Noel Gallagher and his former band Oasis were one of Britain’s most successful music properties; however, one has every right to think of them as the turning point in UK alternative culture becoming less sacrosanct.
You see, Oasis were an indie guitar band that became massive principally because they were in the right place at the right time, striking gold because alternative music had already become mainstream by that point. It had reached a moment where even those that didn’t like such music were buying into it because it was the soundtrack to a ‘90s backdrop of football, larger and glamour girls. When a particular music scene reaches such a watermark then it can only give way to cheap imitations and less credible acts.
Oasis’ music never really stood for anything. The songs were catchy and radio-friendly enough to entertain, but they didn’t exhaust brain matter on the part of the listener to deconstruct subversive meanings. That wasn’t the case with earlier alternative working-class British acts from the north like The Smiths or Stone Roses, whose lyrics were drenched in double entendres and psychotropic ennui. Oasis made music for the masses and generated a lot of money doing it.
Oasis disbanded in 2009 after much infighting. Yet Noel Gallagher’s current stint as the front man of High Flying Birds has seen the singer remain one of the last successful British guitar acts. As much as one celebrates Noel’s working-class credentials, and his rightful bemoaning that “there’s too many posh people in the arts,” it’s harder to take him seriously as a relatable individual knowing he has a cool £30 million in the bank and insists on sending his kids to private schools because he doesn’t want them, “speaking like Ali G.”
But let’s get back to how Gallagher ruined British alternative music culture by turning it into a pleasing fondue set. The benignity of early noughties pop music, coupled with the advent of reality television singing contests, has now given way to a chart where the vanilla sounds of Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Paloma Faith accounted for more than a third (34.5%) of UK music sales last year.
The British Phonographic Industry proudly declared this week that: "The UK has a rich and diverse cultural heritage and we can be proud of the cross-genre music royalty that we have produced down through the decades to this very day.”
That seems great but the current state of British mainstream music is horrendously homogenised and elitist, ruled by a cohort of privileged singers whose parents have bankrolled their careers, accompanied by lacklustre state educated X-Factor pop stars who’ll defer to industry overlords if it guarantees their record contract gets renewed.
Noel Gallagher, master contrarian that he is, is a bloke that wants―to use that famous English idiom―have his cake and eat it. He criticises the lack of meritocracy in modern music but has himself become part of the establishment.
Oasis can be argued to be the beginning of the end of what was a popular British alternative spirit, but that doesn’t mean Gallagher’s sentiments are entirely out of place. He told the NME last year that: “My bass player summed it up [best], we’re constantly saying, 'Where is the next band coming from?' and he rightly says, 'Never mind the band, where are the people?’”
This seems to be at the core of what is wrong with British culture right now. Our education system insists on propagating conformity through an uninspiring curriculum, while our government extols the need to invest in exportable art that makes money globally through giving people what they expect. Such policies all but guarantee crippling UK cultural progression, not enhancing it.
As much as our love-hate interpersonal relationship with Noel Gallagher sustains, the man shares much of the current woe many grumpy Britons have towards this country’s methods of prioritising music culture. In only the amusingly crass way a former working-class Brit like Gallagher can, he says it best by arguing: “I don't understand it […] when radio stations start focus groups. They literally go outside their building and ask people walking by, 'If I played you this song, what would you think?' and all that. Don't ask the man on the street! He's a cunt! That's why he's the man on the street, not the man in the expensive restaurant eating fucking mini sausages at four in the afternoon!"
Choice words. Noel Gallagher has become the unmistakable voice of UK class warfare as he looks down on those that got him there.