Oh--You Mean Those Beatles
Cotton Mather: Kontiki (Deluxe Edition) (Star Apple Kingdom)
Pieced together in 1997 from impulsively conceived, doggedly recorded scraps of DAT and four-track by Austin mastermind Robert Harrison and a Memphis tape wizard who loved how Big Star the band was, Cotton Mather's second album caught the attention of some British Beatles fanatics d/b/a Oasis, who brought them over to open and even generated some U.K. sales. While allowing his vocal resemblance to "John Lennon with a Southern accent and a head cold," Harrison's extensive notes don't cite the Beatles much even though "My Before and After" resembles "Ticket to Ride" more than its supposed inspiration "(Reach Out) I'll Be There" and "Private Ruth" echoes "For No One" straight up. Harrison is no more a genius than Noel Gallagher, so though the lyrics aren't spaced-out gibberish or obvious pap, they're unequal to the music‑-which definitely beats, for instance, the last three songs on the first Big Star album, and even more remarkable, kind of makes you appreciate Oasis. (N.B.: I'm recommending the Deluxe because it's new and much cheaper, not because I expect ever to listen to its alternates and new ones for anything except the research I presume is now complete.) B PLUS
Oasis: Stop the Clocks (Sony BMG '06)
One of the many things I never got about this band was where the Beatles were. Where was the ebullience, the wit, the harmonies, God just the singing, and, uh, the songwriting? Cotton Mather made me understand that when Oasis say they love the Beatles they really mean they love the post-Help!, pre-Sgt. Pepper Beatles. Since that span encompasses Rubber Soul and Revolver, many would say tally ho, but (a) not me 'cause I love the Beatles start to finish and (b) only if you're writing songs as good as, uh, "We Can Work It Out." Instead Oasis, meaning loudmouth bro Noel Gallagher, write songs that resemble "We Can Work It Out" in thickened texture and momentum but not depth or charm, then add arena size in the swagger of the drums and the bigged-up vocals themselves. This band-selected best-of‑-two discs lasting 87 minutes, like an old-fashioned double-LP except it's only 18 tracks‑-capture their sonic moment as fully as any freelance music historian needs. A 2010 package repeats 11 of these songs and adds 16 others‑-too many, I say. Also, it omits the opening "Rock 'n' Roll Star." If ever there were guys whose message to the world is summed up by an opener called "Rock 'n' Roll Star," it's these bigheads. B PLUS
Oasis had drums??
Fun fact: Stop the Clocks includes zero songs from Be Here Now.
So this line, "Where was the ebullience, the wit, the harmonies, God just the singing, and, uh, the songwriting?" fits those new Dylans too. Well, maybe not the harmonies part . . .
Things got a little desperate when Jesus Jones got referred to as the new Sex Pistols (true fact!)
I'm not too clear on just who it was that compared Oasis to the Beatles. I had stopped reading British magazines by that point. Things do tend to get ultra-political when you mention that whole mid-90s britpop era around actual British folks (at least on ILM). There's this massive disdain and resentment that seems almost entirely based on extra-musical factors. You'd think Oasis was Michael Bolton fronting Limp Bizkit or something. F**kers don't know how good they had it, having Pulp at the top of the charts.
We got in early and stayed for two openers, one of whom was the Brian Jonestown Massacre. The deets of the BJM's performance deserve thousands of words, but they essentially self-destructed on stage, swore they'd never perform again, and blamed their inability to get through a song on the crowd. This is detailed in the film Dig! as the night they had a big industry crowd to please and whiffed completely, but it always endeared them to my heart as one of the finest pieces of performance art I've ever stumbled upon. I saw them maybe a half-dozen more times in the '90s and always enjoyed their shambolic ways, even if the records are nothing special.
Anyway, Oasis strutted out as if the world were already at their feet, even though most of us didn't know but one or two songs. Liam had the Nigel Tufnel wad of gum going in his cheek when he wasn't singing and one or both of the brothers wore sunglasses throughout the set in this darkest of little clubs. One thing I will say for them: they were without any question the loudest band I've ever seen, even in that small place. Every one of us dove for the earplug counter within a song or two. They were already playing at stadium volume even then. Verdict then and now: bluster, a little muscle, some tuneage, lotsa wankery, and an indomitable ****ness apparent even from the start.
The Nitsuh Abebe comments about the Lil B speech, referenced by bradluen and found here -- http://goo.gl/PwYvI -- sent me to a site I'd never heard of before called Rap Genius. Rap Genius is first a reader contributed rap lyrics site, with the added hook of allowing readers to link their interpretations of the lyrics to the lyrics themselves. Not staggeringly brilliant stuff but an interesting idea nonetheless. There I found the entire written transcript of Lil B's speech -- http://goo.gl/DHZbA
If you like Abebe's piece, which I find to be a narrower but equally morale sample of David Foster Wallace's "Consider The Lobster" essay, then you owe it to yourself to read Lil B's entire speech. As Abebe captured, there's a serious discipline involved in the degree of respect for and dignity to others that Lil B seems to have mastered.
Abebe: "If anyone has ever questioned Lil B’s earnest dedication to his home-brewed everyman philosophy of love, they can stop: The guy’s ideas are deeply felt. This was not, he said, an easy place to get to. 'I had to train myself,' he said. 'I didn’t just become a happy person, you feel me? I lied to myself for a while. Because I had to train myself.'"
Like Big K.R.I.T. says in "Handwriting", "I take this s(tuff) seriously man", so my thanks to bradluen for the link and the knowledge. And to Bob for the recommendations and the access.
Checked out the original Christgau "consumer" reviews of the Oasis albums
we're talking about. He didn't really care for them- which if I recall was the reason I came late to this band.
When I finally caught up-I thought they were pretty good-some great singles. BTW are they in the HOF?
PS I'm not a computer guy-how do you get the little picture
in the little box? And while I'm at it -how do you move text around?
Sorry for being so lame. Us boomers?
In fact, at the risk of ruining Cam's day, I've always thought #1 Record was a much better album than 3rd.Am I going to make somebody cry if I say I enjoy both #1 Record and Third more than Radio City? First one is prettier, third one more disturbing. Of course, if everything on Radio City was as loony and awesome as "O My Soul", it would be the best album ever.
So I still couldn't hum an Oasis tune with a gun to my head. I miiight check this out, however.Unless you expect to be in a situation where said humming could save you from said gun, I bet you can find something better to do with your ear-time.
about the blogger
Starting in 1967, Robert Christgau has covered popular music for The Village Voice, Esquire, Blender, Playboy, Rolling Stone, and many other publications. He teaches in New York University's Clive Davis Department of Recorded Music, maintains a comprehensive website at robertchristgau.com, and has published five books based on his journalism. He has written for MSN Music since 2006.
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