Noel Gallagher: The Better Half That Continues To Fly High

It was a chilly December evening in 1997 in the Point Depot in Dublin. Oasis were in town and so was I. We headed down the Quays looking to see if Oasis ‘still got it’. “Be Here Now” had been released a few months earlier and this was a chance to see if we were watching the advance of the slippery slope or was it just a case of ‘difficult third album’ syndrome.

herald.ie

The Point (photo: herald.ie)

As we approached the gates, the burly security guys were announcing to all and sundry that there was a change to the bill.

Poor Liam had been struck down with a dose of tonsillitis we were told. As we speculated about a much more likely Rock ‘n’ Roll reason for his absence., we were told that the gig would go on (this was showbiz after all) with Noel assuming full responsibility for the vocal duties for the evening. The disgruntled could claim a full refund if they so wished. To me, this was a bonus, not a bummer. I took one look at my buddy and without hesitation headed on past the security guard who was busy swinging his arms and punching his palms to try to stay warm. Here was a chance to see something out of the ordinary, here was an opportunity to see how Noel would get on with reaching some of those notes that pushed Liam to his nasal limits. In any case, we paid for a taxi so there was no going back now!

The Show Must Go On

And so the show did go on and from that night, the seed was planted in my head. I preferred Noel-asis to Oasis. I was OK with this. Noel did write all the songs after all. It’s not as if it was a Lennon/McCartney or Forster/McLennan dilemma in terms of whose songs you preferred. NoelgallagherhighflyingbirdsThis was a straightforward preference. Now don’t get me wrong, Liam did still pull out some winners over the years, but for every “Stop Crying your heart out” there was a “Little by Little” that set me off wondering ‘what if Noel sang it?’
The ‘Best Of’ compilation in my head would invariably have more Noel than Liam. So when the inevitable came to pass and the band split, I knew which solo project I was looking forward to most.

The Other Halves

When The Go Betweens split, I devoured all of the Grant McLennan solo albums and only paid a passing interest in the Robert Forster material.

Photograph: David Sillitoe

The Go-Betweens (Photo: David Sillitoe)

However, when they got back together, a lot of the Forster songs seemed to be stronger. True, they were much more than a sum of their parts but the fondness was definitely linked to the absence I think. “What’s seldom is wonderful” as the saying goes. So maybe if the Gallagher brothers did come together again, maybe I would see Liam in a similar new light.

Now that Beady Eye have decided to call it a day, the music promoters that have been ringing Abba for the last twenty years can move on to a new target. The Oasis Reunion must surely be in someone’s Glastonbury 2016 dreams. Given the quality of the tunes that Noel is producing, I can’t see him rushing back to share a stage with Liam anytime soon, never mind a recording studio.

It’s A Good Thing

What I like about Noel Gallagher is the What You See Is What You Get-ness about him. nghfb_albumMusically and in interviews, he’s not trying to reinvent the wheel, he’s not trying to create the next great thing. He’s pretty good at his thing, and he manages to keep producing lots of quality versions of his thing. The new album “Chasing Yesterday” snuck up on me to be honest. I had played his debut album to death during 2012 and it still felt good a few years later any time I went back for a visit. So I was a bit apprehensive about the new record but my initial fears were proved unwarranted after just one or two spins.

The lead single “Ballad of The Mighty I” sets the bar and sets the tone in one fell swoop. This is a walkalong song with a great marching rhythm throughout. It’s no surprise that the video has Noel strolling around with a camera in front of him. The album is littered with classic Gallagher singalong nuggets and  melancholic moments in equal measure. “The Girl With X Ray Eyes” is a song written with David Bowie in mind but I’d bet that Black Francis would love to get his hands on it. For the Oasis fans, there are plenty of guitars, arms in the air moments to keep you sated. “Lock All The Doors” and “You Know We Can’t Go Back” are certainly the most festival fit moments on the record. The sublime “The Dying of The Light” brings a more introspective mood where a lazy shuffle beat accompanies a tearful melody throughout. Like any album, it’s not flawless but there are some super tunes in there that seem to improve with each listen.

 

Don’t Look Back In Anger

So the future looks bright for young Noel. His past life as the star striker in Oasis served him and the band well. Oasis did produce some incredible songs throughout the years. This latest album shows no sign of any writer’s block for the older Gallagher. For me, that gig in the Point Depot all those years ago was the first incarnation of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. They continue to soar.

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