Stop the Clocks Label: Sony/BMG
"We're a rock band, a pop band, a punk band, but then we're something else altogether. If you go back through 30 years of music, we're the best bits, your favorite bits, all encompassed in one band. We're Oasis." – Noel Gallagher
"We are bigger than Jesus. We will be as big as the Beatles, if not bigger." – Liam Gallagher
When Oasis emerged in 1994 with their debut album, Definitely Maybe, they became instant media sensations in the UK, and at least part of that was because of the music they were making. The rest of their attention, of course, came courtesy of the Gallagher brothers, Liam and Noel, who – as the above quotes clearly indicate – saw world domination as a requirement, if only because England alone couldn’t contain the size of their egos.
At some point in the past, Noel, with typical bluster, boasted that Oasis would never release a compilation of their best work until the band had broken up. Sounds like the words of someone who’s never been signed to a major label, since there are bands out with only two albums to their credit that have purported “greatest hits” albums. Ignoring the slight wrinkle that the band released a “best B-sides” set back in ’98, however (since The Masterplan was actually a very nice present for US fans who couldn’t afford to shell out the bucks for all those import singles), that Oasis has made it through six studio albums before putting out a proper best-of collection is a testament to Noel at least trying to stand by his statement. He probably didn’t have much of a leg to stand on, anyway, since it’s doubtful there was anything in their contract to keep Sony from releasing such a collection…and, hey, at least the band had a say in what was included the two-disc retrospective, Stop the Clocks.
The most notable thing about these 18 selections – and the bit that will no doubt be mentioned in every review – is that there’s not a single song from Oasis’s third album, Be Here Now. Often described as a cocaine-powered behemoth with songs so bloated (nine of the twelve tracks top out at over 5 minutes) that it brought the band’s momentum to a standstill, it’s…well, actually, that’s pretty much the album in a nutshell. There are precious few songs on the record that you don’t wish were about half as long; still, the one utterly sinful omission that should’ve made the cut – and, not coincidentally, the one which works wonderfully throughout its 7+ minutes – is “D’You Know What I Mean?” It’s Oasis’s right to simply write off Be Here Now and pretend it never happened, but, damn, if Duran Duran can include “Serious” from Liberty on their greatest-hits disc, you’d think the Gallaghers could at least include “D’You Know What I Mean?” (Kudos, though, for avoiding the temptation to tack on “All Around the World,” which is now known as much for its use in an AT&T commercial as anything else.)
Still, you can’t really argue with the decision to focus on Definitely Maybe and its even stronger follow-up, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?; they’re definitely the two most solid albums in the band’s catalog. Songs like “Rock ‘N’ Roll Star,” “Live Forever,” “Supersonic,” and “Cigarettes & Alcohol” are what built Oasis’s reputation, and “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” and the one-two punch of the title track followed by the epic ballad, “Champagne Supernova,” maintained it. And if Be Here Now caused the band to lose their commercial footing, they held steady creatively, providing a series of albums with Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000), Heathen Chemistry (2002), and Don’t Believe the Truth (2005) that grew consistently stronger and more enjoyable…possibly because the band began to go away long enough between albums for people to actually have a chance to miss them. The selections from those discs are reasonable, for the most part; “Lyla” remains a stomper, the short but sweet country-ish “Songbird” is proof that Oasis doesn’t have to rip off the Beatles, and “Go Let It Out” is a reasonable selection from Standing on the Shoulder of Giants; truth be told, I’d rather have seen “I Can See A Liar”…but my preferences are a road best not traveled, lest we be here all day.
As U2’s recent collection has shown (as have many others before it), there’s no such thing as a perfect best-of, even before the extraction of the Be Here Now material, but you can moan about the band’s choices for this collection all you want; it ain’t gonna change ‘em. For now, Stop the Clocks is unrivaled on the market simply because it doesn’t have any competition, making it as good a starting place for your Oasis collection as any.