And time certainly does fly, this compilation spanning the band’s entire career and my youth/teenage years/early middle age in one complete, 130+ minutes album. It’s like regression therapy for northerners.
In a fingerclick of time-travel, I’m back listening to Mark Goodyear running down the chart show in 1994, when “Some Might Stay” was at number one, and the world seemed to change a little bit. We’d all bought into “Wonderwall” and picked up “Live Forever” on the two or three cable music channels available at the time, but now the band were at number one, and back then, such things meant a lot. Now they let James Corden into the charts, fordaluvofgod.
A compilation like “Time Flies” is the soundtrack of all our years, all our friendships, and those milestones we use to measure the distance from childhood dreams to adult reality. The lads piss ups in provincial indie clubs, chanting “Wonderwall” inbetween its usual Charlatans/Stone Roses segue; we’ve all been there, and Oasis soundtracked every step of the way.
Theirs is not a career without problems, of course, in and out the recording studio. If we sidestep the headlines for now (as difficult a task as that is, and notably rare among the British bands today), the back-catalogue this compilation celebrates is the very definition of flawed genius. At their peak, Oasis – and at most points “Oasis” is euphemism for “Noel” – were the stellar songwriters and live act of their day; “Wonderwall”, “Roll With It”, “Shakermaker”, “D’You Know What I Mean”, “Masterplan”, “Champagne Supernova”…This is the soundtrack of Britain that the helped influence almost every other indie/rock band from the 90s onwards, and is the pension plan the Arctic Monkeys would die for.
Flawed points on the Oasis journey tie up with internal pressures, sibling (wibbling?) rivalry, and the shifting sands of taste among the British single buyer. “Go Let It Out”, “The Hindu Times” – how hard we try to lift these as high, to enjoy them as much, and yet time has not been kind. The struggle up hill by the time of “Importance of Being Idle” is the same result of artistic exhaustion that runs through the output from the Monty Python team to Ricky Gervais. All genius is exhausted, all careers grind to a puttered engine eventually.
“Time Flies” is not the first – I dare say it won’t be the last – compilation of Oasis singles (anyone buy the cigarette-packet special editions, or is my memory tricking me?). This is one of the most important compilations in the potted history of British music, the vanguard of northern souls which copied and was copied in equal measure. Liam’s voice grew weary, Noel’s lyrics more maudlin, the band ground out too much in the end; but through the window of nostalgia and memory everything this album awakens remains inexorably linked to our social, political and musical history.