Co-headling this year’s edition of the Thanksgiving Week Greatest Hits Festival: Oasis, who are putting up a typically grand show in pretending to have been dragged into the best-of thing but are probably as well-versed in such a disc’s place in a band’s biography as anyone. Not counting Axl, has anyone in recent years played the Dimwitted Disenchanted Rock Star role with more aggressive panache than the Gallagher brothers, one of the real world’s best answers to Itchy and Scratchy?
Such is the weird, still temporary verdict on a group that, since its very first days, has been the epic version of a spoiled, rich-prick cousin — yep, he can be an irritating bastard, but his toys are pretty super. Oasis’ hits set arrives well after their probably inevitable slide toward diminishing returns but well before they skidded into comprehensive Behind the Music-ism. Luckily for them, and the always entertaining British press herd, their fame will persist as long they can continue getting in occasional fisticuffs and unearthing late-period gems like “Lyla” every now and again.
But it’s hard to view the 18-track Stop the Clocks as anything other than the end of an era (and not just as it conveniently ends the band’s relationship with Sony). Noel once claimed that Oasis would only consent to a best-of when the band inevitably imploded; the opportunity to get out of his deal, and the rather remarkable notion that hasn’t happened yet, seems to have changed his mind.
He also managed to secure creative control of the tracklist here, which makes for a pretty fascinating study. Of the 18 tracks, Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory get five songs each, of course; Heathen Chemistry and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants get one apiece. Singles and ephemera get four, while Be Here Now doesn’t even rank that AT&T song. Such an approach sure beats the “14 Singles and Two Old B-Sides We Re-Recorded” plan, and there’s appealing self-awareness in the brothers’ implicit admission that things haven’t been all morning-glory of late. Still, the whole shebang is one of those two-disc sets in which the longer is 44 minutes; with very little editing effort Columbia could have been saved some pressing-plant money.
But when has Oasis given a damn about editing? Let ’em have it. These are monster songs, conceived big and uncoiled bigger and never with anything less than Super Bowl-halftime aspirations, even if they haven’t got there much in a while. Whatever you think of the Faces/Beatles-chord pilfering and Liam’s ability to turn “shine” into a three-syllable insult, when these guys are on, they float right over their own press. The aging process has left “Rock N’ Roll Star”, “Cigarettes & Alcohol” and “Champagne Supernova” as untouched as Barry Manilow’s mug shot. “Wonderwall” is “Wonderwall” in all its bombastic glory; debate amongst yourselves. And what other band could end a hits comp with a song called “Don’t Look Back in Anger” and make it seem like some kind of muttered sarcastic retort?
Stop the Clocks ends up the sound of a band who enviably never had to consider what judicious restraint might sound like, and what happens when rock-star dreams go unfiltered by silly pittances like humility, showing up places on time and not frequently punching your brother in the nads. It’s just rock ‘n’ roll. Anything less would be some other band, probably one smaller than Jesus.