Should Noel Stay or Should He Solo?


noel1 Should Noel Stay or Should He Solo?

In August 2009, it finally happened. If you were a Gallagher brother, the prospect of playing in a band with your sibling for even one more riff became utterly abhorrent. (To borrow from Churchill, Noel and Liam became the person up with whom the other could not put.) When news of Oasis’ dissolution finally broke, fans and family therapists the globe over let out a collective “What the hell took so bloody long?” We all knew there was no way the band should have survived the “Don’t Look Back in Anger” video shoot—you know, the one where Liam sits around looking pissed while Noel sings lead—or that little episode involving Noel’s cricket bat and Liam’s head.

Following the split, Liam and the rest of the lads carried on by forming Beady Eye, which released its debut record, Different Gear, Still Speeding, earlier this year to unfavorable reviews, while Noel—following a long, proud tradition of pissed-off band members—opted to go solo as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. With Noel’s solo debut due out next week, CoS thought it might be fun to reflect on some other notable debuts by those who felt compelled to jettison (or take a break from) the band in favour (yeah, British-y spelling again) of seeing their own name stamped on the album cover. And as our look back (but not in anger) reminded us, this move hasn’t always yielded pretty results. In other words, Noel, here are some reasons to believe that Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds will be a smashing (could have said “brilliant”) success… and, unfortunately, several cases that suggest you had better call up your mum and see if she can arrange a playdate/sit-down with Liam very soon. –Matt Melis

Feature artwork by Drew Litowitz.

They chose wisely…

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Elliott Smith – Roman Candle (1994)
Band Split From/Primary Band: Heatmiser

In an alternate universe, Elliott Smith might have been remembered simply as that dude with a wispy set of pipes from a short-lived indie rock band. Sure, Heatmiser put out some decent records, developed a modest following, and received a bit of critical acclaim, but let’s be honest: It would have been a pretty unfortunate place for Smith to settle down. Just ask the thousands of tortured souls still looking for answers to their troubles in the liner notes of Figure 8 or XO, scribbling their own one-line eulogies on red, black, and white curves on a Sunset Boulevard wall. In truth, Roman Candle was a hobby of sorts for Smith. Most of the songs don’t even have names—a happy accident, a truly heartfelt diversion. Never intended for official release of any sort, we’re all pretty lucky Smith’s then-girlfriend gave word of his modest cassette to record labels. It opened up a world of beloved tunes from one of music’s most cherished songwriters, for sure. –Drew Litowitz

Lesson to Be Learned, Noel: Get depressed, get honest, and get some cassettes. Or, just soak yourself in some low-end wine.

They chose wisely…

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St. Vincent – Marry Me (2007)
Band Split From/Primary Band: The Polyphonic Spree

At the recommendation of a friend, a young Berklee dropout named Annie Clark tried out and joined The Polyphonic Spree’s collection of touring musicians. She arrived around the time when “Light and Day” was reaching mainstream success. Touring is always fun, but Clark had bigger moments waiting for her in the studio. She left the band in 2006, took up the stage name of St. Vincent, and released Marry Me in 2007. From the first song, “Now, Now”, that juxtaposition between the beautiful and the violent was present. Most of the song plucks out a light, lovely melody, but it ends with some shockingly aggressive guitar shredding. The rest of the record walks that fine line between ironic and angry, subtle and direct, sad and scathing. The Polyphonic Spree may have lost an excellent guitarist, but the rest of the world gained one of the best solo artists in recent memory. –Joe Marvilli

Lesson to Be Learned, Noel: It’s never too late to find a good cult to leave.

They chose wisely…

 Should Noel Stay or Should He Solo?

Peter Gabriel – Peter Gabriel 1 (Car) (1977)
Band Split From/Primary Band: Genesis

So what makes an artist go solo? The end of a road reached, need for a new canvas, boredom, money, family pressure, musical “differences?” In Peter Gabriel’s case, it was a planned exit, a mixture of family considerations, and a feeling that the success of Genesis had overtaken the original purpose of songwriting and performance. Released in 1977, when prog merchants were being dismissed as dinosaurs by the new wave of punk, Peter Gabriel’s first of a series of eponymous solo albums ticked enough familiar boxes to keep Genesis fans happy while introducing a diversity that would come to define his oeuvre. Opening with strong echoes of Genesis on “Moribund the Burgermeister” and ending with the Floyd-like epic “Here Comes the Flood”, the album takes in a raft of styles from folk to hard rock, symphonic tones to power balladry. The common link is the sheer quality of songwriting that makes these tunes sound fresh 34 years on and, of course, that unmistakable Gabriel vocal. –Tony Hardy

Lesson to Be Learned, Noel: You’re not Peter Gabriel. You likely won’t be Peter Gabriel. This is the high, high watermark you build towards – sort of like the B-squad player wearing a pair of Jordans.

They chose wisely…

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Lauryn Hill – The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (1998)
Group Split From/Primary Group: Fugees

While she was with the Fugees, Lauryn Hill became one of the best rappers to emerge from the brimming East Coast scene, regardless of gender. The Grammy-gobbling Miseducation proved that further, but it also showed she didn’t belong in any one niche; not only did she not need Wyclef Jean or Pras Michel, but she could carry an album with her singing voice, too. Songs like “Lost Ones” and the beatbox-aided cover of “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You” bombarded airwaves, and the entire album quickly became a landmark neo-soul effort. Unfortunately, Hill hasn’t dropped a proper solo album since, but if it remains that way, Miseducation will go down as one of the finest swan songs of its era. –Mike Madden

Lesson to Be Learned, Noel: It’s okay to win a Grammy. Sometimes it helps. A lot.

They chose wisely…

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Skrillex – My Name Is Skrillex EP (2010)
Band Split From/Primary Band: From First to Last

He went from screamo to making electronic music literally scream. The past year has been pretty swell for Sonny John Moore, aka Skrillex. He has become one of the most talked about players in this new wave of dubstep. Before he was causing mosh pits with stellar beats, he was stirring them as frontman for From First to Last, a band that could be perceived as the rock and roll version of Moore’s newer music. They had shrill guitars, pounding drums, and of course, Moore’s piercing vocals. But eventually Moore transformed into Skrillex and released some of the hottest EPs of the past year or so. Those EPs have projected him into stardom and allowed a live show that literally shakes buildings. He’s now such a big deal that Beavis and Butt-Head had to shit all over his success. –Ted Maider

Lesson to Be Learned, Noel: Don’t take the recommendation too literally. We don’t need another DJ.

They chose poorly…

kele okereke the boxer Should Noel Stay or Should He Solo?

Kele  – The Boxer (2010)
Band Split From/Primary Band: Bloc Party

When Bloc Party broke and every DJ/producer in the indie-verse was pumping out drops and remixes of “Banquet”, the band held such promise, and the buzz piled up. They stood up mightily against it after their Silent Alarm debut, avoiding the sophomore slump with A Weekend in the City. But with the electro-tinged Intimacy, there seemed to be some “creative differences” in the band (angular rock vs. thumpy electro, it would seem), and the quartet took a hiatus in 2009.

As evidenced by shy frontman Kele Okereke’s solo debut, The Boxer, Okereke likely wanted to take the band toward a more electro sound. “The Boxer” kept Bloc Party’s dramatic flair, but it didn’t have the band’s sharp-as-a-tack sound. Then the NME reported that Bloc Party’s other three members, guitarist Russell Lissack, bassist/multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Gordon Moakes, and drummer Matt Tong had auditioned a new singer for a new band without Kele present or even knowing about it. Even with repeated assurances to the contrary, it seems clear that Bloc Party won’t have any new music anytime soon, and maybe never again. –Paul de Revere

Lesson to Be Learned, Noel: There may not be a Party, or even an Oasis, to go back to.

They chose poorly…

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Billy Corgan – TheFutureEmbrace (2005)
Band Split From/Primary Band:
The Smashing Pumpkins

A friend of mine used to refer to Billy Corgan’s first solo effort as I Am Lonely. What’s sad is that this joke title is strangely appropriate. Among all of Corgan’s latter-day projects–penning the Spun soundtrack, forming the ill-fated Zwan, and reviving the Smashing Pumpkins in various incarnations–TheFutureEmbrace boldly stands out as his most spectacular failure. Since he was the “driving force” behind the Pumpkins, everyone assumed his solo effort would be captivating, if not brilliant. After all, he did record almost all of Siamese Dream himself. However, once his solo record came out, people realized just how much band mates James Iha and Jimmy Chamberlain really did contribute to the Pumpkins’ greatness. Siamese Dream wasn’t just great because Corgan recorded the bulk of it; it was great because he had the opinions of other people who were on the same level as him – or at least thought they were. And that was lost when he went off to go be lonely.–Ted Maider

Lesson to Be Learned, Noel: No man is an island… not even a Brit.

They chose poorly…

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Tom Peterson and Another Language – Tom Peterson and Another Language (1984)
Band Split From/Primary Band: Cheap Trick

Produced by Sir George Martin, Cheap Trick‘s All Shook Down was a mess of a record resulting from a clash of wills and styles. Coupling the wrong producer with songwriter Rick Nielsen’s unoriginal batch of songs was a recipe for Cheap Trick’s first dud of an album (after six stellar records in four years). On the heels of its release, bass player Tom Petersson suddenly quit the band to focus on a project he had been developing with his wife, Dagmar. The resulting band and album, Tom Peterson and Another Language (he inexplicably dropped the second ‘s’ in his name), is a prime example of poor execution of an even poorer idea. Single “Lose Your Mind” is a weak attempt to channel a hybrid of Blondie’s Debbie Harry and Missing Persons’ Dale Bozzio (only with more clothes and less synth), but the vocals come off sounding like they are being spoken by a non-English speaker (which they are, it just shouldn’t be so obvious!). From lumbering, lazy drumbeats, sluggish basslines, and sloppy guitar to an off-pitch dyed blonde fronting the band, there is practically nothing of merit, and certainly nothing original, on Petersson’s debut. No wonder he re-joined Cheap Trick. –Len Comaratta

Lesson to Be Learned, Noel: Behind every good man, there’s a good woman. Unfortunately, there are good women behind some really bad solo records, too.

They chose poorly…

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Gavin Rossdale – Wanderlust (2008)
Band Split From/Primary Band: Bush

As frontman for UK outfit Bush, Gavin Rossdale arrived in the wake of Cobain’s demise with the band’s single-heavy 1994 debut, Sixteen Stone. After dizzying audiences worldwide with his choice looks and obscure lyricism for the better part of a decade, Rossdale separated from the group, starting up modern rock collective Institute in 2004. When that went nowhere, he issued his first solo album in 2008 with Wanderlust. Three words accurately describe it to a tee: schlocky, uninspired, and soulless. Producer Bob Rock managed to strip away anything that made the singer admissible. Instead of sounding frail and discontented, Rossdale moved at the pace of a snail and glazed over with a digital rubdown that would make Britney Spears wince. There is no good song off Wanderlust. To this day, it remains a sour memory: like changing your car’s tire amidst a hurricane, waking up to find your dog dead in the living room, or realizing you left your wallet at an Auntie Anne’s in Atlanta International Airport during a layover. Fortunately for him, Rossdale reunited with Bush – or, drummer Robin Goodridge – and unleashed The Sea of Memories, an admirable improvement, but still loaded with all the Bob Rock signatures. Someone should have Metallica call him. Or, wait, nevermind. -Michael Roffman

Lesson to Be Learned, Noel: Stay away from Bob Rock. Forever.

They chose poorly…

 Should Noel Stay or Should He Solo?

Flavor Flav – Flavor Flav (Hollywood) (2006)
Group Split From/Primary Group: Public Enemy

“That’s right, Flavor goin’ solo/What you all know about that?” taunted Public Enemy hype man extraordinaire Flavor Flav on “Cold Lampin’ with Flavor” from 1988’s seminal It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. About 10 seconds into the first track of his eponymous solo debut, released nearly 18 years later, we found out we knew quite a lot about that. Hell, we knew more than we ever wanted to know about that (like what a crooning Flav sounds like). But this type of crime against humanity is bound to happen when you go from rolling with guys named Chuck D and Professor Griff to knocking boots with reality bimbos named New York and Pumkin. Thank God P.E. is still in “full effect” for Flav to go back to—where that giant clock around his neck still knows what time it is. -Matt Melis

Lesson to be Learned, Noel: If VH1 offers you a reality TV series, you get the chance to open your own fried chicken shack, or even if you just feel tempted to wear a viking helmet, please, just ask yourself, “WWCD?” (What Would Chuck D Do?)