Saturday, 21 November 2009

A Question of Succession

The dust hasn't even really settled, and the bitter recriminations haven't even come close to being over, but a certain section of the popular tabloid music press are already discussing who will be next in line to the throne. I am referring here to Oasis, who split up a couple of months ago, in perhaps the least shocking music news story of the last five years.

A word on our boys as they exit stage left for the final time. Oasis, undoubtedly one of the best bands of my (or any other) generation, had been running on empty for about six years before this happened. I remember well how excited I was listening to Heathen Chemistry, and how fantastic it was to pay tribute at Finsbury Park later that year, but from that point on it all started to go steadily wrong. A succession of frankly boring records, a number of spats, casual chat about solo albums and places in history, all typified no better than in the frankly disgraceful headline set at Glastonbury, where everyone's favourite sulks finally overstepped the mark. Punching Paul McCartney in the face would have been less insulting to this country's musical heritage.

I could go on, but I am deeply loathed to be too scathing about a band that dominated my headphones for about five years. I will instead move on to the scrum to "replace" them. This is being led by the New Kings of Lager Rock, Kasabian, who seem intent in getting in everyone's faces talking about how "ready" they are to replace Oasis. On the face of things, you probably think this sounds pretty fair, but hold on a moment while I tell you why you're wrong.

For starters, they simply aren't anything like as good as Oasis. A solid debut, followed by two good-but-directionless follow-ups do not make for legendary status. Nor do live shows that don't live up to the billing. And I certainly don't remember much in the way of tabloid outrage.

Doubtless, people are searching for their soap boxes at the moment, ready to tell me that tabloid outrage is immaterial for a band, who should be judged on their music. But this is one of the greatest misunderstandings about rock 'n' roll: it's about a package. Anyone who claims that The Stones would have been that good without Mick's sex appeal and dress sense is wrong. Try imagining The Stones fronted by a Hank Marvin lookalike. Difficult, eh? It's all a finely balanced game.

So by now you are probably starting to wonder. If not Kasabian, then who? The Arctic Monkeys very sensibly chose to alienate the dumber sections of their fanbase by crafting an album in the middle of the desert, and a succession of very poor lad-rock bands (The Courteeners, The Ordinary Boys) have come and gone without leaving any trace. And this I think leads us to the real question here: do we need to replace Oasis? Are they not so much of their time, so tied to the Loaded and Laditude culture of the nineties that they're irreplaceable because times have changed? I think so. We had the good times with them, but there's plenty of good times still to be had. There's very little point in trying to recreate what's gone, it's never as good second time around. Just ask any member of The Spice Girls.