Saturday, November 8, 2014

Song of the Day: Oasis - Columbia (1994)

Okay, now that we've spent several posts looking at the American music of 1994, it's time to leap across the pond for a bit. Obviously, there's no better place to start than arguably the best British album of '90s, which was also the debut of the best British band of the '90s. 

Many of my favorite bands, like Pearl Jam, U2, and The Clash, have this gift of amping up the final act of their most anthemic songs, like things are being taken to a new plane of passion/volume/energy/emotion that can barely be contained. I'm specifically thinking of the crescendoes of songs like The Clash's "Complete Control," Pearl Jam's "Rearviewmirror," and U2's "Even Better Than the Real Thing," which, not-so-coincidentally, are my favorite songs from each of those bands. Oasis is unique in that they have a gift for creating songs that don't merely reach this point, but actually seem to start there and linger for a song's entire duration. It's a bit of a Catch-22, because by definition (and being a writer, I love citing definitions) something can't logically be all-climax. That negates the entire concept of a climax. And yet, I sort of love that Oasis operates as though this truth does not exist. Nowhere is that better exemplified than the song "Columbia."

"Columbia" is basically six straight minutes of all late-song climax. It's a song that doesn't even totally have a beginning. It's like the band was in the studio, fiddling around with possibilities of how to start the song and get it to the part they were actually interested, and Noel finally just said "Fuck it, mates! Why can't we just bloody start it from the good bits?" And so they did. Yet even with a song that's ostensibly all-climax, they still find ways to amp up the intensity. The guitar solo followed by Liam joining back in with the distant-and-echo-heavy repetition of "Yeah yeah yeah"'s is glorious. 

At their best, Oasis always sounded larger than life, monolithic, like a musical Stonehenge that was somehow ancient even as it amazed you with its stature. It wasn't necessarily a volume thing, but rather the way the production interacted with the volume, like the style of the music's creation actually transcended how loudly it was being listened to. 

Like most Americans, the first time I heard Oasis was in '95, when "Wonderwall" became a massive hit. But I loved their second album so much that I quickly went back and found the first, and Definitely Maybe has been unquestionably one of my favorite albums of the '90s ever since. 

Check out the Song of the Day Archive!!

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