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(Credit: Michael Spencer Jones)

Music

The battle of the Gallagher brothers: Exploring the Oasis war via the five best songs from their solo work

@TomTaylorFO

In 15 frantic years, Oasis sold 70 million records, caused the rapid onset baldness of several tour managers, and just about achieved the rarefied feat of defining an era. Love them or loath them you can’t f—king ignore them — that much was true when they landed a helicopter at Knebworth and it’s still true now. 

Trapped in some sort of bicker chasm that not even Mary Poppins could patch up, the Gallagher feud has turned tiresome bar the odd golden relic like Liam being described as “a man with a fork in a world of soup” and his rather more simplified but equally cutting response of calling Noel a “potato” and a U2 fan. Aside from that they simply seem steadfast in generating Radio X content, and the odd banal two-pints-deep discussion before the night really gets moving, both on the field of battle and away from it. 

Beyond the war of words, what of the battleground of the music? Well, from the outside looking in, it’s apparently certifiable that a psychologist for toddlers could have a field day. It would seem that the older sibling always wants the toy that the younger is playing with, and the youngster is too oblivious to care. 

Ranking every Oasis album in order of greatness

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The perfect paradigm of this Supernanny-inspired theory came to the fore when Noel upheld his side of perpetuating the eternal rift by changing tact and invoking his brother by proxy when he took a slight at Harry Styles’ songwriting potential. Noel essentially substituted his brother’s name out of a word document of planned statements when he announced: “You’re not telling me ‘Harry Styles’ is currently in a room somewhere writing a song.”

This was a clever play. The film Greed pulled a similar stunt. It was loosely based on the life of Sir Philip Green but never mentioned him by name, meaning that if Green was to sue for libel, he would have hoisted himself with his own petard by recognising that the immoral character was close enough to himself pursue a lawsuit. 

Similarly, Noel has constructed a way of commenting on Liam’s lack of ability to sit in a room and write a song that Liam can’t respond to it without accepting he places himself in a league with the Harry Styles’ of the musical world. However, Liam himself has usurped this Catch-22 by simply not caring. He doesn’t want to sit in a room, he wants to sell out Knebworth and continually shout “C’mon you know!” And he’s doing just that with a shit-eating grin on his face. 

However, a portent has come his way, the swaggering frontman needs a double hip replacement which he refuses to heed because it’s just no rock ‘n’ roll. This is proof that his style has a shelf life, and beyond Knebworth, is ‘Everything’s Electric’ – a track that essentially sounds like an AI-generated redaction of the Oasis back catalogue regurgitated in 2022 – enough to sustain the stardom?

And for that matter, is Noel’s solo work strong enough to endure. Is it a case that pizzazz might dazzle but great art lasts? Or is Noel also trapped in some tricky Kafka-esque territory where he has to pull away from his own creation and play the scissors as if to make it clear that he is fighting on a different front? 

And does anybody really care anyway? Are the column inches and continued ticket sales simply stoking the embers of a dream that once was just to desperately keep the past aflame? Or is a lark worth keeping alive for the occasional fresh gem and Friday night revelling in reminiscence clutching a ten pound two pinter? Lord knows, and each to their own, but perhaps the best of their respective solo back catalogues might help to illuminate how things have unfurled artistically at least a little bit. 

The five best songs from the Gallagher brother’s solo careers:

‘Fort Knox’ – Noel Gallagher

Musical evolution is an overrated virtue, and it can be frankly dangerous. Just ask AC/DC who laugh all the way to the bank with Back in Black which sits firmly top ten biggest selling albums of all time and atop of their critical rankings. It was their seventh record and it succeed by sounding exactly the same as all of the others only. This is an example of fine-tuning being just as virtuous as reinvention. 

However, there are always exceptions to the rule. With ‘Fort Knox’ Noel pushed into the sort of territory that The Chemical Brothers have happily been holding for a while and he succeeded in providing the sort of album opener that could see a sloth enter into the 100m final. With a bruising repetition, the anthemic overture builds towards gym PBs and the sort of live track that actually makes you want to spill your drink just so you can be unburdened of it. 

‘One of Us’ – Liam Gallagher

With ‘One of Us’ Liam got self-referential in a reflective sense rather than trying to reprise the same thing in a fresh guise. This transition gave the song a sense of sincerity rather than feeling like a facsimile of the past. Simply put, ‘One of Us’ had a sense of story and depth that is sometimes missing in his work.

Beyond that, the bassline is a beautiful thing to behold. It’s simple but that’s what makes it so endlessly listenable—there is a certain classiness to its refinement. Utilising Liam’s ability to follow punchy notes with a sharp sustained high note that stabs through and briefly threatens to snatch Sputnik out of orbit, the track plays to his strengths without pandering to them. And how’s about that orchestral postlude finale! 

‘The Dying of the Light’ – Noel Gallagher

Noel has a knack for composition that has always sustained and the craft in tracks like ‘The Dying of the Light’ is proof of that. It’s this seamlessness that helped him define an era. The guitar work in his Oasis classics is so lean and cultivated that you’ll still find them whistled and hummed the world over. They have achieved something very rare and irrefutable in music—they are iconic and creating something like that takes great skill. 

That same sense of craft is clear in ‘The Dying of the Light’. It might not have the same sense of captured zeitgeist that his Oasis work had, but in a songwriting sense it is Noel doing what Noel does best, and that will forever be something worth taking note of. 

‘Chinatown’ – Liam Gallagher

The one thing even the most ardent Liam fan couldn’t argue is that his solo career has been surprising. In fact, ‘as you were’ is pretty much the conceit of it. You could do worse than place a bet that his next album will be called Let’s Be ‘Avin You, and it will definitely feature a song with the word ‘electric’ or ‘glass’ in it. And that’s all well and good in its own way, but ‘Chinatown’ seemed to defy that and stuck its neck out as a wonderful oddity. 

Musically it’s built on the sort of riff that doesn’t make much sense on paper but works brilliantly tonally. Thereafter it swirls in its own weird kaleidoscope, throwing the contours all over the shop but always returning to the same grounding melodic chorus. And lyrically it reaches further too. It remains the ‘Norwegian Wood’ of his back catalogue, and it still beguiles with its weirdly puzzling allure to this day, like how you can enjoyably make your way through a tub of olives without really being certain you actually like the taste. That’s a rare thing in music and it is a mark that there is more depth to Liam than often gets recognised. 

‘If I Had a Gun…’ – Noel Gallagher

The Chupa Chups logo was actually designed by Salvador Dalí. It’s a brilliant piece of work, but because it’s so commonplace you barely notice it. That seems to be the case with some of the poetry hidden in the plain sight of Oasis’ ubiquitous hits. Like the secretly profound description of a Choco Leibniz, exposure has rendered lines like “You can’t give me a dream that was mine anyway,” second nature. 

However, with ‘If I Had a Gun…’ Noel reasserted himself as a swaggering bard with a piece of poetic brilliance that could happily batter Byron like the fist that knocked Liam’s teeth out in that famous Munich brawl. To put a fine point on it, the verse below is simply as good as it gets:

“Hope I didn’t speak too soon
My eyes have always followed you around the room
‘Cause you’re the only god that I will ever need
I’m holding on
And waiting for the moment for my heart to be unbroken by the seams.”

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