Excerpts from the article “Noel Gallagher After Oasis” by Chuck Klosterman:
“Noel Gallagher’s first official solo record won’t be released in America until November, but there’s already a party for it in August. It’s described as a “listening party,” so that’s what I expect it to be: six or seven people sitting in an otherwise quiet room, listening to an album titled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. For those who care about the music of Oasis, anticipation for this record is greater than for anything Oasis has done in the past 10 years. This is not only because Noel was the principal songwriter for the band, although that’s certainly part of it; equally significant is the fact that the finest moments in Oasis’ two-decade trajectory have generally occurred when Noel was singing: “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” the chorus on “Acquiesce,” their live cover of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey My My (Into the Black),” and a 1996 episode of MTV Unplugged (when Noel sang everything while his brother drank beer in the balcony). Oasis completists are interested in Liam Gallagher’s new project, Beady Eye, the way Smiths fans were interested in Electronic, but Noel’s material is what matters. The potential is real. Considering the circumstances of the Oasis split, it seems entirely possible that Noel might make a memorable album purely out of spite.”
“This, it seems, is why Noel is different than Liam (and always will be). Liam denies his hangovers and sues people for joking about them; Noel confesses his hangovers and will shake hands with anyone. And when you’ve been in a band that’s been drunk for 20 years, that difference tells you everything you need to know.”
– Chuck Klosterman / grantland.com
An Open Letter to Chuck Klosterman
Thought provoking words there. Written by an eminent, articulate writer, taken from an excellent article on Noel Gallagher’s newly-launched solo career. The only problem being, its opening and closing paragraphs, highlighted here, leave it being nothing more than just another blindingly pro-Noel Gallagher slant on the rise, stumble, and final demise of Oasis, and the subsequent paths the two brothers are now attempting to cement for themselves.
‘Fine‘, you might say. An obvious response from someone who would place themselves in the tedious new boundaries of Team Liam. ‘Come on, claim Noel is twisting the media in his favour as Liam Gallagher himself has already done on numerous occasions recently‘. Yeah, could do – the problem being, this particular writer, if held at gunpoint and forced to pick a favourite like some newly-divorced spouse, would go for the elder brother every time, no hesitation.
That shouldn’t mean though, simply because the most famous and compelling sibling partnership the British music scene conjured up since Ray and Dave Davies have finally gone their separate ways, that anyone should now attempt to flippantly dismiss either of their contributions to the force of nature that was Oasis with one fell swoop of a derogatory hand.
Since a final confrontation in a Paris dressing room back in August 2009 finally did for Oasis and, for the foreseeable future at least, any thread of a relationship between Liam and Noel, the media has seemed intent on pouring scorn on the younger brother; indulging ravenously in un-substantiated accusations surrounding the now infamous V Festival 2009 cancellation and Liam’s excellent fashion venture Pretty Green, all after giving little credence to Liam’s own tales of Gallic turbulence.
Raging hangovers and thrown plums appear far more interesting than separate tour buses and smashed guitars. Backed into a corner Liam responded, in a somewhat ill-judged fashion, with the threat of court proceedings. The actions of an animal wounded, surrounded by predators.
Indeed, Liam has uttered the uncharacteristically sensitive ’breaking my heart’ phrase to describe his feelings behind what he sees as lies being purported by Noel, which have in turn been un-questionably guzzled up and regurgitated by an ever willing gaggle of insatiable journalists. It’s not hard to see why a court threat might seem like the last act of a desperate man. It’s time the record was put straight.
Those quotes alluded to at the start of this article, that a credible, talented writer could claim a live cover of ‘Hey Hey, My My’ surpassed Liam’s brilliantly powerful and emotive deliveries of, say, ‘Live Forever’, ‘Slide Away’, ‘Rockin Chair’, ‘Listen Up’, ‘Married With Children‘, ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’ – the list could go on and on – is, frankly, ridiculous, but certainly representative of a now prevailing accepted wisdom.
To deny the weight and gravitas the singer added to those songs is to deny what truly made Oasis tick. Any sane observer should recognise geniune highlights which featured only Noel amount to ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger‘, ‘The Importance Of Being Idle‘, and a handful of early b-sides. But let’s be honest, saying that doesn’t help to add weight to a mis-guided view, does it?
The start of this article suggested yours truly would come down on Noel’s side on every occasion. Undoubtedly. The craft of a song, the vision and talent to pluck a ‘Live Forever’ out of the ether should surpass all else. The track itself always remains the bedrock; when Noel’s songwriting pool began drying up a Liam Gallagher vocal was never going to be enough to lift certain post-2000 efforts beyond average.
For the best part of their career it was on Noel Gallagher’s shoulders that the fortunes of Oasis were carried on. Equally the vision, direction and professionalism Noel lent to a bunch of jobbing Manchester musicians single-handedly steered them away from the dole queue and on to the road to glory. While Liam dreamt up Oasis, it was Noel who turned the dream into reality.
However, as the best frontman of his generation, Liam was able to sprinkle his unique magic on to many of Noel’s compositions to elevate them to a new level. If a song was great it became greater, it became an undoubted classic, with the Johnny Rotten / John Lennon hybrid let loose on lead vocals. For example, imagine ‘Live Forever’ without him; while the ingredients of a stunning song would still be there, there would be an energy and a depth left unexplored, something would be missing – that something would be Liam Gallagher.
And it wasn’t just the voice – Liam brought the rock n roll to Oasis. Where Noel professed his arrogance and rock n roll dreams in his songs, Liam lived it every day, and in doing so sparked an un-intelligible chord in millions around Britain, and ultimately the world. While Noel’s songs spoke to a generation, Liam sung it at them from a crouched stance in front of a microphone. He soaked up their adulation, he made Oasis heroes. When they called back Noel Gallagher’s songs they were doing it to Liam Gallagher.
What propelled Oasis to superstardom by 1996 wasn’t Noel Gallagher’s songs, or Liam Gallagher’s showmanship, but a combination of the two. Theirs was a formula that comes together all too rarely; an irresistible melting pot of songwriting talent, raw emotion, attitude, ostentation, and sibling rivalry. For a few short months back in the Nineties, that formula rivalled The Beatles for popularity in the UK. It delivered one of the most influential rock bands Britain has ever produced – not Noel, not Liam, but the combination of the two.
Post Oasis, Noel Gallagher doesn’t have an awful lot to live up to. While Beady Eye’s debut album has one or two outstanding moments, most notably, and fittingly, Liam’s own ‘The Morning Son’ (a track Noel’s solo output has yet to match), it is in the main an uninspiring, plodding effort. Despite early critical judgements being surprisingly relaxed with Noel back on the scene those same critics now appear ready to take sides again, and are once more setting up camp with Gallagher Senior. Diametrically, Noel has just been installed as second favourite to win the 2012 Mercury Music Prize before his album is even released – maybe he really does know how to play the media.
Or does he? The Liam / Noel rivalry has always been intensified by the press and it’s clear nothing has changed with the end of Oasis, and this is where Liam’s court case threat was flawed. What Noel did at his press conference whether it was vindictive, manipulative, wilfully inaccurate, or genuinely his own take on those final moments, was to offer up nothing more than Liam himself had done when first emerging with Beady Eye – his own version of events.
The big difference is, the media reported Noel Gallagher’s version as fact, Liam Gallagher’s as opinion. Is that Noel twisting the press, or simply journalists choosing to take up camp with the bright-as-a-button, engaging raconteur while simultaneously shrugging off on an individual whose only crime seems to be a less articulate vocabulary and demeanour than his older rival?
Ironically, while many journalists may have walked a long way down an ill-informed path, the brothers themselves may already be starting to realise just how crucial the other was in the success of Oasis. With the inescapable feeling of something to prove, Liam’s short time with Beady Eye has led to a renewed commitment in both his lifestyle and professionalism. His vocals, in seemingly rapid decline these past few years, have a new freshness about them, and his live performances have been his strongest for a decade. Unfortunately these vast improvements haven’t been enough to stop ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ being arguably the weakest album of his career to date. While the break from his brother is almost certainly what has led to these commendable changes, how he could do with some consistent songwriting to back it up.
For Noel’s part, the perils of being thrust into the ‘frontman’ role are clearly at the forefront of his mind, and while the early teasers offered up from the forthcoming ‘…High Flying Birds’ LP point to a man relaxed, a man enjoying a sense of freedom in the studio not experienced for many years, there’s still the danger that, without the verve and vigour of Liam, the album may lack the impact to truly make it great.
Indeed, at the very same press conference in which Noel made well-publicised comments that would lead to the threat of legal action, he also admitted Liam was likely to be far better off without him than he is without Liam. Yet, for some reason, very few outlets decided to pick up on those quotes. Funny that. Soon, the siblings could be forced to accept that separated they are happier, but together they are stronger.
Both Oasis and their loyal army of fans were often compared to a football team – it might be fitting then, to expand on that analogy for a moment. Had Oasis been a football team, Noel Gallagher was the midfield general; the captain who directed his troops, who led by example and who deservedly went up the steps first to collect the trophy. But Liam Gallagher was the star striker; the glamour, the man who would hand his team victory with the winning goal, who would steal the headlines, whose effortless talent would deliver that trophy for his fellow players. Individually their contributions are crucial, but it’s the sum of the parts that makes the team unbeatable.
Ultimately, Noel will always have the importance of being an idol, but Oasis was always Liam and Noel, and will always be Liam and Noel. That should never be forgotten and at the moment, it needs to be remembered more than ever. And Chuck, it should tell you everything you need to know.