Oasis fans have long wondered what the Manchester band's records would have sounded like without Liam Gallagher in the mix, and the 'Sis's recent breakup has answered all that. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (Mercury) is everything Oasis fans have been waiting for — gorgeously romantic and effortlessly melodic, even if it wasn't the ideal outcome for the songwriter himself. "The fact that the record exists is because I was forced into making it," the elder Gallagher explains over the phone from the UK. "It wasn't something that I wanted to do. I don't want a solo career, I'd much rather be in a band. Unfortunately, the band I was in, I can't be in that band anymore. It was just fucked up."
Making the album, which arrives a few months after Liam's Beady Eye project, came relatively easy. "This record was absolutely plain sailing," Noel says. "Records are only as good as the material, and the material was great. I wasn't relying on anyone else. I get anxious about making records. Once you've finished it, you've pretty much accepted whether it's good or not. If it wasn't any good you wouldn't put it out. Now I'm on my own as an independent artist; I paid for it, I can scrap it if I like."
It's a good thing he didn't. Although a few of the songs seem like they could fit on an Oasis record as pace-changers, there's a generally more intimate quality here, less guitar soloing, little over-sized feedback. There's a heavier sadness to his already world-weary but determined voice, as in the confident, blasé brass-pop of "The Death of You and Me" or the iconic "Wonderwall"-style chord structure on the wistful single "If I Had a Gun."
"Stadium rock is big and loud in your face, you get drunk and shout," Gallagher says. "This is not that. I guess it's more romantic, a bit more love."
That means less of a wall of sound to hide behind in the live setting, and one fewer frontmen, in particular, to take the brunt of the attention. "I'm just learning what to do when I'm on stage. I haven't got anything to say, d'you know what I mean? I'm not sure what people are expecting. The music side of it is great. There's another thing that people want, I don't know what it is. . . . "
It's hard to imagine someone of Gallagher's success and vaunted ego feeling insecure on stage. It's hard, really, even to think of him as a regular person, no matter how much evidence you have to the contrary that famous musicians are just people doing a weird job. Is he still a real human being? "When I'm standing in queue at a supermarket or drugstore, I'm not thinking I really should be wearing shades or a cape or carrying the little pet chimp. I don't think about it, I don't feel like a rock star ever until the lights go down."
When the lights go down for his upcoming Boston date, he'll be reaching back into the past for a few Oasis songs, just don't call them that. "I don't think of them as Oasis songs anymore. They're Noel Gallagher songs. I wrote them. They're only Oasis songs when Oasis are playing them."