I felt a strange sensation at the press conference for Noel Gallagher’s solo album last week: anticipation. It’s a feeling I’ve not associated with the Gallaghers for, ooh… [checks watch]… 16 years now, although they’ve awoken plenty of other emotions, from impotent rage, through glazed frustration, to icy despair.
I just hope Noel realises how much is riding on ‘High Flying Birds’. If he cocks this one up, I’m walking away, faster than a fucking cannonball. How about you?
Oasis were national treasures. To criticise them feels unpatriotic, like tipping Stephen Hawking out of his wheelchair or wiping your arse on the Magna Carta. Circa 1994, Noel Gallagher’s songs genuinely changed British culture, but when was the last time you heard a new Oasis track, jammed your headphones into a mate’s ears and told them in a reverential whisper: “just listen to this…”?
To me, it feels like Noel stopped pushing himself from the moment he exchanged on Supernova Heights. It’s understandable. Slacking off is human nature in any profession. Who hasn’t nodded dilligently when the boss says, “I’m just nipping out to the post office…”, then recreated The Dam Busters on the fire escape with watercooler bottles? Trouble is, Noel’s placed too much importance on being idle: his lunch hour office dickabout has lasted over a decade.
In the context of Oasis, the faithful will always back Noel, like indulgent mothers or lower-league football fans, always predicting a return to form, even faced with ‘High Horse Lady’. But Oasis is over, and that’s why ‘High Flying Birds’ is so important. For the first time in years, Britain’s greatest modern songwriter has something to prove, maybe even something to say. I have faith he’ll deliver. This album feels like the shackles are off and the chippy dreamer from ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll Star’ is back, slogging his way up on the club circuit, close enough to see the boredom on the front row’s faces if he plays a dud. That’s got to be healthy.
There’s another factor of course: Liam. Everyone says the Gallaghers can’t function apart, but I’d argue the opposite: their much-touted chemistry became a tedious millstone towards the end. Without Liam to keep things neanderthal, Noel might explore the more avant-garde side of his writing – see his Chemical Brothers hook-ups – rather than mine the same three-chord furrow that meant all late-period Oasis tunes sounded like ‘Roll With It’’s sickly, withered cousins. Granted, Beady Eye’s ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ is not so much a gauntlet being thrown down as a sock full of custard, but Noel will surely want to knock it out of the park.
Noel Gallagher is always most dangerous when he’s up against the wall. ‘High Flying Birds’ is his chance to come out shooting, and blow away the young pretenders with his songs, rather than sarky put-downs in magazine interviews. Prove me right, Guv’nor…