Hold the phone, Stop The Clocks

There comes a time in most bands’ lives to release a greatest hits collection. It is a delicate decision requiring careful song selection and deliberate release timing. Such a compilation represents a milestone in the career of a musical group, and for most new bands, it is a reaffirmation of the legitimacy of past success and a pledge of future proliferation.

Some groups are sloppier and more impatient than others. When Best of Silverchair was released in 2000, Silverchair had recorded three albums in five years, with just 36 tracks to its name. The 21-track compilation represented almost 60 percent of the group’s entire library. For a band with such a an allegedly high ratio, I find myself at a loss to recall the last time I heard a Silverchair song on the radio or caught myself singing Silverchair in the shower. After six years of Best of Silverchair on the shelves, order in the universe will soon be restored.

On November 21, Oasis, one of the iconic bands of the ’90s, will release Stop The Clocks, a hard-earned best-of compilation for a band with 12 years’ experience, nearly three complete lineup changes, and seven platinum-rated albums (four of which are on the list of top 20 fastest-selling records in the UK) under its belt.

Stop The Clocks is a unique collection because each track was chosen by the band members themselves — not the management or the record company. While this ultimately gives the compilation a more organic feel, it means you might not find many songs from the band’s biggest albums.

The Beatles be damned: Oasis’ 1997 release Be Here Now sold 695,761 units in the first four days, earning the title of number-one fastest selling album in the UK (beating Coldplay’s 2005 release, X&Y, by nearly 67 percent). It is the album that rocks the hardest and longest — and the only album not represented on Stop The Clocks.

It is also lamentable that only one song from 2002’s Heathen Chemistry appears. For a compilation with tracks allegedly chosen for song value and not popularity, I would expect to see at least a couple of obscure songs; but alas, there are none. Stop The Clocks is a non-stop hit parade marching down Main Street with the mayor in a convertible and majorettes twirling batons. The Audubon Society asked for a float but was denied.

Fortunately, all has not been lost. There is an album, one album, that encapsulates the mid-’90s and the entirety of alternative rock, and Oasis recorded it in 1995. It is (What’s the story) Morning Glory? and is represented well on Stop The Clocks — with almost half of the tracks appearing — including the super-hit mega-triumvirate of “Wonderwall,” “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” and “Champagne Supernova.”

(What’s the story) Morning Glory? is the definitive album of the ’90s. “Wonderwall” is the definitive song, and it is up there next to Green Day’s “Good Riddance” as the first song learned after the purchase of an acoustic guitar. Radiohead’s Thom Yorke covered it (drunk). In “Writing to Reach You,” Travis’ Fran Healy asks “What’s a Wonderwall, anyway?” Eleven years later, I still do not know, but I use “Wonderwall” to serenade women — I hope it means something good.

The 18-song track list of Stop The Clocks reads more like a coming-of-age story than a singles collection. It documents Oasis’ history of hits — from the young, confident sound of the 1994 debut through the super-stardom of 1995 (conveniently skipping over 1997’s excesses of fame), adjustment to a new musical scene in 2000, good old-fashioned rocking out in 2002, and finally, maturation and retrospection in 2006.

Stop The Clocks draws most heavily from the songs of Oasis in their first-term Clinton-era prime. Music from the Lewinsky-scandal second-term has been kind of brushed under the rug, and that’s all right. For a band symbolizing the youth, energy, and optimism of the ’90s, it is only appropriate that its first two albums be featured most heavily at the expense of its lesser-known releases.

But, all Oasis is good Oasis.