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Cigarettes & Alcohol

This Britpop anthem represents the rise of ‘laddism’ culture in the ‘90s, Oasis’ hit certainly seems, on the surface, to be a celebration of mindless hedonism. Yet, perhaps there is something a little deeper going on in this in-yer-face ode to leisure activities, despite what people may now feel about the Gallagher brothers’ contribution to Western culture. 

The fourth single from what remains their greatest album: they’re first, Definitely Maybe, this was Oasis giving us their rawest incarnation. Cliché dictates that at this point we should mention ‘swagger’ and ‘attitude,’ and Liam’s delivery is about as punk as you can get, but if the lyrics are examined you begin to see the socio-political context that informed Noel Gallagher’s rocking composition.

Here’s a song about the inevitability of drink and drugs in a post-Thatcher, a Blairite society that had gained all the material benefits of economic prosperity yet seemed to have lost any idea of social cohesion. For working-class lads with plenty of cash but little sense of belonging, the song seems to say, what else is there, but the rampant egoism of ‘the white line’? It wasn’t a pretty or remotely optimistic message, but this was the post-Britpop world: obsessed with labels and celebrity and filled with class A drugs.

With hindsight, we can probably discount the band’s label boss, Alan McGee’s inane boast that ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ was “one of the greatest social statements of the past 25 years.” However, it IS true that the searing T.Rex/Sex Pistols amalgam that (as always) drew numerous claims of plagiarism was a brilliant distillation of all the above issues and – as is often the case – the truth can hurt. Even the aforementioned charges of plagiarism (Chuck Berry and even Humble Pie get referenced here) seem apposite in a post-modern world where even the sanctity of creative ideas becomes redundant. Noel Gallagher may be no poet, but he’s as honest as the day is long.

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