A young Noel Gallagher at the height of Oasis' popularity in the mid-'90s declared that the band would not release a compilation CD until the end of their career, since such compilations implied that a band's career was indeed over. A decade later, an older, presumably wiser Gallagher realized that if you're about to leave your longtime label and that label will release a compilation whether you participate or not, it's better to write your own draft of your band's history than having the label do it for you. And so Gallagher designed the first Oasis hits compilation, 2006's double-disc, 18-track Stop the Clocks. As he so often has done in his career, he looked to the Beatles for guidance, choosing their two 1973 hits comps 1962-1966 and 1967-1970 -- better known as The Red Album and The Blue Album -- as a template for Stop the Clocks. Those records mixed up hits with album tracks and B-sides to offer an overview of the band's identity, and so it is with Oasis' double-disc set, as it overlooks big hits -- "Roll with It," "D'You Know What I Mean," "Stand by Me" -- in favor of things that were tucked away on albums or singles. Where the Beatles albums sampled more or less equally from each phase of their career, Gallagher is a bit more ruthless in rewriting his own history, thoroughly excising 1997's Be Here Now from the band's past -- an overreaction that's nevertheless perfectly in line with everything regarding their overblown third album.
Such fits of pique are typical for Gallagher and Oasis -- which at the time of the release of Stop the Clocks had only his brother Liam as the other remaining original member -- and another is the exclusion of the non-LP Christmas 1994 single "Whatever," omitted presumably because if it were here the band would have to shell out royalties to Neil Innes. But even if "Whatever" is missed along with such other great singles both early ("Shakermaker") and late ("The Hindu Times"), Stop the Clocks works at its most basic level: it offers an excellent primer to Oasis at their best. Of course, this means that it draws very heavily on the glory days of 1994-1996, offering five tracks each from Definitely Maybe and (What's the Story) Morning Glory, plus various B-sides from this era. All in all, a whopping 15 of the 19 tracks here date from this time, and the four songs that do come from the 21st century -- "Lyla," "The Importance of Being Idle," "Go Let It Out," "Songbird" -- more than hold their own since they rely on what has always been their strengths: sturdy classicist songwriting and spirited performances. And that's why Oasis' best music has dated very well: anything with such aspirations to be classic lives and dies by the strength of their material, and this manages to capture its time and transcend it, since its attitude remains potent, and the songs sound as good hundreds of times after their fist spin. No, even at two discs Stop the Clocks doesn't contain all of the best of Oasis, but it does contain Oasis at their best and enough of it that it can indeed be passed along to future generations as an introduction to one of the best bands of their time, just like how the Red and Blue albums converted many young listeners to the Beatles.