Oasis family feud: revisiting the rivalry ahead of albums by Liam and Noel Gallagher
The two brothers have spent close to a quarter of a century loudly trading insults in the press, but the antagonism now approaches a new crescendo
When Noel Gallagher announced his latest album Who Built the Moon? would be released on November 24 – barely a month after his brother Liam’s solo debut As You Were, on October 6 – few wanted to believe the timing could be chalked up as mere coincidence.
The two brothers – whose intense sibling squabbling was the fuel feeding the fires of Oasis – have spent close to a quarter of a century loudly trading insults in the press, but the antagonism now approaches a new crescendo.
This soap opera of fraternal rivalry is entering its most bitter chapter – never before have the Gallagher brothers competed commercially in such unruly fashion.
It has inevitably been Liam, the louder, brasher and yobbier of the pair, who has led the charge, using the never-ending promotional bandwagon of his first solo outing to make a gratuitous series of pot-shots at his big brother – augmented with liberal lashes of Twitter abuse.
Among the juiciest fresh slugs to hit home have been pops at Noel’s nauseatingly star-studded 50th birthday party in May – which attracted guests including Madonna and Bono – and the guitarist’s slot supporting U2 on tour (whom Liam, 45, dismissed as “beige”).
However entertaining – and clickable – these outbursts proved, public opinion turned against the younger Gallagher earlier this month. The singer heartlessly took aim at Noel’s appearance at the Manchester Arena benefit, raising funds for a permanent monument honouring the victims of a terrorist bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in the same venue, less than four months earlier.
Liam – who performs at Dubai’s Party in the Park on November 10 – brazenly called his brother’s motivations into question, branding Noel’s apparent tears a “PR stunt”, tweeting “C’mon you seriously ain’t buying that[,]”. He later claimed his Twitter account had been 'hacked'.
Noel has been slow to retaliate – so far – but known for his facetious streak and blunt delivery, it seems inevitable a backlash is brewing. His younger brother is the one subject certain to crop up in every interview promoting Noel’s new release, and previous form suggests the elder sibling will be suitably obliged to weigh in with a witty, retaliatory soundbite.
The last time the artillery was dispatched so audibly was when Noel called time on Oasis for good, following a violent backstage altercation in Paris, in 2009.
Various stories circulated about the final straw, some involving a lobbed plumb, others a smashed guitar. (When I probed which blow came first, in an interview ahead of the star’s sole UAE appearance at Atlantis the Palm in 2013, Noel replied with characteristic dry wit that “not even Socrates could work that one out, mate".)
Yet while rock n’ roll stardom and hedonism surely inflamed the feuds, the cycle of fraternal fighting dates back to the days of penniless adolescence. If Liam’s recollections in last year’s documentary Supersonic are to be believed, the beef began when the singer answered the call of nature on his brother’s stereo.
As Oasis went on to become the UK’s best-selling band of the period 1995-2005, the stories proved sensational, and sensationalist, tabloid fodder.
Noel quit a tour in 1994. Liam quit a tour two years later. In between, a 14-minute interview clip of the pair trading insults was even released as a single, cheekily entitled Wibbling Rivalry. The grudge was formally legitimised and institutionalised by a 1998 Celebrity Deathmatch parody. Noel quit, again, in 2000.
It was a priceless narrative for the papers to sell. Today it remains intoxicating to imagine the brothers’ antagonism as a crucial ingredient of the band’s success – the yin of Liam’s fire to the yang of Noel’s craft. Noel wrote the songs, Liam sang them – two sides of the same coin which could only be deposited at the bank side by side. In the words of anthemic B-side Acquiesce, “Because we need each other…”.
And this myth fed a perverse audience expectation. Siblings in bands have historically produced the fieriest of creative relationships – just think of the decades-long disputes which have plagued The Beach Boys, the Jackson 5 fallout, the endless infighting between The Kings of Leon and the clashes which called time on The Kinks, The Everly Brothers and The Darkness, now enshrined in rock legend. Perhaps there’s just some things you will only say to a blood relation.
In the case of Oasis, the effect of the media’s endless doomed prophecies was oddly deadening – after enduring 15 years of stories proclaiming the end nigh, if felt surreally underwhelming when Noel finally walked away from a band by then well past its prime.
Since the split Liam has wilfully embraced the role of a jilted lover – a puzzling turn from a public figure whose shtick so rests on outdated machismo. Over the years he has told countless interviewers how keen he is to reunite Oasis, holding onto a stone-cold belief that, as self-proclaimed Rock n’ Roll stars who are familiar to millions, the Gallagher brothers have a moral obligation to reform for their fans. Noel, in his eyes, is betraying some sacred duty to entertain the braying masses gagging for a reunion.
But if there’s another, slightly sadder, reason Liam is so keen to reunite, it is simply because his post-Oasis career has been completely eclipsed by his brother’s. With the remnants of that band, he first formed Beady Eye, who spluttered to pieces in 2014 after two underwhelming albums. In 2011 the band played at Abu Dhabi’s 4,500-capacity du Forum – attracting less than a third of the likely audience for Liam’s forthcoming show at Dubai Media City Amphitheatre.
Meanwhile both the solo albums credited to Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – 2011’s eponymous debut and 2015’s Chasing Yesterday – have been critical triumphs and number one hits, the latter winning Q Magazine’s annual Best Album gong.
As the primary songwriter in Oasis – and the sole author of all the band’s classic early material – it has been easy for the public to embrace a matured, solo Noel, reinvented in the classic singer-songwriter model. Refined and relaxed as he moved into his fifties, an easy charm in TV interviews has elevated Noel’s profile to the unlikely level of national treasure.
No such luck for Liam, whose expletive-stained, excessively loutish behaviour often feels like an unwelcome throwback to the laddish 1990s, from a manchild who has neither grown up nor moved on.
Yet like a car crash, we cannot look away. Liam’s storm of controversial tweets prove endless clickbait fodder. And for all our preachy distaste, the controversy has done nothing but re-ignite interest in Gallagher Jr. Pre-sale tickets for the frontman’s recently announced UK arena tour sold out in moments, kindling a fervour Beady Eye seem squarely incapable of imagining.
Which is why Liam could walk away winning this round. All the evidence suggests As You Were will neither disappoint expectations, nor subvert them. Calling on the talents of Adele producer Greg Kurstin, early solo singles Wall of Glass and Chinatown are dumbly hummable, safe and solid efforts. And with the swirling whirlpool of media attention unlikely to abate – and an earlier release date – there exists a distinct possibility the novelty of Liam’s solo debut could eclipse a third Noel release, itself unlikely to confound expectation, despite appearances from pals Paul Weller and Johnny Marr.
But there is simply no way he will win the war – whichever super-producer he cares to call on next time around, Liam can exploit this pot of nostalgic goodwill only once. As the voice behind Oasis, he will always capture the imagination most when he is singing the Oasis songs we know and love, ideally fronting a band called Oasis.
But as the songwriter behind that band, Noel has the potential to keep us interested with new songs, new ideas and new emotions. To regularly reinvent himself, much like his idol Weller has done since folding The Jam. Consolidating his compositional talents in his own name with every release, it’s easy to imagine a fifth, eighth and even tenth Noel Gallagher solo album rolling by.
While neither brother can ever hope to escape the shadow of their old band – and neither should they try – only one has the skillset to truly go it alone.
As You Were is released on October 6; Liam Gallagher performs at Party in the Park, Dubai Media City Amphitheatre on November 10, tickets from Dh350 at www.platinumlist.ae. Who Built the Moon? is released on November 24.
Updated: October 5, 2017 12:22 PM