Leave it to Noel Gallagher. The man is not only an open book, he’s an open page-turner. That is, interviews with the erstwhile Oasis songwriter are rarely boring – Noel was Russell Brand’s inspiration for the half-outrageous/half-outrageously wise Aldous Snow after all – and with his first solo album on the horizon, they’ve been easy to come by these past few weeks.
The first post-break-up album by a major talent is always a watershed, with all sorts of fascinating reactivity at work. It’s notoriously difficult to avoid the jumble of scrutiny and judgement: how will Noel’s record stack up against that of his former bandmates in Beady Eye? Against his most well-known Oasis songs? What kind of light will it shed on the last few years of that band? Who was suppressing who and to what extent? The list goes on.
Just think about all the initial post-Beatles records (or Chinese Democracy, for that matter): John dealt with the pressure by making a record so rawly personal that it defied objective assessment. Paul went the opposite direction, putting out an unbelievably modest collection of whimsical half-songs, whose lack of emotional umph was a statement in itself (“Maybe I’m Amazed notwithstanding). Ringo shielded himself by recording an album full of standards from the 30s and 40s. And George, well, we all know what George did, or rather, what/who George out-did.
The point is not that Oasis are anything like The Beatles, or even close to being in that league, regardless of how they’ve sometimes presented themselves. The point is that post-break-up solo albums are a funny and often intoxicating mix of freedom (Gospel) and reaction (Law), the promise of newness and the weight of expectation, etc.
Rolling Stone gave Noel the opportunity to sound off recently (here and here), and he put the whole thing into wonderfully Noel-esque terms. I’ve edited a few of his favorite words, but hopefully the color still shines through:
“I’ve got a certain style and I’ve got no control over what I write. I’m not technically proficient enough to attempt all kinds of music. I wish I could write a record like Raw Power or Wish You Were Here, or have the ability of a musical chameleon. But [gosh darn] it, I’m not. I just write these songs because they’re real to me and they’re coming from a place of truth. And that’s it. I don’t give a [hoot'n'holler] about being different. I want to be the same. And that in itself makes me different.”
People keep saying, ‘Oh, it’ll be great to get out of your comfort zone.’ ” he says. “It’s like, ‘[Go jump in a lake]!’ Get out of your comfort zone! It… took me 20 years to build a comfort zone. I have no [fracking] intention of stepping outside of mine. Not for no [son of Adam]. That’s gone! [Unhelpful] comfort zone bastard. I’m in the process of building another one and believe you me, I won’t be stepping outside of this one.
There’s three things that are really hard to deal with: drugs, alcohol and the worst one is success. Because with success comes with a lot of real subtle things that you can’t see and you can’t feel and you can’t talk to and you don’t know what they are, but it comes down to pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure pressure.