How Noel wished Liam had stayed behind that Wall of Glass
This is how in 2017, the year of Liam, Noel Gallagher was left frustrated.
by Colm Boohig
“It used to be professional… why taint the legacy? But now it’s personal. People are coming after my family (on social media) and one particular person has legitimised it. And for that reason, you’ve seen the last of Oasis." Noel Gallagher, 2017.
Noel Gallagher has cut a sterner-than-usual figure of late and it has not gone unnoticed among his eagle-eyed congregation.
As he releases his third and most experimental album to-date as a solo artist with ‘Who Built the Moon?’, it is the most closely associated and simultaneously disconnected Noel has been with his younger brother since the final days of the iconic band they once shared.
Why? Because 2017 has been the year of Liam Gallagher, and this time he’s sticking around. In terms of sibling rivalry, it’s as you were…
Thirteen months ago, Liam Gallagher appeared on the red carpet at the London premiere of ‘Supersonic’ – Mat Whitecross’ wonderful Oasis documentary.
Shaggy-haired, swagger-filled and brother-taunting (Liam chastised Noel for his absence on the night and lamented Oasis’ split), Liam looked every bit the man from the movie about to be shown, the scenes of which occurred two decades prior. As 2016 came to a close, it seemed like music and Liam had parted ways for good and all that remained was a beloved ’90s pop culture figure.
One year on, Liam has revived his career beyond reasonable prediction thanks to his impressive debut solo album, ‘As You Were‘.
His utterly engrossing engagements with various media and inimitable Twitter musings have only added to his remarkable revival. Liam has emphatically reminded fans from yesteryear what they were missing while also endearing himself to a whole new generation. No mean feat for one year’s work.
Back with a swaggering bang
His four-year hiatus from public life following the split of Beady Eye, the band he formed which immediately followed the demise of Oasis, left a centre stage-shaped void for Noel to fill and the elder Gallagher duly obliged.
The 2010s have seen Noel become a media darling in an increasingly vanilla industry thanks to his natural flair for an amusing anecdote and withering put-down while continuing to create some excellent material as a solo artist.
His personality is almost unique in the modern music world, but there remains one man slightly more incongruous, an individual who’s more than capable of stealing the show. It makes Liam’s return all the more fascinating.
What started as a hobby to beat the mundanity of home life has seen Liam finally enter the challenging world of songwriting and come out the other side with a very presentable debut record that has stormed the charts.
Enlisting the help of producers and writers Greg Kurstin (Adele, Foo Fighters) and Andrew Wyatt (Carl Barat, Bruno Mars), Liam has delivered the triumphant Wall of Glass, the daydreaming Chinatown and the deeply apologetic For What It’s Worth with ‘As You Were’. It rivals anything Oasis put out post ‘Be Here Now’.
By his own admission, he remains an intermediate songwriter in what he has called his last-chance saloon in the music business. With Liam, however, music has always been merely part of the dance.
His lasting appeal is in his continually unrivalled stage presence and frankly hysterical social commentary which he has been sprinkling all over the entertainment world in 2017. His stardust is so appealing to the masses that at times in recent weeks, the 45-year-old Liam has, by comparison, made 50-year-old Noel seem every bit the middle-aged man. While it is very much as-you-were for Liam, it has been a whole new direction for Noel.
A Noel like no other before
There has never been a more experimental Noel Gallagher record than ‘Who Built the Moon?’ and, depending where you stand on it, you can thank/scorn David Holmes for this reality. Coincidentally, like Liam, he recruited outside help for his latest release by bringing on board the world-renowned Belfast producer.
It was only the third time in twenty-five years that Noel has worked with a producer and the very first time that he arrived in the studio without any material prepared. This was at the request of Holmes, who staunchly refused to entertain any chord progression presented by Noel reminiscent of the quintessential Oasis sound.
Instead, he was challenged to make an album which resembled his own personal record collection, the result of which is ‘Who Built the Moon?’ – a complete departure from anything previously attempted. The influences on this album range from the mainstream to the downright obscure.
For instance, the album’s main track, the unspeakably upbeat Holy Mountain, is a sample from the 1960s cult song The Chewin’ Gum Kid while the psychedelic instrumental Fort Knox is a heart-pounding homage to Kanye West’s Fade. In other words, it’s a long way from The Masterplan at Maine Road.
Noel has evolved with the times.
It’s not quite this century’s version of Blur vs. Oasis, but their contrasting styles are blatantly apparent and it makes for an enthralling musical duel. It has also never been more personal between the pair, as referenced in Noel’s quote at the top of this article.
On the one hand, you’ve got Noel – a man of today’s world who recently boasted of boozing with Bono, celebrated his half-century with a nod to Netflix favourite Narcosand had a French woman play the scissors on a live version of his latest single from a new album he claims is revolutionary in 2017 because of its unique positivity.
On the other end, you’ve got Liam – an individual stuck in his own time vortex who refuses to mingle with the rich and famous and who, for better or for worse, will never stray from the rock’n’roll that made him famous in the first place. Liam most likely views Noel’s new material as overly-pretentious. Noel probably sees Liam’s singular efforts as sub-standard Oasis fare. They’ll always agree to disagree and we’ll always enjoy their relatably petty sibling squabblings.
But there has been a darkness to this 2017 version of the Liam and Noel story.
Time flies but it doesn’t always heal
Let’s be clear, the animosity between these two is genuine. This year’s nadir came when Liam, via his beloved Twitter page, labelled Noel’s emotional performance at the re-opening of the Manchester Arena following May’s terrorist attack as nothing more than a publicity stunt.
Liam later claimed that his account had been hacked but such comments have allegedly assisted in the online abuse that Noel’s own family has suffered. The whole episode has prompted Noel to recently suggest that his ‘not well’younger brother should see a psychiatrist. With each passing decade, this very public feud becomes that little bit more difficult to entertain.
If this is all a marketing ploy to either drive sales for their respective albums or increase interest in a brotherly reconciliation (although Liam is not completely against the idea), then it surpasses anything attempted by Conor McGregor or Floyd Mayweather ahead of their bombastic August showdown. In truth, relations between the Gallaghers are at best non-existent and at worst, vitriolic.
For so long, Noel has had the place to himself. Now Liam is back and has effortlessly rebuilt his popularity to peak Britpop levels. What happens in 2018 is anyone’s guess but Irish music fans will have as good a view as anyone when both men take to the stage in Dublin within a month of one another next summer.
In the meantime, the conclusion of 2017 will see the brothers take their epic battle to a new location – the top of the charts.
Intrigue to live forever
This is the continuing story of Liam and Noel; a pair once so musically formidable and destructive on the same team, now possibly even more threatening to each other on opposite ends of the field. It is the voice of a generation against the mouthpiece of a golden age. It is the poet clashing with the town crier. It is, after all this time, still so absorbing.
Will this town be big enough for the two of them in this new era? Well, it certainly wasn’t the last time.