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Oasis returns with a strong compilation album

Brian Doxtader | Thursday, November 30, 2006

A decade after their zenith in popularity, it’s easy to remember Oasis for the things that happened – the infighting, a raw arrogance, the rotating supporting cast – and forget that, for a few years, it truly may have been among the great bands in the world.

The two-disc compilation “Stop the Clocks” collects 18 tracks from all six Oasis albums (with the notable exception of 1997’s “Be Here Now”) released over the course of their decade-long career, demonstrating just how great – and surprisingly consistent – Oasis really was.

Oasis was essentially one half of the major Brit Pop equation, competing against Blur for popular supremacy. Where Blur was a pop band whose influences came from a variety of sources, Oasis was a rock band, with crunchy guitars, simple hooks and sneered vocals. They also had a pretty good singer in Liam Gallagher, who improved with each passing album and a pretty good songwriter in his older brother Noel, who penned some of the biggest hits of the 1990s.

Oasis was accused of being a Beatles knockoff, and occasionally of being outright thieves, which is aurally evident in some of their best-known songs. The opening piano of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” does evoke Lennon’s “Imagine.” But Oasis has a signature sound that manages to squeeze them past those pilferings.

It’s easy to harp on what’s missing from a compilation, and there’s plenty missing from “Stop the Clocks,” most notably anything from “Be Here Now.” That album spawned its share of hits (“D’Yer Know What I Mean?,” “Stand By Me,” “Don’t Go Away”), but hindsight proved it to be an insufficient follow-up to “What’s the Story,” which may account for its complete absence.

And while fans might harp that a popular favorite or two is missing (their volatile cover of The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus” would’ve been welcome), “Stop the Clocks” gets it mostly right.

Much like Blur’s own compilation, 2000’s “The Best of Blur,” “Stop the Clocks” mixes in B-sides and fan favorites alongside the bit hits, which means that, yes, “Wonderwall” and “Live Forever” are here. But so are lesser-known tracks like “Talk Tonight” and “Acquiesce.” All this adds up to make “Stop the Clocks” sound fresher and also serves to strengthen the ubiquitous songs, since they’re given a different context.

And really, the music is great. Aside from all the songs already mentioned, there’s a wealth of great material here, with five tracks each from “Definitely Maybe” and “Morning Glory,” and a total of four songs from Oasis’ last two albums, though this makes sense since the zenith of the band’s career was during that time.

“Stop the Clocks” makes a great compilation for newcomers and casual fans, but it won’t be of much use to longtime devotees, who likely have most of the material already.

For anyone else whose only exposure to Oasis is through “Wonderwall,” however, “Stop the Clocks” serves as a great introduction to one of the brightest bands of the 1990s.