Blur Vs. Oasis
ith respect to Bill Simmons, to whom this column is seriously indebted, we here at Stylus have started Vs. to bring you a series of battles between two similar items on the themes of music, movies, and television, breaking their merits down point by point and seeing which emerges victorious. Agree or disagree with the conclusions? You know the drill. But understand that our methods of empirical data analysis are in fact flawless and therefore should not be disputed.
BBC 1 6 O’Clock News, August 14th 1995WHY THEY DESERVE TO BE COMPARED: The kids have gotta know. You grab your common-or-garden 13-year-old off the streets, they were one year old when this shit went down. They know Blur vs. Oasis, but to them it’s just the Britpop version of the Battle of Adwalton Moor or the Battle of Chernaya River: it happened in the past, it’s in the history books now, it was moderately important then, and it only has mild relevance now. You’re dead wrong. Blur vs. Oasis was a Battle of Hastings, a Battle of Britain, the biggest news story of its day and something that’s still defining the paradigm we’re fucking about in today.
JOHN HUMPHREYS: Two of Britain's most popular pop groups have begun the biggest chart war in over 30 years. The Manchester band “Oasis” and their arch-rivals “Blur” have both released new singles today, each hoping to reach the number one spot next week. The music industry hasn't seen anything like it since The Beatles fought it out with The Rolling Stones in the 60s. Clive Myrie reports.
CLIVE MYRIE: It's been described as the British pop music heavyweight championship. In one corner, four young middle class men from the south of England collectively known as Blur, and in the other corner five young working class men from Manchester called Oasis. They're the two most popular bands in Britain, having sold millions of records, and they're currently engaged in a chart war that's set the music industry alight.
ALAN MCGEE: We are now in a golden era of British pop music. These are two groups who formed on the indie circuit, who have grown popular through playing lots and lots of gigs in the country, and who have now crossed over to the public at large. And they're duking it out to see who is the biggest.
Take a look at those opening quotes. Absolutely ridiculous. The BBC 6 O’Clock News, arguably the most important and respected news program on the planet, devoted three of its 27 minute running time to discussing the fact that two bands were releasing a single on the same day. You can’t call Blur vs Oasis “notable” or “important,” it was legit news, something that transcended the field of “entertainment” and barged its way into current affairs. It was on the agenda. In the following twelve years, the deaths of Johnny Cash, James Brown, and Ray Charles commanded less airtime than this story.
And it’s the alpha/omega of indie in Britain: the omega in that this was the last point that indie had any right to make claims to independence, and the alpha in that this was the point where broadsheet music critics had to stop writing about Deacon Blue and Joe Strummer and learn what the words “toilet circuit,” “Camden,” and “Lamacq” meant. TV comedian Kevin Eldon was still doing Blur vs Oasis gags in 2000: the entirety of Space’s career falls between those two points. This is the big one. This is probably second only to East Coast/West Coast when it comes to pop feuds. And it’s between two bands who were neither really any good. Let’s finally see who the daddy is.
Smokin’ Mojo Filters vs. Fat Les. It’s exactly like Sophie’s Choice, if Sophie’s kids both had Down’s Syndrome. A straight-up battle between some of the worst people in the history of music (Paul Weller, him from Ocean Colour Scene) versus some of the worst people in the history of entertainment (Keith Allen, the inexplicable Rowland Rivron). If we took this round as a straight battle between these two bands, the “W” would go to the Gallaghers, mainly because as far as causes for formation go “raising funds for the charity War Child” is a more honorable one than “Paul Kaye has just fucked his career up and needs to get back on telly.”
Widen the scope, however, and it becomes apparent that Blur have, if not strength in depth, then at least troops packed out with plenty of cannon fodder. Gorillaz, The Good The Bad etc, Me Me Me, WigWam, Graham’s tuneless solo work, Damon twatting about in Mali... all your cutout bin favorites. All Oasis can really offer up in opposition is Noel playing on that Goldie album nobody bought, Noel playing on that Prodigy album nobody bought, Noel playing on that Cornershop album nobody bought, and Noel playing on the last Stands album, a CD so successful that the band’s record label went bankrupt within three days of release.
I was eagerly awaiting snippets of Wildean genius when I was looking up old Gallagher interviews for this section, and was instead greeted by a guy who actually pisses and whines a lot more than you realize. However, if it’s quotes you want, this did raise a moderate smile:
"George Harrison, right, I'll tell you about him. I met his son Dani in New York last week, waiting to get on the Concorde. He was already pissed, on the flight back we had about 25 Bloody Marys and he arrived at Heathrow rolling—I had to get his bag and stick it on the trolley. Guess who's waiting to meet him when the doors open? George Harrison, who's been slagging my brother off. I've got my arm around his son, and he's smoking four fags. He's as pissed as a fucking arse. He goes, 'Hey dad, he's all right you know.' And I say, 'Hello George, here's your son. You have just been Gallaghered. Go and puke up in your Ashford home, while my stomach gently retches."
On the opposing team, ten years of Slashdot has certainly taught me one thing: it’s funny to laugh at people with Asperger’s. Although Graham Coxon has never actually outed himself as an aspie, it’s fair to say that whether he’s drinking himself into a stupor, banging his head against the side until he falls unconscious, or just rocking back and forth violently whilst being interviewed by a friend of mine, he brings nothing but comedy. However, the overall lol-factor of Blur is diminished by the fact that Dave Rowntree provided animation for “The Eleven O’Clock Show.”
At press time, the last five Blur singles have been: “Good Song,” “Crazy Beat,” “Out of Time,” “Music Is My Radar,” “No Distance Left to Run.” I challenge anyone to find a good “moment,” let alone song, in that line-up. Anyway, then they did “Coffee and TV.” You know, the one with the milk carton. We’ll count that.
For Oasis, “The Importance of Being Earnest” was considered for this role, but at the time of its release I had a girlfriend who listened to it constantly. (She also once sat down and willingly watched a three hour marathon of the Damon Wayans sitcom “My Wife and Kids,” so I think it’s safe to dismiss her opinions.) Anyway, that means that the last good Oasis single was... “Wonderwall.” From the recent just passed days of November 1995. Putting that into perspective: the last time Oasis released a non-dreadful single, Gene Kelly was still alive.
"Americans want grungy people, stabbing themselves in the head on stage. They get a bright bunch like us, with deodorant on, they don't get it." -- Liam Gallagher
“Song 2” vs. “Wonderwall.” The former got to #6 on the US Modern Rock chart, the latter to #1. The former has been covered by Weezer, The Wallflowers, AFI, and My Chemical Romance. The latter by Cat Power, Ryan Adams, the Beastie Boys, and Paul Anka. The former gets played at a bunch of hockey games, the latter was in episodes of “Nip/Tuck” and “Lost.” As for which one is better? Well, that depends whether you like teenpop bubblegrunge or Liam Gallagher clearing his sinuses.
“Wonderwall” is an odd song, because if you went out there and quizzed your bog-standard 12 CDs a year punter between the ages of, say, 20 and 35 and asked them to name The Best Single Of The ‘90s, they’d probably go with either “Wonderwall” or “Unfinished Sympathy.” Virgin Radio listeners voted it song of the decade (“Song 2” came in 17th in the same poll). Trendy music critics like myself, however, have pretty much brushed it under the carpet, so we can talk about hip bands like Rage Against the Machine and the Propellerheads. I like “Wonderwall,” though. It’s one of the best dirges to have ever cracked the UK charts, it’s Oasis at what their best should be: derivative and unsurprising. “Song 2,” on the other hand, sucks.
Once upon a time, race hate comedians Lucas and Walliams (“Little Britain”) were capable of entire comic sketches that didn’t involve blacking-up and talking in funny accents. “Rock Profile,” first shown in 1999, featured the rotund homosexual and his well-spoken chum dressing up and spoofing all of your favourite pop stars including, yes, Blur and Oasis.
The Blur pastiche was the high point of the series, portraying Graham as a Norman Bates psychopath with pyromaniacal tendencies, Alex as a Terry-Thomas figure, Damon as a whiny mockney singing cryptic lyrics such as “Justine / Justine Frischmann / Out of Elastica / Who I used to go out with,” and Dave as... absolutely nothing. There was an Oasis parody on the show as well, but I never watched the second series so I don’t know how that went. Also taking a rise out of Noel and Liam were Hale and Pace in their 1996 ITV series, and I have completely forgotten everything about that on account of, you know, it was a Hale and Pace sketch series shown in 1996. (NB: I asked fellow Stylus scribe Paul Scott, during the course of researching this piece, if he could remember what Hale and Pace’s Oasis parody was called. His response: “Northern Uproar.”).
The worst thing about MySpace’s brief eleven month reign as the king of social networking was that it allowed you to easily see who your ex was now dating, and thus see the face of a man you must technically be as attractive as. Imagine how shitty it must be for Noel Gallagher to see Patsy Kensit getting dicked by Killa Kela. He’s as attractive as a beatboxer. (Also making sure Oasis have a clean shirt in the morning and dinner on the table in the evening over the years have been indie rock pass-the-parcel Lisa Moorish, Nicole Appleton (lol), and Meg Matthews, costume designer for hit movie Gigli.)
Blur’s most notable female contingent member is of course Justine Frischmann. The greatest act of pwnage in indie history is undoubtedly the time where Damon Albarn invited Stephen Malkmus to England as a guest, and Malkmus responded by fucking his girlfriend, Justine Frischmann, in Albarn’s own house. Similar Blur hilarity comes from the time Graham was dating Jo from riot grrrlers Huggy Bear, and Alex reacted by repeatedly asking to see her tits, what with him being the poster-child for “ironic” “new” “lad” “ism.” Outside of this lot, they also had Jo Guest in one of their videos.
After Creation Records folded in 1999, the Gallaghers set up Big Brother Recordings to handle their releases in the UK. The first release on this label was “Go Let It Out,” and all Oasis recordings since have been through Big Brother. This means, in terms of average quality, Big Brother is the second worst record label ever. There are two non-Oasis releases on the label. One, “Playground Superstar,” a Happy Mondays single that you have never heard. Two, the soundtrack to Goal!, a movie that features TITUS BRAMBLE. And after that display of big power from “Bomber Bramble,” they still cast Daniel Craig as Bond. Fools.
Graham Coxon also released his solo material originally through his vanity label, Transcopic. Thankfully he also found time to put on such memorable early ‘00s acts as Ooberman and the Buff Medways. Damon clinches the round, however, with Honest Jon’s Records, who put out both the fantastic London Is The Place For Me series of albums that collect examples of African and Caribbean immigrant music of the ‘50s and ‘60s, and an awesome Willie Hightower compilation. And as much as Titus Bramble brings the pain, you ain’t fucking with Hightower.
“For all of its celebration of tradition, Parklife is a thoroughly modern record in that it bends genres and is self-referential (the mod anthem of the title track is voiced by none other than Phil Daniels, the star of Quadrophenia). And, by tying the past and the present together, Blur articulated the mid-'90s zeitgeist and produced an epoch-defining record.”
“Liam Gallagher is the best singer in rock”
Blur: Yes, he is.
Oasis: No, he isn’t.
FINAL SCORE: OASIS 5, BLUR 4
By: Dom Passantino
Published on: 2007-06-15