This dual review originally ran in the November 1995 issue of SPIN. In honor of the 20th anniversary of Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, we’ve republished this piece here.
The more Blur and Oasis act British by pretending to be funny without punch lines on their long-awaited new albums (long-awaited in England, anyway, where they released “competing singles” August 14), the less I like them. Oasis’s quirks grate on me, especially barbershop piano mincing like “She’s Electric.” Blur actually does a song about a nowhere man, named “Ernold Same” because he does the same thing every day (oh, I get it), and their kitsch-load of music-hall hurdy-gurdy/Salvation Army-brass/zoo-kazoo ballads makes me want to kick their precious little shins.
Still, Blur’s “Girls & Boys” on Parklife bent genders like the Waitresses’ 1978 track “The Comb” (“The boy likes the girl / But the boy she likes / Is the boy that dances with the boy / ‘Cause the girls won’t dance”) only with synth hooks cheesy enough to stink up an ’80s Italodisco factory. And Oasis’s best song, “Live Forever,” had sexy waves of guitar upswinging into John Lennon crunchiness; the part that went “maybe you’re the same as me” made me imagine playing it to people I had crushes on. On the increasingly encouraging evolutionary scale of British guitar bands shunning sleepy noise bulls–t (My Bloody Valentine) in favor of concrete songs with coherent vocal hooks in the forefront (“Trouble” by Shampoo), Oasis and Blur belong somewhere in the middle, with Radiohead, Suede, and the Auteurs.
Oasis’s Liam Gallagher sings how Blur’s twerp should — he whines, hiccups, quivers, twists vowels to the stretching point Johnny Rotten-style — “sun-shee-ine,” “ack-sheeunn.” His good songs tend to be three quarters affecting/one quarter affected, and his beat is your basic bang-a-gong under guitar melodies exploring blues and swishing toward pomp. (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? feels less tuneful and more complacent than Oasis’s first CD; generic classic rock replaces the old Bowie glitter, like a prep-school version of Soul Asylum, though sometimes with a thick Urge Overkill ’70s highway roll to it.
On The Great Escape, Blur turns the rotating-robot staccato silverware clank of manlier Limeys like Elastica and Supergrass into dance-oriented pop muzik. When it’s swirling fast and busy, it’s wonderful. But even ricocheting herky-jerks like “Charmless Man” and “Globe Alone” come off detached and emotionally stiff, and the eight-or-so bouncy zig-zags are offset by eight-or-so Tin Pan Alley prissers. Near as I can decipher, they’ve got contempt for the upper middle-class, but if Blur truly wannabe “profound” or “satirical” maybe they should start by avoiding easy targets. 1995’s all-important Britpop Battle ends in a tie!