So, Beady Eye is upon us. The new band, fronted by Liam Gallagher, have earned praise for their debut Different Gear, Still Speeding, even though the foursome is Oasis without main songwriter Noel Gallagher. Andy Bell and Gem Archer (guitars) and Liam himself prove themselves more than able songwriters across the new album.
For all the tales of backstage fights, smashed guitars and insults that supposedly led to Oasis’ split in 2009, the answer may be much more simple. The Beady Eye album suggests that maybe the Gallagher brothers just weren’t on the same musical page anymore.
Noel admitted on one occasion that he had a self-imposed rule: he would never sing more than two songs on any Oasis album. That was, no doubt, partly to placate Liam who, let’s not forget, actually formed the band (then called Rain) before Noel joined and assumed control. But it was also because Noel initially had no problem writing huge-riffing anthems that suited Liam’s throaty sneer to perfection. Yet, things changed pretty quickly.
Even on ’95’s (What's the Story) Morning Glory? Noel judged the best two songs “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” but he was not prepared to let Liam sing both. So which would he give to his brother?
“Liam hated ‘Wonderwall’ when he first heard it,” Noel told Mojo magazine in 2007. “At the time, in the press, the new musical phenomenon was trip-hop. Because ‘Wonderwall’ didn’t have a 4/4 beat, he was like, ‘it’s [expletive] trip-hop!’ I said, well, why don’t you go away and listen to some for a start and then come back and tell me it’s trip-hop. He was having none of it. I initially said, well I’ll [expletive] sing it then. I was always going to sing one or the other ‘Wonderwall’ or ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger.’”
By ’97’s Be Here Now, some fans were baffled that “Stay Young,” was left off. Though sung by Liam, it was arguably one of Noel’s strongest compositions of the sessions. Yet Noel put the less-widely-loved “Magic Pie” on the final album: perhaps because it was a song he would sing, or simply to show that he wasn’t solely about brickwalled Les Paul riffing?
And by 2000’s Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, song-choice again raised eyebrows. By then, Oasis were reduced to the core of Noel and Liam Gallagher: everyone else involved was essentially a hired-hand. The album contains some straightforward rockers – “Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is” and “I Can See a Liar” – yet Noel neglected a song like “Solve My Mystery” (a.k.a. “Revolution Song”) that Liam possibly could not have done justice.
Then there is 2000’s “Let’s All Make Believe”, a fan-favorite from the same sessions that Noel relegated to a b-side, to the subsequent surprise of most. Q magazine has subsequently voted “Let’s All Make Believe” #1 in its 500 Best Lost Tracks list (in 2007), and its genius remains in a Noel-written lyric that could be partially aimed at his brother… yet then Liam sings it.
Oasis in the “noughties” continued in much the same fashion. Some of Noel’s self-sung songs – “Sunday Morning Call,” “Little by Little, ”“The Importance of Being Idle,” “Falling Down, ” “Part of the Queue” – were his most melodic and sophisticated songs of that period. But could Liam have sung these? Possibly not. And, away from all this, Noel was still writing other songs that only he could likely front.
Maybe Noel Gallagher simply lost the will (or desire) to write songs for his brother to sing. Noel still had great songs, but they were generally more wistful, slower and gently melodic than fitted the original Oasis template. “Lord Don’t Slow Me Down”, “Who Put the Weight of the World on My Shoulders” and the still unreleased “Stop the Clocks” were all bright songs but never made bona fide Oasis albums. Because, maybe, that would have broken Noel’s rule?
Maybe Noel, as some fans argue, is a bad judge of his own songs. More likely, Noel’s favorite compositions increasingly became inappropriate for Liam to sing. Musical differences…