Battle of Famous Albums can only happen when a band has two records that stand out in their discography and that are generally in very close competition with each other in terms of popularity and critical reception. If the band has more than two peaks, it won’t apply. Nor if one of the two peaks is regarded as much higher.
The main difference between the first and the second Oasis album is the following: Definitely Maybe is the portrait of a bunch of young, hungry rock ‘n’ rollers with nothing but a dream, while on (What’s the Story) Morning Glory they already sound like professional musicians trying to expand their territory as to gain worldwide success.
Now it is no secret that fans have forever argued on which of the two is better. Critical reception is usually favorable for both, their names ever-present in best-albums lists. Casual listeners will always associate Oasis more with Wonderwall and Don’t Look Back in Anger than Live Forever and Supersonic, so to them the second album represents the main attraction. Charting-wise, they were both #1 in UK, only in US creating a discrepancy with the former at #58 and the latter at #4.
Often when I have a hard time picking the favourite album from a band I care about, I start thinking which one would I suggest to a fan who’s never heard them before. In this case, I have no second thoughts about the decision: (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. Why? Accessibility is taken to a whole new level here – every single song has a memorable hook or a catchy chorus that you won’t be able to get out of your head. It is also much more inviting, with hits that would very soon cause entire stadiums to sing along. I am of course talking about Wonderwall, Don’t Look Back in Anger and Champagne Supernova. But that’s not all – each of those three songs sound completely different than anything from the previous album, whether we talk about genre (two of them are downright ballads), instrumentation (one of them’s acoustic), lead vocal (hi, Noel) and even length. And there’s other stuff on the album as well, such as the funny, harmony-wrapped She’s Electric, the contemplative Cast No Shadow or the two instrumental interludes. We can safely say that diversity is another new ingredient that they added to the mix when creating their second album.
So yes, I would suggest (What’s the Story) Morning Glory as the starting point for Oasis any day. But that’s only part of the story and not the closing argument. The second question I ask myself is “Did they really need all this?”. Because every time I play Definitely Maybe I think it’s just perfect – one of the most inspired and inspiring collection of pop-rockers ever put together. I can’t help but feeling that adding new dimensions to their sound only caused Oasis to loose what I loved about them in the first place – the attitude towards music-making and towards life in general. The need to always rock the fuck out – only arguably Some Might Say and Morning Glory rock as hard as the majority of this album. The naïve, but oh-so-relatable life views (“You and I are gonna live forever”). The yearning, I-have-nothing-and-want-everything attitude (“Tonight I’m a rock ‘n’ roll star”). The youthful energy and enthusiasm (“Is it my imagination, or have I finally found something worth living for?”). This is more than just an accessible, catchy and diverse pop album, this is a way of living. And it makes the most sense when one hears it young. It is simply rock ‘n’ roll, or at least my idea of what rock ‘n’ roll should sound like and be about.
So to conclude, while (What’s the Story) Morning Glory may appeal to more people, I feel Definitely Maybe causes stronger and more personal reactions. I can only vote with my heart – the debut it is.
Categories: Battle of Famous Albums