Noel Gallagher - Spin - March 2000
"You'll never get a Sgt. Pepper off us. Were not that f***ing far out. You've got to be fucked-up to make shit like that. Were not the Beatles." Thats Liam Gallagher talking, lead singer for Oasis. You remember Liam. He's the guy who said in 1996: "If the Beatles were here now, they'd be Oasis." The same hardman who a year later told an insufficiently worshipful Spin writer: "I'll knee you in the balls, man! [Be Here Now] is tops, man. Tops!"
Back in 1994, when rock was barbed and ambition was uncool, Liam and his brother Noel were the twin stars who lightened our burdens with visions of immortality and glinting faith in the idiot wisdom of youth. They believed in team spirit, and teen spirit, just as much as they supposedly hated each other. So Liam's newfangled humble-pie claptrap, honest as it may be, is troubling.
But Oasis 2000 is a different beast from the ball-cracking jackanapes of 97 who released 'Be Here Now'. That album was a critical and commercial disappointment, and the band took a two-year break, during which time Liam and Noel sobered up a bit and impregnated their wives. In August, guitarist Paul "Bonehead" Arthurs and bassist Paul "Guigsy" McGuigan both quit, and in November, Alan McGee and Dick Green, founders of Oasis label, Creation, announced they were leaving the imprint.
Songwriter/guitarist Noel admits he was lost when he began writing their new record, 'Standing on the Shoulder of Giants'. "I wasn't sure what album I wanted to make," he says. "But I was positive what I wasn't going to make."
With disillusioned lyrics like "Now you understand that this is not the promised land," and "Where did it all go wrong?" the songwriting is adequate, sometimes even beautiful. "Roll It Over" and "Who Feels Love?" are power ballads suffused with real pathos and a fat sonic boom begging for a stadium. The first single, "Go Let It Out!," sounds like a Beatles-derived Oasis tuneno more, no less. But for the first time, the bands spirit feels tentative. The album is neither great nor awful enough to merit a pivotal role in their fate. And Noels comparative weakness as a singer, and Liams as a songwriter, tell the real story of why this band is still together. They need each other too much.
Its mid-December and the band (including new guitarist Gem Archer and bassist Andy Bell) is spending a few days in L.A. after playing KROQs Almost Acoustic Christmas show. Oasis go on before Fiona Apple, Blink-182, Rob Zombie, and Bush. "A soul-destroying experience" is how Noel describes it. Their performance is remarkable mostly for its rote technical mastery.
During "Helter Skelter," Liam sits at the foot of the stage smoking a cigarette and staring out with studied indifference, as if he's proud to look, sound, and act exactly the way he did five years ago. "Why should I reinvent myself?" Liam asks two days later, sitting in a hotel room, with dark sunglasses, a cigarette, and a minor hangover. "I'm cool enough as it is." It seems unwise to remind him that his heroes, the Beatles, wrote the book on artistic self-reinvention. Or to point out how strangely deflated he sounds when describing the new album. "It's not like an instant fucking hit straight-away," he says a bit defensively. "It makes you think."
Sitting on the same couch an hour later (the brothers refused to do this interview together), Noel is candid about the album. "If this was going to be our last record I would maybe think, Is this the way you want it to sound? But its just another in a long line, isnt it?"
Well, if they can still make people care. "There's an audience out there that is intelligent, alternative, and hip that appreciates quality musicianship," says Vince Cannova, assistant program director at Detroit modern-rock station 89X. "Oasis are an extremely strong live band.
They just need those big radio songs, and they'll be back to where they were."
"I feel now that our middle two albums lacked inspiration," Noel confesses. "But the long layoff reignited my passion for songwriting." Solitude helped: "I [got sober] on doctor's orders and got away from that circle of friends," he says. "So there was a sense of being on my own, and writing with the point of view of being reborn." Still, the only moment he says he really felt the spirit was with "Roll It Over." "When I finished that one I was like, I've still got it. It's still there. That feeling passed in about 20 minutes."
Noel says Oasis almost broke up recently, and he predicts his solo album is "inevitable." But both Gallaghers seem quite conscious of their mutual dependence. After spouting all that Sgt. Pepper business, Liam becomes suddenly protective. "My band's a baby, something I really care about, something I dont wanna fuck up. And I could fuck this band up like that."