2017 has been a very interesting year for fans of Oasis. New solo projects, heartless twitter insults, a brilliant documentary, tons of vague maybe-promises of possibly one day perhaps reuniting if both parties possibly are open to the…possibility. In fact, I’d even go as far as to say Oasis remains the single most interesting (a word I use very specifically) band of 2017, which most people would recognize as a rather surprising feat considering they’ve been officially broken up for nearly a decade. For lack of more appropriate metaphors, songwriter Noel and frontman Liam right now are somewhere between the Cain and Abel and the Ross and Rachel of rock ‘n’ roll—will they or won’t they (either kill each other or reunite)?
I’m sure some of you are asking the understandable question: what’s the point in talking about a band that’s been broken up since 2009? Because to discuss Oasis is to, in a roundabout way, discuss rock ’n’ roll as a whole. Because Oasis is just, well, one of those special bands—those once-in-a-decade kinds of bands that, whether you loved or hated them, defined not only a group of fans but the times themselves. Hating Oasis between the years of 1995 through 2000 required just as much, if not more, effort than liking them (not unlike, say, Taylor Swift today). But more immediately, I’m discussing Oasis because in less than one month from now, former frontman and all-around rock ‘n’ roll star Liam Gallagher will release his first solo album entitled As You Were, and the stakes are about as high as they could possibly be.
Despite being from Manchester, England, the beginnings and meteoric rise of Oasis embody the American dream more so than any other band I can think of. Two brothers from the bad side of the bad side of the tracks armed with nothing but big dreams and even bigger attitudes, brothers Noel and Liam almost single-handedly (double-handedly? I’m seriously asking) killed grunge and instead mastered the largely forgotten art of proper rock ‘n’ roll anthems dedicated to enjoying life. As Noel Gallagher once, ahem, let’s say emphatically put it: “Nirvana had this song called ‘I Hate Myself and I Want To Die’ and I thought I’m not f—ing having that. He’s in the most f—ing critically acclaimed band in the world, he’s got millions of dollars…He’s got everything I want and he wants to f—ing die? F— that, f— the song and f— him. You and me mate? We’re gonna live forever!”
And that quote really defined Oasis and their entire ethos: songs and attitude so remarkably powerful, rowdy and feel-good it was almost impossible not to believe in them. The Gallagher brothers made rock ‘n’ roll fun again. It was fun to root for the trouble-makers, the underdogs. It was fun to watch them curse and pick fights. It was fun to watch two brothers who came from nothing enjoy the benefits of anything and everything they could’ve ever dreamed for. Oasis was, well, just a lot of fun. But for the better part of the last decade (longer than that if everyone’s being honest—we all stopped paying attention after Heathen Chemistry), those days have seemed long since over. That is until now, anyway.
The release of the fascinatingly insightful and downright hilarious 2016 documentary “Oasis: Supersonic” seems to have injected new life into the maybe-band once again. Featuring narration from both Liam and Noel and despite their…I suppose we’ll just say ‘current disdain’ of one another, the film makes abundantly clear their almost child-like love for their old band and the old days, each of them, sometimes grudgingly, sometimes humorously, sometimes wistfully, conceding their genuine respect for the other, thus confirming what the fans have always known deep down: that Oasis is the Gallagher brothers. A rock ‘n’ roll attitude falls flat without the songs to back them up, just as a great songwriter will never achieve greatness without the ability to entertain the entire concert hall. They needed each other as much as your body needs your mind and vice versa. That was their magic.
All of which brings us to right now, the month before the release of (what could technically be referred to as) Liam’s first solo album. (I say technically because many people, including myself, cannot remember the name of Liam’s post-Oasis band without the aid of a search engine, and at the time referred to them only as “Liam Gallagher’s new band”). Regardless, this is the first time Liam will expose himself to the world as not only a singer and a frontman, but as a solo artist and songwriter. Nerve-wracking as that must be by itself, add to that the fact his brother Noel is considered one of the great songwriters of the past 30 years, then add to that the fact Liam has basically spent the last five years relentlessly taunting one of the great songwriters of the past 30 years on Twitter. In fact, on September 11th, Liam took to twitter and attacked Noel’s teary-eyed performance of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” in Manchester (for context, in relation to the 2017 Manchester Arena bombing), as nothing more than a PR stunt, claiming “if the same thing had have gone of [sic] in Edinburgh, he’d been up there like a shot.” (I know that recent example makes the whole Twitter-abuse thing sound pretty mean, but by a large majority, he mostly just posts unflattering pictures of his brother’s face with the caption “POTATO”).
So, after writing all of those checks with his big mouth, does the music live up to the attitude? Does it live up to Noel’s work? Oasis? After watching (read: pouring over for a week) the dark, oozingly cool, Cure-like music video for Liam’s first single “Wall of Glass,” I can safely say: no, of course not—what, are you insane? Don’t get me wrong, the track is pretty enjoyable, and in fact, sounds like it’s drawn inspiration from some of the best possible sources. It’s got hints of Arctic Monkeys here and dashes of Queens of the Stone Age there, all the while Liam delivering a truly strong vocal performance, injecting his signature Manchester edge and giving the whole thing the makings of a very, very good rock song—but not an essential one. Speaking for myself, once you get over how cool he can make a parka look, you realize there’s nothing there you haven’t heard before in some other recent shape or form.
I’ve always found it hard not to root for Liam Gallagher. Maybe because he’s the last real example of what and who a rock ’n’ roll star should be during times when they’re all too scarce. Maybe because I miss the old days when rock still had an edge—the days when two brothers from a working town grinned and told the cameras they were the best singer and songwriter in the entire world and half the world believed them. Maybe it’s because a part of me feels bad for him, knowing he’ll never be quite as good as he once was, with his brother by his side, all those years ago. Whatever the reason, I’m rooting for Liam, and I’m rooting for As You Were. While we won’t know for sure until the official release in October, it appears to be just a good album by a legendary rock ’n’ roll star. Somewhat painfully, I have to predict this album will be near the back of my shelf before year’s end—just another interesting little asterisk somewhere near the end of the book of Oasis. And after all of this—the fights, the mocking, the interviews, the solo projects—the fans will still be waiting for the Gallaghers to one day reunite. Not because the scene still needs Oasis, or because they’ll be better than ever before, but because we need to believe they can. We need to believe that no matter what, no matter what you’ve said or how far away we get from home, your family will still be there. We need to believe that we complete each other and that anything is possible when that happens. We need to believe that rock ’n’ roll is still as big, as powerful, as meaningful as it was all those years ago when stadiums sang along to “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” and that despite all of the crap life throws in your way over the decades, there’s always a chance of returning to who you once were, like a cocky wide-eyed kid with nothing but big ideas, family and best mates, ready and expecting to take over the world.
Illustration by Dan Dinsmore