Why the party's not over for the uber-lads

The new album's worse than the second, which was worse than the first, but who cares? All Liam's people know what he means
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The Independent Online
"All my people. Right Here. Right Now . D'ya know what I mean?" sneers Liam as the pre-planned stage invasion starts. He takes off his shades and does his moody bastard stare into the camera. "Oh my God, he's so ... old," screams the adolescent girl curled up on the sofa watching Top of the Pops with me. "No wonder he has to wear sunglasses. He's got ... lines," my daughter adds. (Actually, Liam only seems to have the one line - the "mad for it" line - but still it's true that, at 24, he's not as young as he used to be.)

Oasis past it? How could I suggest such a thing. Here they are. Now. With their difficult third album, with their girlfriends' "tits out for the lads" tabloid antics and broadsheets such as The Observer turning into Oasis fanzines and their free promos on BBC - is there anybody out there who doesn't like them? Jesus probably loves them. Certainly Tony Blair does. The kids in the street like them. As the other Liam, the anti- Liam, Liam Howlett of The Prodigy says, "My Dad likes Oasis." Everybody's Dad likes Oasis. This is consensus rock. No dissidents or backlashes will be tolerated. Everyone likes Oasis in the way that everyone likes Tony Blair. It is not so much that these guys are great in themselves, but that they remind us of greatness. Obviously I preferred the band before they were famous, just as I liked Blair more when he was less certain of power. But then, having grown out of politics, I'm at that awkward age where I still think that music matters.

If it were just music we were talking about then we would have to admit that the first Oasis album was better than the second, the second better than the third. But it would not do to start rumours of national decline just yet, for Oasis, as we know, are bigger than music. They are a phenomenon. This is why excited hacks have been revealing to us for some time now their exclusive sneak previews of Be Here Now. The fact is that anyone who has been listening to pop music for the last 30 years has had a sneak preview of Be Here Now.

Still, we must take it all seriously for, unlike the nastily commercial Spice Girls, Oasis are a proper rock group. They are blokes for a start: uber-lads, certifiable proles who wear their class credentials on their album sleeves. They have nicked and been nicked. They like football and blondes and stardom and their mum.

They are sullen louts with genuine working-class aspirations - to crash a car into a swimming pool outside a rock-star mansion. There is no point in saying that it's all been done before. They know that and they "don't give a shit".

Nor is there any use in complaining about the dumbing down of rock music, because dumbness can be a virtue. Give me Noel's dumbest, purest lyrics ("I'm feeling supersonic /Give me gin and tonic") over his mock-meaningful stuff any day ("I've found a key upon the floor/Maybe you and I will not believe the things we find behind the door"). As long as Noel can write a song like "Live Forever" he can be forgiven. What does matter, though, are their aspirations beyond music, which are not so much dumb as completely narrow. Despite their love of The Beatles, there is no comparison. They do not appear interested in ideas, in other worlds, in other kinds of music, in real experimentation. They are the Beatles that everyone's Dad always did like, the ones who wrote nice tunes rather than the ones who got dressed up in girly clothes, hung out with peculiar Japanese women or got into primal screaming.

They are indeed an Oasis, a lush little growth in the midst of inhospitable territory which crawls with strange creatures, from Tricky to Thom Yorke, who are making another kind of Brit pop altogether. In thrall to the past, while they can put their musical sensibility into quotation marks there is nothing ironic about their extended replay of the rock-star lifestyle.

Liam was struggling for words on telly the other day. Words aren't his thing. Who needs words with an attitude like his? One look from Liam says it all. Why bother with the art-school boys? Noel wrote the lyrics "Damn my education/I can't find the words to say/For the things caught in my mind". For these boys have made it without education, and while the middle classes worry about GCSEs and teenage pregnancy this week, the kids who didn't even sit the exams and who are not amazed that 13-year-olds get pregnant will sing along. They will know precisely what Liam means.

The night before the Gallaghers appeared on TV to unload the chips on their shoulders, we had seen another kind of genius at work. A documentary about Captain Beefheart revealed just how damn complicated the whole thing could be. When Beefheart got sick of trying to encapsulate the history of jazz, blues and rock'n'roll into four bars, he bowed out and went back to live in the desert. Oasis simply pare everything down to a vague though emotionally heightened experience.

Their trump card is understanding how it feels to be in a crowd at a football match or at a rave, that feeling of inclusion for those who often feel excluded. They tap straight into a kind of collectivity, a dormant sense of belonging, so that everyone who sings along to an Oasis song feels that they are part of a select but anointed group that somehow stands in opposition to the rest of the world. In reality it doesn't take much to be one of Noel and Liam's "people", as the majority of the population like them, but still we are supposed to feel faintly flattered by this cosmic sentiment.

What Oasis are in opposition to is somewhat vague. It is clearly not the Establishment, or money. As class warriors they are truly Thatcher's children, who think that individual attitude rather than love is all you need. I don't begrudge them their success or their excess. It's just that I cannot equate "cool" with cocktails with the Prime Minister. Don't believe the hype. Oasis are the most astonishingly uncontroversial rock band ever; as everyone agrees, they are "quite good".

The best deconstruction of the brothers Gallagher I ever saw was performed by two little boys with a karaoke machine. Wearing their Dad's sunglasses, these two kids just stood on stage mouthing the words to "Wonderwall". They didn't move, they didn't change their expressions; they just kept their cagoules zipped up tight against the outside world, imagining the whole time that they were the real thing. The audience loved them.