When I was making my 100 favorite albums list, I really thought (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? was going to make the cut. But alas, I ran out of room for it. To be honest, I hadn’t been a real Oasis fan all that long when I made the list, and their debut Definitely Maybe appealed to me a lot more at the time, so I chose that album for the list instead. I still stand by that decision, but it has been a little more than a year since I wrote the entry for Definitely Maybe, and I have listened to Morning Glory quite a bit in the interim. In hindsight, it’s easy to understand why Definitely Maybe made the list and Morning Glory did not: Morning Glory is, by Oasis standards, more subtle and nuanced than its predecessor. Although both of these albums are quite loud, Definitely Maybe is the louder of the two, and there are so many layers of loud guitar tracks that the entire album sounds huge.
Morning Glory, on the other hand, is far less rough around the edges and benefits from a firmer understanding of dynamics than Oasis displayed on their debut. I found Definitely Maybe so immediately likable that I couldn’t not put it on my list, despite not having listened to it for that long. It’s that kind of album. Well, Morning Glory is not. It has taken a considerable amount of time now for my brain to realize how fully drawn these songs are. Every single one of these ten tunes — spread out over twelve tracks — is an absolute stunner. The more times you listen to Morning Glory, the clearer that reality becomes. Furthermore, every song is a piece of a whole. Even though Definitely Maybe is (for me) a stronger set of songs, I don’t disagree with the general consensus that (What’s the Story) Morning Glory is the better album. Nothing on Morning Glory has the raw power of Definitely Maybe‘s “Slide Away,” which is my favorite Oasis song, but its songs are sequenced perfectly.
There are also some cool touches, like how the “Wonderwall” chords lead off the album until they are interrupted by “Hello,” and how the “Supersonic” riff is played — acoustically — at the very end of “Wonderwall” before the album moves on to “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” It all adds to the album’s already endless playability. All of my memories of the ’90s are filtered through a sunny window. I grew up during that decade, and I can remember times just being amazing. (Ever since 9/11 that window has been a lot more overcast, and when the economy crashed in 2008 the sky plunged into darkness. It’s weird how memories can be tinted in that way.) To me, no album better represents the sunny, optimistic outlook of the mid-’90s than Oasis’ (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
Communism, the ideological foe of the West during the second half of the 20th century, had been defeated, and the economy was booming. Some were proclaiming we had reached the end of history, that there were no more wars left to be fought. Of course, an entirely new form of warfare would emerge at the dawn of the new millennium in terrorism (and counter-terrorism), and the internet has now fragmented once rock-solid industries into niche markets with the rise of the Information Age, leaving the economic prospects of many precarious and uncertain. But before that happened, Britain, feeding off of America’s early-’90s rock & roll resurgence, experienced a mid-’90s renaissance of guitar pop/rock not heard since the Beatles decades earlier. ’90s America had grunge; ’90s England had Britpop. And Morning Glory absolutely embodies that latter movement.
By the next year, however, the Britpop movement would find itself in serious trouble, as Britpop gave way to teen pop. The Spice Girls released their debut album Spice in late 1996, and became huge late-’90s megastars, paving the way for the Backstreet Boys and Britney Spears. Not only were times changing, but Oasis unraveled on their own as the fame got to them. When they released their thoroughly lackluster and appallingly loud Morning Glory follow-up Be Here Now in 1997, Britpop was officially over. Grunge had crashed and burned earlier in the decade, and now so had Britpop. By the late ’90s, any semblance of the grunge or Britpop movements had vanished completely, and the rock & roll spirit that drove popular music in the first half of the ’90s, with real bands playing real music, has been mostly absent from the mainstream music scene ever since, I’m sad to report.