Blur or Oasis? This was the most important question in the life of any self-respecting 90s teen. Rivalries between fans of the two bands were as vicious, if not as amusing, as the rivalry between the bands themselves. Now, almost twenty years on, Damon Albarn settles the matter once and for all by declaring Oasis the better band.
In a recent Newsnight interview, Albarn answered the very question that fuelled a decade-long feud: who was the better band? ‘I think Oasis were better,’ said Albarn matter-of-factly. ‘They were better at communicating who they were than we were.’
It’s the latest hint of an olive branch between the competing bands, whose rivalry came to a head in the media-dubbed ‘Battle of Britpop.’ In 1995, the NME described their extended grudge match as the ‘British Heavyweight Championship,’ which led to Blur’s cheeky move to release their single ‘Country House’ on the same day as Oasis’ ‘Roll With It.’ According to figures, Blur won the battle of the bands, selling 274,000 copies of their single compared to Oasis’ 216,000, with the songs charting at number one and number two, respectively.
Despite Blur’s more immediate success, it became clear that victory had less to do with the chart position and sales of one single than overall appeal. Oasis became more commercially successful worldwide, and even managed to crack the US singles chart in a way that no other Britpop band managed to do. The band continued to enjoy success on a global scale until the bitter end, which occurred when Noel left the band following a row with his brother in 2009.
Damon Albarn, also, conceded that Oasis were better at handling the press than Blur. In an interview with the Guardian, Albarn discussed the division between Blur, the ‘middle-class, southern, arty popsters,’ and the more authentic, working-class northern Oasis. ‘The whole class thing was just insane. But we were young and we let ourselves get caught up in it. And the competitiveness was ridiculous for a while, but, you know, I was never gonna beat Noel [Gallagher] in a war of words.’
Against all odds, the friendship between Albarn and Gallagher has flourished since they performed together at London’s Royal Albert Hall for a Teenage Cancer Trust gig last year. They were joined by guitarist Graham Coxon and the legendary Paul Weller, creating a one-off supergroup. The band played Blur’s 1999 hit ‘Tender,’ with Gallagher joking that he had agreed to perform the song because it was ‘easy to play on guitar.’
Blur bassist Alex James has continued to discuss their blossoming friendship with any interviewer who will listen. James described the pair as ‘best buddies’ while appearing on XFM Breakfast with Jon Holmes last month. Asked what he made of their friendship, James said, ‘I think it’s a lovely, lovely ending. They have got quite a lot in common, and they obviously enjoy each others company. It’s a nice way to end. I think I still annoy [Noel] a bit, but I really try not to!’