Oasis – Definitely Maybe (reissue) (album review)

In 1994, I was two years old. The Lion King came out, which was a big part of my childhood.

In the music world, Pantera released an album with something rude on the cover, Kurt Cobain died, and Justin Beiber’s mother didn’t have an abortion.

Meanwhile, in Manchester, a hungry young band featuring bickering brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher and….um….three other guys….Baldy, Paul and….ah….hmmmm….bass player?? released their first single. That song was, of course, ‘Supersonic’, which in my wholehearted opinion is the best tune brother Noel ever penned, even if I disagree with his assertion that feeling ‘supersonic’ would in any way make me crave a G&T.

This is the only photo of Noel and Liam together, smiling, ever. It's also the probably the only photo of Liam smiling, ever, full stop.
This is the only photo of Noel and Liam together, smiling, ever. It’s also the only photo of Liam smiling, ever.

The ’60s sounding ‘Shakermaker’ followed, and after that, came ‘Live Forever’, in which an optimism diametrically opposed to the nihilism of Kurt, Eddie, Layne and the rest of the grunge generation was juxtaposed with a desperate uncertainty toward what the future held, perhaps in arrogant anticipation of the ‘forever’ that would become the legacy of their soon-to-be-released debut (just listen to Liam’s voice straining on every ‘maybe’, and at the end of the song, on the last few ‘live forevers’).

Then, Definitely Maybe came out. It went straight to number one in the UK, and suddenly their dreams weren’t just real in their minds anymore. They were Rock N’ Roll Stars, and after the following year’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, which for a brief moment made them the biggest band on the planet, they would find themselves with a two-album legacy that they would never really be able live up to, despite remaining relatively successful, commercially at least, until their breakup in 2009.

I wouldn’t say they ever made a truly shitty album (yeah, I even kinda liked Be Here Now), but, well, nothing can top the rawness or the hunger of their first album, nor the pop sensibilities of their second, which in my book, is almost as good.

In my totally biased opinion, from the dancy Madchester stomp of the coke anthem ‘Columbia’ to the acoustic ‘your music’s shite/it keeps me up all night’ whimsicality of ‘Married With Children’, every track on Defnitely Maybe is very good, if not outstanding.

Except ‘Digsy’s Dinner’.’Digest’s Dinner’ is a piece of shit of a song. Maybe they could’ve left that one off and replaced it with….well….’Sad Song’, or ‘Fade Away’, or ‘Half the World Away’, or ‘(It’s Good) To Be Free’, or shit, even ‘Around The World’ (which wasn’t released until 1997’s Be Here Now, but had definitely been written circa 1993 or earlier because I’ve heard a recording of an early rehearsal of the track from Oasis’ pre-record deal days – yes). They’re all very good songs, yet they didn’t make the album.

These songs, and a few later ones like ‘Acquiesce’ and ‘Talk Tonight’ are the reason that Oasis is often praised for the fact that they didn’t go all half-assed on their b-sides. They were, as these songs attest, (in the early days at least) generally pretty stellar, which is where we get to with this expanded, 3-disc reissue of Definitely Maybe:

Basically, someone’s taken the original album and tacked on two discs of rarities and live versions. But the ‘rarities’ aren’t exactly that: if you’re a fan, then you may well have the b-side compilation The Masterplan, which has the studio versions of all the non-album songs I’ve just mentioned, plus the same live cover of ‘I Am The Walrus’ that’s on this reissue.

Likewise, ‘Whatever’ is a great track, but it was a (very) popular non-album single, released at the end of ’94, that even the more casual fan probably already owns because it appears on the 2009 singles compilation Time Flies….

The studio tracks ‘Cloudburst’ and ‘D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman?’ are bit more obscure, having not been on The Masterplan, but they were still both b-sides to hit singles in a time when people still bought CD singles, so it isn’t like they’ve never seen the public eye, either.

And so we’re left with the various live versions on disc 3, some of which I think were on the Definitely Maybe DVD (which yes, if you were wondering, I do own), alongside the music videos from the album, and an hour-long documentary of Noel, Liam, Bonehead and friends saying ‘fook’ a lot. Incidentally, that little hour-long making-of is worth a watch even if it’s not exactly The Last Waltz, but it’s not included on here

So, um, it’s great that all these extras are available together, but basically everything that’s been compiled here has already been pretty well readily available at your local JB HIFI (or on Youtube) for years.

Bottom line is, this is still a great album which both captures the post-grunge zeitgeist and holds up pretty well today, but yeah, the kind of person you’d expect to see shelling out extra money for the expanded reissue probably has most of the extras already anyway.


2 thoughts on “Oasis – Definitely Maybe (reissue) (album review)

  1. Gee, has it been 20 years already? Still remember being disappointed that ‘Whatever’ wasn’t included. But still one of the best debut albums of the last two decades. Good review. And agreed, their B-sides back then were more than just filler.

    1. Glad you liked it man, I just saw that there’d been a recent reissue (end of May this year) so I thought I may as well use that as an excuse to write about what was probably my favourite album when I was 17 or 18 (which was a lot less than 20 years ago, haha). The B-sides just show the strength of Noel’s writing at the time, I guess (although I always wondered how ‘Digsy’s Dinner’ and ‘Roll With It’ and a few others made it onto the albums in place of songs like ‘Acquiesce’).

      That said though, Noel was already 27 when Definitely Maybe came out, and must have had years worth of songs to draw upon.

      This is a blog for new music, but I’ve had quite a bit of love for this review, so I guess I’ll write about the classics from time to time if and when there’s a reissue of some kind like this one.

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