I put these two bands in the same folder out of a mild perversity and the fact that, for all their much-publicized rivalry, they have more in common than not. First, a brief history lesson. Beginning sometime the early '80s, British rock'n'roll went into a severe slump, with barely any half-way decent bands to emerge that held a candle to American indie-rock. The Smiths were alright, but it speaks volumes about the decline of British pop that Morrissey & Co. became by default the voice of their generation. Every year the NME would proclaim some mediocre, sometimes barely listenable band, as the future of rock'n'roll. Remember Jesus & The Mary Chain? The Stone Roses? Gag, most wretched of all, Suede. In the early '90s, after floundering amidst such hopeless trends as shoe-gazing and Madchester ecstacy-fueled dance crap (which, like a lot of hippie bands, requires chemical additives to "understand" it), a handful of Brits came to their senses. Reaching back to their roots in the Beatles, Kinks, Bowie, etc. - the time when the British Empire really did rule the music world - Blur and Oasis sparked the Brit-pop explosion. While extremely derivative and often shallow, the music is infinitely more entertaining and listenable than anything that has come out of the U.K. in quite some time, and in the mid '90s provided a praise-the-heavens antidote to the endless stream of tuneless, witless American grunge bands. For that - despite their obvious weaknesses - Blur and Oasis have made the world, or at least radio, a better place.

I've downgraded the ratings of a few albums on this page. Oasis are a band that I liked when they came out, but never listen to anymore (how many months has it been since I threw either CD on the changer?), and I highly doubt I will ever again, considering how many better CDs I've got in my collection (check out the rest of my website to read about some of'em). It's obvious by now that Oasis weren't third-rate Beatles; Oasis were second-rate Mott the Hoople, if they sonically resembled any classic rock band. It's also abundantly clear by now, 1999, that Blur will take their place as the best British band of the decade - what a depressing thought. I like Blur, but they aren't even in the same league as the Kinks, a band that every critic has to mention everytime anyone discusses Blur, for some very good reasons (namely, spending their career imitating Ray Davies). But who else besides Blur? Look at the competition - Radiohead come close, but that OK Computer isn't nearly as good as folks pining for the second coming of Pink Floyd pretend it is. P.J. Harvey - the Patti Smith of the '90s. Catherine Wheel - a bit dry. Only one album this decade means My Bloody Valentine don't count. And let's face it, folks, the Stone Roses are the reason the words "overhyped English band" are redundant. The godawful Suede have spent their career revelling in the worst excesses of the Smiths and Bowie. The Manic Street Preachers - puh-leese, they aren't even half as good as Generation X, much less the Clash. I'm not even going to count all those techno/electronica/trip-hop bands because the beat's so boring - all the songs sound the same; I for one value such "old-fashioned" concepts such as songs, hooks, and personality. Ash, Supergrass, Elastica, Echobelly - nice kids, call me back when you've made a few more albums (and managed the perilous straits of artistic growth). Pulp - after fifteen years of laughably bad (I mean they make the Thompson Twins sound cutting edge) '80s techno-pop, they come at the right time, 1996, to catch the '80s retro-bandwagon with a -gasp!- good album. And that done, Pulp go back to sucking as badly as ever: the one-album wonder. "Common People," though, is the single of the decade - which is including anything released from America, too. What a sad, tawdry state for the Empire: proof that, in the wrong hands, namely British journalists (who actually have lower standards than the American media, if you can believe that), the power of rock criticism can ruin rock'n'roll. Thanks a lot for overhyping every band that can make it to the end of their set without cracking up as The Greatest Band Since The Greatest Band of All Time (either the Stone Roses or the Smiths, depending on who you're reading).

I forgot about the Welsh scene and the Scottish scene; actually, there's some good music coming out of those provinces. Perhaps this is because Glasgow and Cardiff are far enough from the poisonous London media to develop their music the way they want it to sound, rather than what John Peel or some NME hack exploring the gender dynamics of trip-hop DJs wants them to sound like. I've never understood the weird British tendency to treat pop music like a collection of trends - rock this week, disco the next, and oh what about that hot new ironic Mekons-style spin on country? Geez, limeys, treat music like music, and like what you like because you actually enjoy listening to it, not because it's trendy. I realize the Brits had an ironic detachment towards rock in the early days because it wasn't their music but Americans', but after three decades of great British bands you ought to have enough pride in your country to realize that rock'n'roll is as much yours as ours. Rock is as British as bad teeth and bland food, so there's no need for those antiquated attitudes anymore. Anyway, I find it encouraging that the Scots are so untrendy that half of them emulate American heartland rock - don't they know that listening to Big Star is like, so totally early '90s?

Reader Comments

Geoff McKeown,

I find this page rather insulting. Not only do you horrifically underrate Blur and cast them aside as being 'good for a '90s British band', but also vent unwanted venom on every single halfway decent contemporary British band plus taking aim at dance music. And Blur and Oasis have very little in common, despite what the media may say + THE GREAT ESCAPE is a masterpiece (if not, at least better than PARKLIFE) + that bit about Britpop being shallow; Oasis maybe, but you are yet to review Blur's latest album 13, which is anything but shallow.

Adam Wilson,

Blur are the best band ever!

You do not know that you are talking about. Modern Life is rubbish is blurs worst album and a big mistake, as they themselfs have said many times, and you have rated it as the best!?! I think you should goway and do some research as 'There's no other way' from lesure is one of the best songs of the decade. The stone roses are also a band you have not listened to. 'I am the reserection', one of the best songs of all time, that catchy bass rift. Squire and Coxon have to be two of the best guitarists of all time.

Daniel Streb,

The Stone Roses were NOT all hype!

Geoff McKeown,

I find this page rather insulting. Not only do you horrifically underate Blur and cast them aside as being 'good for a 90's British band', but also vent unwanted venom on every single halfway decent contemporary British band plus taking aim at dance music. And Blur and Oasis have very little in common, despite what the media may say + THE GREAT ESCAPE is a masterpiece (if not, it as at least better than PARKLIFE) + that bit about Britpop being shallow; Oasis maybe, but you are yet to review Blur's latest album 13, which is anything but shallow.

Evan P Streb,

First of all what's wrong with the Stone Roses? Their first album is INCREDIBLE. With not one, but FOUR of the catchiest basslines you'll ever hear! ("I Wanna Be Adored", "She Bangs the Drums", "I Am The Ressurection", and "Fools Gold"). Fun and catchy and DEFINITELY not "the reason the words 'overhyped British band are redundant'". You've probably only heard their godawful "comeback" album "Second Coming". That was a terrible one, don't buy that. Buy their debut. Anyway, the Stone Roses were awesome and I really hate that they never made it over here.

And hey! Blur are probably the best singles band to ever walk the Earth! I just got Parklife and it's absolutely incredible. The songs are just so catchy and singalongable. You listen to them once and they just get stuck in your head for the rest of the day making you a much happier person. As for the Great Escape, "House In The Country" does NOT sound like "Country House". At least I don't see it. Why didn't you mention "Stereotypes"? That's probably the best thing they've ever done! And nobody cares about who's stealing from who. It's pop music! Artists incorporating bits from past melodies and incorporating it into their own unique creations. "Stereotypes" sounds like Rush's "Roll The Bones"? WHO CARES!?!?!?!? "Parklife" is a ripoff of "Kill The Sex Player"? SO THE HELL WHAT!!!!

Blur: Leisure (1991) *1/2

Curiously enough, Blur began as just another band hopping aboard the Madchester dance-wagon. This album flopped and the band almost broke up, for some obvious reasons. First of all, to point out the obvious, you can't dance to it. Yes, their has been that odd development in recent years of dance music that you can't dance to, usually performed by pretentious Brits about as funky as fish'n'chips. Songs like "She's So High" have catchy choruses and a promising melodicism, and they're real songs, too, not just riffs'n'beats. However, this music is strictly in-one-ear-and-out-the-other - you won't remember a single one of those choruses or be able to hum those melodies, let alone any of the lyrics, which seem to be about nothing, anyway.

Blur: Modern Life Is Rubbish (1993) ****

The Great Leap Forward. This might be the most influential British album of the '90s - Brit-pop begins here. Lead singer/songwriter Damon Albarn cleverly positions himself as the heir to the Davies/Townsend tradition of three-minute tunes containing social satire. Derivative like crazy - the opener borrows its key phrase from T. Rex's "20th Century Boy", and "Colin Zeal" basically rewrites the Jam's "Mr. Clean" (itself a rewrite of the Kinks' "Well Respected Man"). If you can overlook that problem, the album will provide you with plenty of treasures, melodic pop/rock songs packed with punchy guitars, updating '60s songcraft with '90s production values. There's a hint of vapidity in Blur's music - "kaza-kaza-kazoo" is not a chorus to build a song on - but those concerns don't bother me when they've got songs as catchy as "Chemical World", "Advert", and "Blue Jeans".

Blur: Parklife (1994) ***1/2

This album made Blur superstars in Europe and even scraped the American charts with the early-'80s dance-pop of "Boys And Girls". As a result, many see this as Blur's defining album, but I have a reservation. It's too inconsistent. Essaying a dizzing array of musical styles and genres, Blur attempt to capture all of the strains of British pop in their net. As you might have guessed, they aren't equally successful at everything. "Bank Holiday" barks like a hyperactive pup, a lame attempt to capture the rush of punk. "To The End" might be passable faux-soulful '60s soundtrack balladry, but Albarn doesn't possess the pipes to pull it off. "Trouble From The Message Center" may be their finest three minutes, a driving synth-pop number that owes a bit to Gary Numan. "Jubilee" tells of a troubled teenager in the grand Pete Townsend tradition; "Tracy Jacks", however, amounts to little more than a facile Ray Davies pastiche. The ambition is admirable (or maybe merely clever), but for every good moment there's a moment that doesn't work so well.

Blur: The Great Escape (1995) ***

Written off by some as a dud, Blur's fourth album is actually another step forward in their evolution. Blur displays much more depth than previously thought possible, mainly because Albarn follows the dictum, "Write what you know". He focuses in on the daily lives of upper-middle class professionals trapped in suburbia, and his view is contentedly bleak in the manner of, say, an Updike or Cheever - lots of drinking, 9-5 stress, emotionally distant couples, even a spot of wife-swapping. With Albarn clearly dominating, it feels more like a singer/songwriter album than that of a working band, which is its main flaw. The catchy upbeat numbers are few and far between (at 15 songs, this suffers from CD-era length), and some of the uptempo tunes are obnoxiously herky-jerky and tuneless ("Dan Abnormal"). Several references to corporations and Japan crop up, a theme made clear in "Yuko and Hiro", which even sports Japanese dialogue. One of the best songs, it holds out a couple's love as the shining light in an otherwise mundane existence. The similarities between British and Japanese cultures has been noted by certain observers: both are island nations, former empires that now endure a wearying sense of limits, societies built on reserve and protocol ("The Remains Of The Day" by Kazau Ishaguru might be the best example of the Japanese affinity for finding common ground with the Brits). The album also lets Albarn's Ray Davies worship get out of hand, a trait that was always obvious before. "Charmless Man" possesses the same dramatic situation (and a similar arrangement) as the Kinks' "Berkely Mews"; "Best Days" is a shameless (but effective in its own way) attempt to write the next "Waterloo Sunset". And the single and catchiest tune borrows the title (and a few other things) from the Kinks' "House In The Country".

Blur: Blur (1997) **1/2

Using an eponymous title for your fifth album usually suggests a new beginning, and Blur do just that. Abandoning Brit-pop for a tackle of American indie bands like Pavement, Blur sound uncomfortably far afield from their natural habitat. In contrast to the modernistic sheen of their earlier work, Blur try to get rough and jagged. Nevermind that Blur couldn't get gritty if they ate a shovelful of ditchdigger's dirt - they're too urbane and upper-class, not to mention downright wimpy. An attempt at Mott the Hoople balladry, "Look Inside America" doesn't move me, and the Beastie Boys tribute, "Chinese Bombs" is laughable. Nevertheless, "Go 2" revels in and mocks grunge ("When I feel 'eavy metal!" - thank god somebody finally put that '90s revival of bad '70s cock-rock in its place) successfully, gaining Blur their first substantial American hit. "Strange News From A Distant Star" is prime "Space Oddity"-Bowie, and shows why they shouldn't abandon their real roots. The real stunner is guitarist Graham Coxon's "You're So Great", a low-fi Kinksy pop ballad that makes melancholy feel attractive - it alone almost makes the album worth it. Until they release a maxi-single of those three songs (I can dream, can't I?), you'd better stick to the earlier albums.

Oasis: Definitely Maybe (1994) ***

Snotty working-class assholes with loud guitars - ah, the great British Invasion tradition! Overrated initially because they were the first half-way decent British ROCK band in over a decade, the backlash has been crueller and less than fair. They aren't a great band, but a good, solid one, shilling out riff-catchy, melodic rock'n'roll that's monochromatic and limited. They don't have an original idea in their heads, but they recycle rock cliches effectively. Their first album is inconsistent, but the high points are really exciting. Just try to not thrash along to the chords of "Bring It On Down", or sneer to "Supersonic" ("I'm feelin' supersonic/Gimme gin and tonic/You can have it all but how much do you want it?"). "Slide Away" and "Live Forever" are cloyingly transcendent tender-moment anthems. "Cigarettes and Alcohol" rips off like a meatier T. Rex to good effect and has the album's best lines - "I was looking for some action/But all I found was cigarettes and alcohol". And be sure to pronounce it "ac-shee-un". The rest doesn't come near those heights, though some of it's likable, especially the so-you-wanna-be-a-rocknroll-star entitled rather unpretentiously "Rock And Roll Star". Ignore the hype and what's supposed to be cool to listen to, and just listen to the goddamn music for once. That goes out to both sides, the slobbering fans who think they're the best since the Beatles (puh-lease), and the hipsters who write them off as rubbish.

Oasis: What's The Story, Morning Glory (1995) ***

On the first few listens a big improvement, it contains nothing as exciting or transcendent as the high points of the debut. It is more consistent, and more mature. "Wonderwall" was a deserved hit that broke them in America - part of the appeal was that anyone could read whatever they wanted into the vague, meaningless lyrics. That can be a problem - by refusing to write anything meaningful, Noel Gallagher evades true rock glory. As far as absurdist pop goes, John Lennon he ain't. Speaking of which, "Don't Look Back In Anger" borrows its opening piano line from "Imagine", which proves distracting in an otherwise (mostly) original song. Oasis may worship them, but they're surprisingly limited in their Beatles influences. There's virtually no Paul or Ringo, a little bit of George, and a heck of a lot of John in an angry-young-man mode. That all said, the Gallaghers deserve credit for bringing real melodies back to ROCK radio, and did their part in slaying the tuneless beast of grunge. You see, the thing that grungesters didn't get was that the dumb '70s cock rock they emulated also possessed halfway decent hooks, riffs, and melodies - all of which Oasis boast in spades. Which makes them either a less literate/inspired Mott the Hoople or a more tuneful/catchier/in-all-respects-listenable Bad Company, depending on whether you view your beer mug half empty or full. Whatever, the title track kicks like the classic-rock AOR band of your dreams (admit it, you really like classic-rock AOR more than you like to pretend not to), and so does "Some Might Say", especially the galvanizing solo. "She's Electric" actually boasts a halfway-coherent lyric and is a delightful pop throwaway. Some of it gets more portenteous than is good and proper (a bad idea if you're going to make a nod to the definitively disposable and nonportenteous Gary Glitter), which is to say that "Champagne Supernova" goes on too long - but the chorus is killer, and the Paul Weller solo has that whiff of passing-the-torch (but no way are these guys as good as the Jam - you American kids, check out this turn of the '80s trio from Woking, NOW. You British kids all know all the Jam songs by heart so I don't have to tell you about'em). In a good mood, I give this album four stars easy, but when I mean "good mood", I really mean "those rare times when I don't feel like listening to the Beatles/Kinks/Mott etc." - so the three star rating stays.

Oasis: Be Here Now (1997)

I've got this recently, and it's easy to see why the band slid commercially: this CD defines the term "bloated", with none of the songs under 5 minutes. Worse, none of them are very catchy or involving. The end of the reign of Britain's most obnoxious band?

The Masterplan (1998)

A collection of B-sides.

Reader Comments

Rich Bunnell,

Well....I'm definitely on the Blur side of the whole debate, not that the two bands sound anything at all alike. In fact, Blur's music sounds like a bunch of really well-made and well-executed, if derivative, pop music (at least up until their last pair of albums) while Oasis' sounds like a bunch of idiotic sound-the-same-all-the-time wanker songs written by a pair of irritating, obnoxious frontmen. Which they are.

Thus I haven't heard any Oasis albums, but I've heard every Blur album except, for obvious reasons, "Leisure." Anyway, I'd rate their albums like this: Modern Life (****, Parklife (****1/2), Great Escape (****1/2), Blur (***1/2), 13 (***1/2). On "Parklife," you went a bit too far with the low rating; it's easily a more consistent album than MLIR and "Tracy Jacks" is far too well-done to just be a "facile Ray Davies pastiche." Well, it IS, but it's not "little more than" that. Also, I can't help but notice that after MLIR, your Blur ratings go down half a star each album-- and I really have a feeling that if you hear "13," it'll be a two-star album thus continuing the trend. I think it's okay but it has too many unneeded pretentious passages to qualify as a -great- album. The closing track is freakin' elevator music that sounds like it was recorded with a hand tape recorder! Damon, there's a difference between "developed" artsy music and "wannabe" artsy music.

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A cliche I hope I never hear from Oasis:I Don't Know Where I'm Going, But I Sure Know Where I Been