better than the "all or nothing" music industry of before.

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Jun 15, 2010 5:54am

In reply to Nishant:

they lost it.early least theyre funny in interviews and get wasted

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Jun 15, 2010 8:59am

What's their song that doesn't sound exactly like "I'd like to teach the world to sing"? That was playing in HMV the other day. It's the cultural equivalent of the sound tyres make when air brakes are slammed on.

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Jun 15, 2010 11:19am

"To hate Oasis seems a bit like hating humanity en masse – or at least the British public en masse."

Spend a Friday night in a city-centre Wetherspoons and then tell me I'm being snobbish...

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Jun 15, 2010 12:44pm

This collection isn't even a fair representation of Oasis' career though, seeing as they wasted about 20 b sides that could have been number 1 singles, or album tracks at the very least.

I thought Oasis bashing would stop once they broke up, but it's just getting boring now. Some people like them, some don't. I do and I think Be Here Now is a cracker of an album aswell as the masterplan.
so that's 4 Oasis albums that I fully love, the rest range from mediocre to good.

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Jun 15, 2010 4:18pm

In reply to kevin:

Hehe how fitting that somebody called Kevin would be the chief Oasis apologist here. I'd have guessed a Lee or a Sadly, in a nutshell, Oasis presented moronic music for moronic people. There were many many of them about in the 1990s hence their global success. It's totally cool to be snobbish about Oasis, really it is, for they were the wreckers of civilization - barbarians, ignoramuses, heathens, clods, boors and philistines. They were ruddy awful.

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Luke Turner
Jun 15, 2010 4:23pm

In reply to digitalwasp:

We'll have nothing said against people called Kevin around these parts, sir. Our Kev Kharas can write himself out of an antiquated badger trap.

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Jun 15, 2010 4:45pm

In reply to digitalwasp:

I suppose you're a Radiohead fan, yeah? Smart music for smart people, yeah? Yeah. "Difficult" music for the arty, difficult person, those who are above Oasis, yeah? Yeah, of course.

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Jun 15, 2010 10:44pm

In reply to Jon:

Ha ha, what a predictable response. Oasis fans really are the anti-intellectualists de nos jours (that's French by the way). Radiohead evidently represent all that they fail to understand in modern music (ie lyrical depth, musical experimentation and so on) and therefore they despise it in an almost Pavlovian response. Whether I like Radiohead or not, I thoroughly execrate Oasis, isn't that enough?

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Jun 16, 2010 6:09am

@ digitalwasp

I am an Oasis fan...but I am far from being an anti-intellectualist.

However your slavish inherence to stereotypes does show that you have an incapacity for free-though. If you are a Radiohead's a pity that their capacity for complex thoughts does not exist in you as well.

There is nothing that makes Radiohead empirically better than Oasis.

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Jun 16, 2010 7:17am

Oasis have always been championed (by themselves and others) has the band of the people; not the psuedo-intelligentsia that populate the comment sections of The Quietus and like-minded websites.

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John Doran
Jun 16, 2010 7:29am

In reply to Rob:

I guess that anyone who can't tell the difference between the word 'has' and the word 'as' is always going to find a site like this fit for naught but false intellectualism... or phony secret police, as he's actually written.

Loving this Kevin's argument: Hey did you ever stop and think that maybe their third album is actually awesome and you just didn't notice?

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Jun 17, 2010 10:55am

Be Here Now is a good album. But obviously it's not cool amongst music critics to like Oasis anymore.

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Jun 17, 2010 11:02am

In reply to digitalwasp:

A mon avis, les fans d'Oasis ne sont pas "anti-intellectuel" du tout.

I wish people would stop generalising about Oasis fans. Not all of them - in fact, very few of them - are the drunken yobbos they are portrayed to be. And no, Oasis' music may not be the most experimental or lyrically-brilliant, but it strikes a chord with a lot of people. What's so bad about that?

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Jun 19, 2010 3:40am

In reply to John Doran:

We all make mistakes, friend. Sorry I added that extra letter by mistake, feel free to further criticize me. Would you like to have a go at my name? How about my use of punctuation? What a childish discussion this has turned into; I didn't know one's intellectual level was based on their name or ability to speak French. You might want to look up the term "intelligentsia" though, friend.

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joaquin lios
Jul 3, 2010 9:10pm

I was drunk when I entered my words on that contest and here I am looking my name on this album, right below supersonic. I stick to it.

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Rubber Johnny
Jul 6, 2010 6:40pm

Roy "I was wrong!"Wilkinson, you usually are wrong mate.

I can't believe you're still allowed to write reviews (other than of course sycophantic one's for any albums put out by your best mate Geoff Travis at Rough Trade - has no-one else noticed how glowing Roy's RT review's consistently are?) how do you do it?

Maybe you should start writing reviews of British Sea Power releases (the band featuring two of Roy's relatives, and oh! on Rough Trade.) but you probably do already under other names.

This piece on Oasis is awful. You and many music critics were taken-in lock, stock and barrel by this empty, pompous nonsense. And now you're trying to justify your love of this shite, c'mon...

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Jul 12, 2010 8:06pm

Oasis is the U.K.'s Bon Jovi. Deal With It.

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Slim Jim
Jul 14, 2010 8:31am

In reply to Spyboy:

Nothing wrong with a guilty pleasure. Oasis for all their highs and lows, continue to entertain millions of folk.

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Mark Bennett
Jul 18, 2010 2:34pm

Oasis? I want my rock stars to look like rock stars, not a bunch of nobody's that wandered in off the street. If you can't be bothered to pay attention to your look then i can't be bothered to listen. Simple.

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Aug 2, 2010 9:39am

In reply to Mark Bennett:

"To hate Oasis seems a bit like hating humanity en masse – or at least the British public en masse. "

Agreed - what a bunch of twats.

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Dec 23, 2010 3:33am

In reply to digitalwasp:

Actually, chief, I do like Radiohead, I like Oasis more, sure. I also know French, ma cherie. I find your Pavlovian response comment ironic, because I find people such as yourself jump on your soapboxes and criticize Oasis and anyone who likes them down your noses in the same way as you say those who like Oasis put down Radiohead. I think you make a good point of saying Oasis fans are anti-intellectualist - maybe that makes you and your Radiohead worshipping horde intellectualists. Only thing is that, for some reason, you seem to think that's a good thing - it's not.

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