They came into our lives in April '94, as the body of Kurt Cobain lay newly dead, like a star-shaped tambourine shattering through a window. This, the very first Oasis 'Best Of', is the definitive sonic document of how Oasis transformed everything, how they kick-started the real 90s, how line by line, riff by riff, sneer by leer, the spirit of rock 'n' roll rose again like an unholy, invincible spectre, versed in shimmering riffs, two fingers in the air and this time it was from Manchester.
In the end, it's all about the songs - beyond the story, above the hair, further than the formidable attitude - and most of those songs are here, living inside our souls like the best friends you ever had, who kicked your backside, kept your dreams alive, made you stay up all night, consoled you in the morning and dared you to live forever. From Definitely Maybe ('94), we've the debut single, of course, Supersonic, where swaggering insolence, doused in gin, saw a generation rise from its slumber, sprint out its front door and disappear for quite some time. If Cigarettes & Alcohol then laid out the bounty like some demented felon spilling his bag of swag, Rock 'n' Roll Star identified the dream, while Slide Away drove the tour bus, the crusading, six-minute friendship opus which defined Oasis as the anthem-band of the dreamer's generation, bar none, a generation whose aspirations were exactly the same as theirs; aspirations for a better, funnier, bigger way of life, lives rising up from concrete rubble like beanstalks of glittering belief. Live Forever, meanwhile, is the closest the 90s came to an actual hymn, the towering, poignant, definitive exaltation in telling mortality where to stick it.
It's testament to Noel Gallagher's staggeringly prolific gift that the '94-'95-era Oasis - when life was fairly “busy” - would become the peerless champs of the inspirational b-side. And c-side. Releasing Whatever as a stand-alone single between the first and second albums, here's the much-loved b-side, Half The World Away, emotive, melancholy guitar-pop at its most curiously chipper, theme-tune not only to 'The Royle Family' sit-com ('98-2000) but a world of wistful, misplaced souls. (What's The Story) Morning Glory? followed, where the Some Might Say EP gave us three, unique, undisputed classics: Some Might Say itself, a searching, dreamscape paradigm, Acquiesce, where wall-of-sound pandemonium built the lyrical bridge to brotherly love, before collapsing all over again (to some, the greatest Oasis single which never was) and the delicate, melancholic, profoundly poetic Talk Tonight which saw Noel the soul-man laid-bare. No wedding today is complete without the groom and his mates hand-clapping through its romantic melodies, at 4 a.m., still singing in the bar, 'bout how she saved his life… (What's The Story) Morning Glory? gave us four, count 'em, colossal Oasis epics, the title track itself a master-class in driven, raucous, throat-shredding cool while Champagne Supernova, in 7 and a half minutes, rose upwards from a raindrop in the dew into a star-burst constellation overhead. Standing on the stage at Maine Road Stadium in April '96, as the Knebworth legend approached, Liam Gallagher surveyed the world Oasis had created and believed, momentarily, “I am the cosmos!” Champagne Supernova made the rest of us feel exactly the same way. Don't Look Back In Anger, meanwhile, the beloved live centre-piece, is practically the real National Anthem while Wonderwall is, quite simply, one of the greatest songs ever written. The haunting hymnal for the mystery of love itself, here were cellos the size of oak trees, a voice the size of Saturn and a soul the size of infinity. Its b-side, The Masterplan, was good enough to front the '98 compilation album of the same name, the song which saw Noel turn philosopher-mystic, sort of, a melody which sailed into legend like a ship of hope on an ocean of orchestral longing…
At the turn of the millennium, Oasis were No.1 all over again, with Go Let It Out, the brooding, rock 'n' roll dynamo with a minstrel's edge (from Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants) and were still No.1 five years later, twice, with the mosh-pit bedlam of Lyla and the optimism exuberance of The Importance Of Being Idle, both from 2005's Don't Believe The Truth. In between came Songbird, from Heathen Chemistry (2003), the first Oasis single written by Liam, which saw the Kryptonite frontman at his most playful, tuneful and enigmatically tender. Around about now, a new generation was growing up and waking up to the spectacular force of nature which had shaped the previous decade. And some of this new generation, besotted with guitars, has created its homage to Oasis already, by standing on a stage, near you, today. There could've been more: Shakermaker, Cast No Shadow, D'You Know What I Mean?, Gas Panic, Little By Little, but these 18 songs, spinning in and out of no natural order, through 12 unforgettable years, are the songs the whole world sings, and will sing forever, songs which define the very point of being alive, which fill our souls with hope, escape, friendship, love, laughter, sex, beauty, oblivion and the timeless freedom of the rock 'n' roll dream itself. These could be the best days of our lives.
And they were. And they still are.