Why an Oasis Reunion Might Not Be a Mirage
I won’t presume to get inside the minds of Noel or Liam Gallagher – not without a headful of cigarettes and alcohol, at least. But even then, even if it was possible to somehow discern their individual motives, rip apart legend from reality and fully come to understand their cognitive processes, it would still be unwise to guess what they’ll do next. Because there’s one variable that can never truly be quantified: the extent to which they just don’t give a sod about doing what’s expected.
For those who lost track of the brothers Gallagher sometime after “Wonderwall” but before Oasis finally imploded in 2009, everything you remember about them is probably accurate. Noel Gallagher (now 47) was the guitarist and songwriting genius primarily responsible for engineering the band’s quintessentially Britpop, decade-defining sound. Frontman Liam (42) was the band’s unchallenged leader prior to Noel joining and, although they skyrocketed to global fame on the strength of Noel’s instantly classic songs like “Champagne Supernova” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” a constant power struggle and violently volatile sibling rivalry threatened to rip the band apart at all times.
From that one time in 1996 when Liam decided literally minutes before recording MTV’s Unplugged that he’d prefer not to perform and instead heckled from the balcony to that other time Noel headbutted Liam when he questioned the legitimacy of Noel’s daughter in 2000, the brothers’ relationship only deteriorated during the past two decades. It all came to an end in 2009 after a fight in Paris prompted Noel to walk out and announce his decision to quit on his blog citing “verbal and violent intimidation.”
Hard to believe these are the same two former "Charlie Bit My Finger" look-alikes who grew up in the working class suburbs of Manchester (that's Noel on the far left and baby Liam next to mum):
But turmoil -- emotional and otherwise -- is nothing new to the Gallaghers. They grew up in an abusive, unsteady atmosphere at the hands of their alcoholic father; Noel was put on probation when he was 13 for robbing a corner store; and Liam was expelled from high school for fighting. If most siblings in the world have a fight involving a cricket bat, there'd be definite cause for concern -- but that's just how the Gallaghers chat.
After the end of Oasis, they didn't speak for an extended period and went their own ways. Noel worked with the likes of Paul Weller and Miles Kane and took a few years before emerging with Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds -- a completely tolerable new band who are releasing their second (and accurately titled) full-length, Chasing Yesterday, on March 3. Liam and other former members of Oasis resurfaced with Beady Eye -- a band Noel once described as "Stratford's finest Oasis tribute band -- but, after two relatively innocuous albums, they called it quits this past October.
The moment the final nail went into Beady Eye's coffin (along with word from Noel that the brothers were again on decent terms), the Oasis reunion rumor mill began priming its machinery. Still, Noel did his best to quickly shut it down thanks to Liam's erratic behavior. "As we know, you can’t plan 30 seconds of your life with [Liam] as it can go t--ts up any time," he said. “I have been at gigs and he’s said, ‘I am not singing any of that s---.’ And we’ve been rehearsing for four months. He is a crazy guy.”
While that might be true -- Liam Gallagher could very well be insane -- Noel actually isn't. True, he can be unapologetically blunt, but he's actually way more pragmatic and sensible than you'd think. When he says today's music "doesn't reflect the times," he kind of has a point. And, in reference to Kanye West's comments about Beck needing to respect Beyonce's artistry, Gallagher told Vulture, “If artistry is shaking your ass onstage, she’s f---ing great" -- and that might be the most profoundly astute statement ever made by man.
Noel Gallagher can be unapologetically blunt, but he’s actually way more pragmatic and sensible than you’d think.
Noel's been typically candid about the fact that an Oasis reunion would be entirely about the money and, although he says it would take "half a billion dollars," I'd wager it won't actually cost that much. Although he's also said no amount of money would be worth the hassle (he told The National Post "that ship has sailed"), he also often hints that reforming Oasis isn't actually his call. It would be up to Liam, but Noel told the Daily Beast the singer would need to relinquish all creative control and be on his best behavior.
While those are no guarantees, Liam apparently could really use the money and he has to be at least a little ready to admit that Noel is a preternaturally brilliant songwriter while he's mostly just adequate. At some point (with Noel pushing 50), Liam will need to face that he'll soon come to a crossroads: He can either continue toiling on his own or he can settle down, play along and allow Oasis to become the next iteration of the modern day Rolling Stones. Noel says he's got plenty of songs stockpiled from the original Oasis run and already revealed he wouldn't restart the band without Liam. He said, "[Liam] provided the rock, you know.” And although Noel proves he's great at making fun of himself (and is still capable of writing a massive hook) in his video for "Ballad of the Mighty I," you can't help but notice how less charismatic of a frontman he is than his little brother.
There's one other factor in all of the recent Oasis talk. Last week, out of seemingly nowhere, Oasis' once-hated rivals Blur announced they're releasing The Magic Whip, their first new album together since 2003. Of course, it's been almost two decades since Noel Gallagher said he hoped Blur’s Damon Albarn and Alex James would “catch AIDS and die,” and Noel has since become chummy with Albarn -- even joining Albarn and Blur guitarist Graham Coxon onstage for a performance of Blur's "Tender" at a 2013 benefit concert.
But the Gallaghers are intensely competitive and, in a way, the future of Oasis will likely be intrinsically tied to Blur's. If their new album is hailed as a masterpiece and leads to headlining festival appearances, it would irrevocably alter the history of the Battle of Britpop. While Oasis were clearly the winners the first time around, what if The Magic Whip is so good it retroactively alters everyone's perception of Blur's earlier work? What if more arguments are made that Blur's second act helped elevate them closer to Oasis' level? Sure, it's a little unlikely, but it's not impossible. Considering that Liam is looking for work, Noel's new album is getting lukewarm reviews and he's already said he's got "a few songs lying around that [Liam] would be good at singing," the stage could be set for reconciliation.
But their decision to reunite Oasis almost certainly won't have to do with money, expectations or the Gallaghers' complicated relationship. It'll all come down to one thing: how many people they they can antagonize when they do it.