Funny enough, from having given up on Oasis a long time ago to the point I gave away most of their albums I have reached a point in which I reviewed all of their discs in two weeks. That was not deliberate or anything. Rather, it was a sort of rediscovery and a way of burying the hatchet with a band that was always there when I needed it. Maybe this reapproach was motivated by having listened to a lot of bands from Manchester recently (with The Stone Roses and Joy Division topping the list). I am not certain, but I am glad it happened. And now, I am reviewing the final album by them I haven’t reviewed up to this point: “The Masterplan”.
Chronologically, the album followed “Be Here Now”, and it was released when the band had announced they were to take a three-year break. A compilation of b-sides, it was only going to be issued in countries where you couldn’t buy the singles, but in the end it was released worldwide.
Now, the key to understanding why the album is so masterful is keeping in mind that Noel had stockpiled a large body of work, and that some of those songs were even better than albums tracks which did make the final cuts. It is easy to criticize the inclusion of about half the songs on “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?” knowing that cuts like “Rocking Chair” and “Half The World Away” were available then, not to mention “Round Are Way” and “The Masterplan”. And I haven’t even mentioned “Acquiesce” yet, the defining song about the sibling rivalry between the two brothers in which they alternate vocals until singing together “because we need each other/we believe in one another/and I know we are going to uncover/what’s sleeping in our soul”.
Similarly, to know that songs like “Stay Young” and “Going Nowhere” were excluded from “Be Here Now” is nothing short of criminal. “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory” was astonishingly good as it was, but the addition of the tunes mentioned above could have perfected it. But “Be Here Now” was seriously lacking, and songs like “Stay Young” could have saved it.
On the other hand, if we think of the impact that releasing all those songs as b-sides had on Noel’s career and the perception people had of him as a songwriter, a case can be made that it was a very right decision. It spoke of a creativity and a self-belief in his abilities as a composer that has seldom been seen. I mean, if he could afford to bury something like “Going Nowhere” or “It’s Good To Be Free” as a b-side, it meant he thought he could come with something even better and more significant.
And I am going to tell you something else. This was not the full story. We could have had two Masterplans, or a double disc at the very least. Songs like “Whatever”, “I’ve Got The Fever”, “Angel Child”, “Round Are Way” and “Sad Song” were omitted. So were a couple of minor tunes that are not without charm, such as “D Y’er Wanna Be A Spaceman”, “I Will Believe”, “Cloudburst”, “The Fame” and “Flashbax”. And in some cases, these were as good as anything included on The Masterplan that did see release.
I deliberately chose this album as the final Oasis review on MusicKO. I am not reviewing any more of their albums because I find that the Oasis sans Guigsy and Bonehead (not to mention Whitey) is entirely insipid. But out of all their brilliant early albums, none contains power and delicacy as divinely as this compilation. This is the best spot to understand why the band mattered like it did, how from going nowhere they all ended up sleeping on a plane, knowing they shouldn’t complain. The other incarnation of the band – a life on the other side – will never, ever let you understand why Oasis was once part of a true masterplan that inspired so many of us.