Oasis: Mad for it? Not me

Liam and Noel's new album is being hailed as a return to their former glory. For Paul Morley though, Oasis will always be a parody of themselves - or at least a parody of a band that wants to be the Beatles
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I confess that, in my carefully selected and supremely expert list of the top 50 post-punk Manchester bands, Oasis are placed well into the lower half, round about number 47, just below Northside, and just above Simply Red. Without Liam's voice snarling into Noel's mushy, complacent rhymes, they would be firmly planted at number 50: the kind of sentimentalised, four-square, anti-art, anti-thought, rock and/or roll band that the Buzzcocks and The Fall formed in opposition to.

I always felt that they were not even as Quo as rumoured, not as Mott as I would have liked, and more ELO than Beatles, more Lynne than Lennon. It all came down to a camp haircut, a comedy walk and a way with swearwords that seemed more Bernard Manning than Iggy Pop. I am the man who, when asked his opinion about Oasis, likes to quote Morrissey (always good for a line when you need to adopt a pose of withering, but accurate, condescension and scorn): "a couple of painter and decorators from Burnage."

Their music always seemed a botch-job - the colours were fine, if a little too bright, the wallpaper was obviously knocked off but had a nice English pattern, and they got the job done without much fuss. Very quickly, though, the paper peeled, you noticed the brush marks in the paint, the greasy fingerprints, and the terrible mess around the skirting boards.

I was unmoved when they were cited as saviours by the Brit-hailers thrilled that "naughty" Oasis represented a return to the point of rock and roll as a rebel yell involving the use of riffs, rants, rudeness and all round mock-cockiness. Oasis seemed designed by a mid-1990s rockist committee desperate to conceive a simple-minded rock'n'roll band with a tidy messiah complex, faking faded psychedelia, and daintily echoing the appealing cuddly-druggy lines of the Beatles: a rock group out of a world where the Cavern opened up onto Carnaby Street and the guys wore Union Jack jackets and the girls wore pretty little things because they were pretty little things who made you go all lovey-dovey. John Steed would be their manager, David Bailey snap them, and Harold Wilson give them gongs. All would be well with the world, and the 21st century would be as conservatively fab as the 1960s.

It was a formula that was destined to swiftly date, to become embarrassing. It was a formula that meant the group could never progress musically: they would stay rooted to the spot, their gigs a musical tribute to the old days of Oasis, where grouchy old-timers gamely represented the good old days.

The all-new, all-old, Oasis now seem to have found their nice, 47th-best post-punk Manchester place, as a stubborn, hard-working nostalgia-group, nostalgic for a Brit-hyped 1995 that was itself nostalgic for a Brit-swinging 1965.They were defined by Millennium-fearing fundamentalist rock critics as royal protectors of rock's holy legacy, as a glamorous entity redefining rock's codes and conduct. But, really, they were just a warm mug of artificially flavoured milky memories, passing quaint old-fashioned music through a post-punk, post-rave, post-Thatcher filter.

They suit being the failed prophets reduced to grumpily parodying their moodiness and smugness mainly because they always seemed a parody of themselves, or at least a parody of a band who wanted to be the Beatles but knew the ghost of Johnny Rotten would disapprove.

Their latest music shows how they continue to gnaw bits even from themselves, so that the new single, "Lyla", is craven Clapton, slightly Sladey, a little Stonesy - pebbly really - and also comes with some of the ash and stale-beer of "Cigarettes and Alcohol" and a splinter of the shyster swagger of "Roll With It". It also comes complete with some of the forlorn, fraudulent edginess of other recent Oasis attempts to rekindle their former glory.

I am mildly tempted to improve Oasis's position in the Manchester post-punk top 50 now that they have become rather poignant yesterday's men, with a band full of solemn looking session musicians, and a quality of premature middle-aged melancholy. For all the tetchy pride and surly self-confidence they continue to project, they seem trapped by their reputations both as mythical monsters and prosaic plagiarists. The top dogs have become underdogs, the obnoxious outsiders turned into tamed entertainers.

They have sunk into a world that is more Heat than NME, even as the NME itself is more Heat than NME. Seeing the little scamp Liam being interviewed by the son of Judith Chalmers on the ITV2 coverage of Hell's Kitchen seemed to confirm how Oasis have swung away from the rock'n'roll hall of fame towards the I'm a Celebrity, Get Me Out of Here wood - away from a respectable position in the mainstream rock hierarchy to a little novelty perch on the margins.

Even in their prime they seemed like a museum piece, and their museum-like quality increases each time they contrive a comeback. They are now doomed to forever recycle themselves and their own coarse recycling of rock history. Carry on, Oasis.

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