You Probably Thought This Band Was About You

The failure of Liam Gallagher is one that will puzzle music critics for the next generation or so. It is not a commercial failure--it is a personal failure to understand that Oasis was not about him and that he was never an equal to his brother, Noel Gallagher. It is a failure to get over the breakup of Oasis and to really move on. It is a failure to understand that the songs were more important than anything else, and the songs that mattered were the ones that he didn't write.

When you look back at the rise of Oasis, you do see that there was a dynamic between the brothers, a negative one, but a creative one. Liam has always maintained an excellent singing voice and has always been the "face" or the front man for the band. He never descended into Ian Brown territory, which was what left a stinging, bitter taste in the mouths of Stone Roses fans when it became apparent in 1996 that Brown was croaking through songs he didn't care about anymore. You have to give Liam credit--he has never stopped caring.

Fans of the band know one universal truth--when necessary, Gallagher can sing all of the songs and he has done it numerous times in the past.

The problem is, he has never understood the importance of Noel Gallagher's songs and their meaning as the real legacy of Oasis. The festival shows, Maine Road, the world tours, Knebworth--millions have seen the band, but the songs have endured. The Oasis catalog is still worth a tremendous amount of money, and it has enabled Noel to retire in place and do whatever he wants to do. The other members aren't as lucky.

If you had someone pick the best 25 songs from Oasis, none of them would be Liam's songs and maybe one of them would be a Gem Archer song. And that's what lies at the heart of Liam's constant kvetching about Noel--the story is over, their history is written, they're not getting back together, and no one wants to hear his songs.

Oasis may have come around before the Internet but they left at just the right time. They were never going to have to "crowdsource" their next record and they were never going to put out crap. Leaving when they did actually helps their legacy. Their first two albums are as strong as anyone's first two albums, and their subsequent albums have moments of brilliance.

Their oft-derided middle period--Be Here Now and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants--is better than anyone else's creative fallow period, and it needs to be said--when these records came out, the band was in turmoil, shedding original members and leaving Creation Records. They were living a life in hell and were still able to play music. What got them through that period is the fact that Noel was able to keep writing songs that were capable of hitting the charts in England. Even though they had been written off, they were able to come back from disaster and disunity and create three of the best "end of career" albums ever.  Hindu Times and Don't Believe the Truth are band records that saw the emergence of Liam as a songwriter but as one still overshadowed by the fact that Noel controlled what went into the records.

By the time Dig Out Your Soul came out, the band was more or less back to form and more or less still a major force in British music. Oasis was still playing soccer stadiums and arenas, ignoring America, and garnering grudging praise for singles like Lyla and Falling Down.

If you look at their seven albums, you can subtract the middle period and end up with their first two and their last three--a legacy worthy of any of the great bands in British history. Even if you insist on including all seven plus their album of B-sides, they still rank well above most of their contemporaries.

This "ranking" is part of the problem. Were Oasis better than The Jam, The Stone Roses, and Blur? Is it even worth arguing? Well, certainly. But that argument has to rest on the fact that Noel Gallagher should be rated a better songwriter than anyone in any of those bands, and as one of the greats. When you put his songs up against anyone else, the comparisons falter. Liam's songs were good, and worthy of inclusion on their last three albums, but they still weren't as good as what Gem Archer and Andy Bell were contributing, instrumentals and B-sides aside. They were instinctual, primitive, and worth inclusion but were rooted in a need to equal Noel.

They could not equal Noel's songs because few, if any, of his contemporaries were able to equal what he put out. Maybe in his lifetime, Noel Gallagher will be rated at a proper level as a songwriter, but, as for right now, he is still given the back of the hand. And yet, the praise he does get drives Liam crazy.

And what burns Liam is that he knows his songs were never as good and that no one wants to hear Beady Eye play anything other than the songs Noel wrote.

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