Chuck Klosterman on Noel Gallagher; Me and “Be Here Now”

Cover of "Be Here Now"

I somehow missed this Klosterman/Gallagher Grantland interview from last fall but Noel’s in great form as usual.  Timely for our purposes in the context of my recent suggestion, prompted by a Klosterman quote, that Axl Rose and Noel Gallagher cut some tracks together. A.V. Club’s Steven Hyden explores the place of Be Here Now in the Gallagher cannon given Noel’s suggestion that we play his career in reverse for an alternate narrative of artistic expectation.

Hyden gets close to saying what I’ve been saying for a while:  Be Here Now is going to be one of those albums that people come back to and say, it’s not the first two Oasis albums, but it’s pretty great.  It’s who they were then, and it’s who we, the people who loved it, were, too.  Definitely Maybe and Morning Glory were almost perfect.  Be Here Now was a victory lap that may have misfired, but it was a hell of a lot of fun, and it made sense that the biggest band in the world (“the first post-grunge band to be massive in every way,” as Klosterman says) act the part.  And they did.  And that record got me through my senior year of high school.  I’ll always love it.

Noel Gallagher Wants to Be President, Google Thinks He’s Roger Daltry

Noel Gallagher playing live in 2008
I still dress like you, Sonny Jim.

I am huge Oasis fan and an even bigger fan of Noel Gallagher, creative force.  He’s been great on American late night TV this year promoting Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, his first solo album since leaving Oasis amid great tumult in 2009.

While it’s true that Oasis never topped their first two albums critically or commercially in the US,  there’s a lot to like in the catalog that came after (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, starting with the 1998 b-side album The Master Plan.  Ten years, a handful of great singles and some okay albums later, 2008’s Dig Out Your Soul came forth as the best Oasis album since 10th-grade English.  (That said, I remain an unabashed, un-ironic fan of 1997’s Be Here Now.)

Earlier today, my best friend and Oasis-loving partner in all manner of existential creativity for the past 20 years (let’s call him Ramon) sent me a new piece from Noel Gallagher: ‘If Obama loses, I’ll run for president myself’.  As Noel himself might say, “bloody brilliant.”

When I was a kid, the honesty and swagger Oasis presented felt like inside information.  “We’re great and we know it.  That’s all the really matters.”  One of the best things about that attitude in the early days was that it was totally untested and undefended.  There would have been no point.  It’s an existential conviction, an ontological statement that resonated with the entire youngish population of the UK and a good chunk of us here.  It came to us in the wake of Nirvana, in direct, deliberate contrast to sentiments like “I Hate Myself and Want To Die.”   When I spent a few weeks in England the summer before Oasis released Morning Glory Stateside, Oasis’ grip on British culture was as inescapable as it was brazen, and it was something to behold.  That fall, it took root in bits and pieces here, never reaching monoculture status for reasons the piece above gets into.

Still, all these years later, I find myself watching recent Noel interviews on YouTube when I can’t sleep or when I need a special kind of affirmation.  I can’t bear to watch the old ones…I’ll get too nostalgic.  The thing about Noel in his 40s is that the pomp and confidence is tempered (never dampened) by the facts of his successes.  The brazen upstart is now a winsome statesman of the same old plucky mettle.  It’s wonderful to see.

Also, this:

The thumbnail looks like Paul McCartney, but it’s Roger Daltry.  In any case, it isn’t Noel.

The Second Coming of Jeff Mangum

NPR has a pretty cool piece up about Neutral Milk Hotel genius Jeff Mangum.  He’s playing at Coachella this year along with acts like James, Mazzy Star, and Noel Gallagher (and little indie bands like Radiohead and some hip-hop up-and-comers called Dre and Snoop).

I am, however, going to a Beach Boys 50th Reunion Tour show in May and am beyond stoked.  Brian Wilson will be there.  That’s all that matters.


Stephen Hawking Says He Don’t Believe in Heaven

“go and tell it to the man who lives in hell.” (Noel Gallagher).

Now, friends, listen.  When I was a youth group leader, we used to talk about “hell monkeys,” by which we meant people who tried to prop up Christianity with appeals to the fear of Hell with a capital H.  So when I say “hey, Stephen, I love your righteous mind, but as far as there being no heaven, friend, go and tell it to the man who lives in hell,”  I don’t mean “go and tell it to the man who’s on fire for eternity.”  Rob Bell alert: I don’t actually believe there’s a place of eternal, conscious torment.  I just don’t. Do you?  Do you really?  Even if you do, I bet you wish you didn’t, and I don’t say that with any particular relish.

When I heard that Dr. Hawking thinks there ain’t no heaven, my first thought was: in other news, it’s been confirmed that the Pope, is, indeed, Catholic.  My second thought? Oasis quote!  “Go and tell it to the man who lives in hell, good sir.”  Go and tell it to the woman who’s been to hell and back, friend, go and tell it to the gent who knows there’s a heaven like he knows he’s in hell now.  Maybe I do mean that heaven is a place like I’m saying hell isn’t, or maybe I mean heaven is Reality as such, in other words, that God is Reality, the grounding of our being,  and that there’s a surprising narrative arc to the story of history, and to our personal stories.

I can’t say I’d be upset to find out I’m wrong about all of this. I’d never know, of course.  But it strikes me that heaven is the opposite of not knowing,  a state of spirit, union, reality, what have you, where we may know fully, even as we are fully known.   That’s my hunch, anyway.

Hawking said heaven’s a fairy tale for people afraid of the dark, and that passes the muster of “Everything I’ve Been Told About Reality is Totally Wrong 101,” but I expect something a little less glib from a mind like his.  And anyway, I hope for heaven, but not because I’m scared of the dark.  That’s just silly.  When kids are scared of the dark, it’s because of what they imagine is creeping around in it, not because they sense the impending dread of annihilation.  In fact, kids don’t get scared of the dark until someone tells them they should be, long after they’ve established skills like object permanence by which they understand that  things don’t disappear when the lights go off.

The good professor’s recent “there’s no heaven” moment of “Imagine”-esque aplomb is what it is.  It’s not really news, any more than it was news when the USSR said Yuri Gagarin didn’t find God in low orbit.  We’re talking about physical apples and spiritual oranges. A entirely materialistic cosmology amazes and enthralls me.  The vast expanse of the universe does things to my soul I can’t explain.  Maybe that’s akin to some innate fear of heights, maybe there’s an evolutionary edge to feeling things like awe, epiphany, transcendence.  And maybe heaven is in these details even as I don’t expect the Hubble to send back any pictures of the Holy City coming down. Even as I don’t expect pristine, cogent metaphysics from the leading scientific minds of history.

I’m one of those saps who’s always been interested in the theory of The Thing In Itself.  My impulse to sit and appreciate a moment, a painting, a puddle, to find some unifying string in all of it or even to appreciate it for what it is, well, this borders, at times, on obsessive compulsion.  Maybe so, maybe so.  Maybe we’re only talking about chemicals.  In my silly, time-bound mind, I have to wonder, though, who the hell put them there.  And why.