D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman?
Because of the less than attractive ‘stunts’ (for lack of a better term) perpetrated by The Flaming Lips of late, I find myself re-evaluating their earlier efforts; and, more often than not, devaluing them because of said antics. Everything from Transmissions From The Satellite Heart through the underrated At War With The Mystics, albums which I’ve held in high regard for well over a decade now, are slipping in the ranks to an unhealthy level.
Should an artist’s current sins tarnish the reputation of past glories? If an artist releases turd after turd after steaming turd, does it eventually tarnish the way you think of that artist, overall? It does with me. I can’t help it.
I’m not sure about you, but sometimes time/ distance makes a difference. When U2 released All That You Can’t Leave Behind in 2000 I was massively under whelmed, and more than a little disappointed. By the time of 2004’s Steaming Pile album (Official Title: How To Dismantle An Atomic Bomb), I was downright pissed! So pissed I couldn’t stomach listening to prior favorites WAR, Achtung Baby or Zooropa. Those 3 albums are, without doubt, great albums, BUT…it’s taken almost 10 years for me to appreciate them again.
Which brings me to Oasis.
2014 marks the 20th anniversary of Definitely Maybe, their debut album and, at the time, the fastest selling debut in the history of Britain. When I first heard it I was thrilled with the whole sound of the thing; the sludgy confidence of the guitars, Liam’s John Lydon-like snarls, the psychedelic yet simple wordplay nicked straight from Shawn Ryder’s notebook (“She done it with a doctor/on a helicopter”). And even though critics were quick to point out their debts to the Beatles, I didn’t think it was that glaring, bar a couple of guitar licks that reminded me of Octopus’s Garden (Married With Children the most obvious culprit, and one of my most favorite songs on the album). It sounded more “alive” than anything I had heard in ages. This, I thought, was a band in the truest sense of the word.
Then came the slightly disappointing second album, (What’s The Story) Morning Glory. Then the extremely disappointing, coked up third album (Be Here Now) arrived and I was done. I cherished the past glories for a couple of months and then filed Definitely Maybe away on the shelf where it remained for at least 15 years. I would take it out occasionally, but no more than maybe 3 times since 1996. By that time I was a Blur, Pulp and Supergrass super fan, finding Parklife/The Great Escape, Different Class and In It for the Money far superior to the sad, retro product Oasis was churning out. My curiosity would be peaked each time a new album came out, as there was usually one or 2 decent songs, but not enough to drop a tenner on it.
Fast forward to yesterday when a brand spanking new (and quite beautiful) 3-cd Deluxe Edition of Definitely Maybe arrives at my door. I listen to the bonus material first (as I do) while perusing the booklet and the liner notes, and was pleasantly surprised at the raw yet polished set of demos for most of the album tracks. They sound more like studio takes to me, definitely not recorded on a Casio portable ghetto blaster, that’s for sure. Sequence them together and you’ve kind of got a rawer version of the album.
The real treat is having the B-Sides, which were just as great in most cases as the album tracks, in one handy little package. Noel Gallagher has often said that the B-Sides from the Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory sessions should have been saved and released as their third album. Songs like D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman?, Cloudburst, Fade Away, Half The World Away, and especially the very Blur-like and orchestral Whatever are all top notch and their inclusion would have made the original album even better.
I’m not an audiophile; I don’t compare sound graphs so I won’t speak about the remaster quality as I am certainly not qualified. It sounds fine to me, let’s leave it at that. Listening to the original album again I have to say it really stands up, and while the impact of it arriving way back in 1994 may have dimmed I feel confident I’ll be revisiting its glories much more often than I have in the last 15 years.