Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher Team Up
As many fans I was waiting for April 28th with some impatience to be able to listen to the new Gorillaz album called Humanz, after having been teased on Spotify with few titles such as Saturnz Barz or Andromeda. From the first listening I could almost immediately recognize the musical style of the virtual quatuor, mixing rap, alternative rock, hip hop and electronic sounds. In reality, Damon Albarn is the only permanent musical contributor (with the comic book artist Jamie Hewlett) and the songs are often collaborations between various musicians and artists. This newly released album includes lots of collaborations as usual for Gorillaz : De La Soul, D.R.A.M., Grace Jones, Benjamin Clementine or rapper Vince Staples… But what a surprise when I saw that Noel Gallagher was credited on the final track! In fact the former Britpop rivals have teamed up for Gorillaz track We Got The Power. For the upbeat anthem that closes Humanz, the guests are actually Savages front woman Jehnny Beth for French singing lines and, most intriguingly, Albarn’s former Britpop foe, Noel Gallagher for backing vocals.
When I was a teenager, I used to listen to Britpop and I remember the famous war between the two Britpop giants. As any Oasis or Blur fan will tell you, the Gallagher brothers Liam and Noel, and Damon Albarn used to be bitter enemies. For those who forgot that time, Gallagher’s band Oasis and Albarn’s band Blur were famously involved in a chart battle during the ’90s in the UK. At that time, the Blur and Oasis members were opponents in the Britpop music scene due in part to Blur besting Oasis’ single sales in 1995, and Noel Gallagher later telling The Observer that he hoped Albarn would “catch AIDS and die”. Both interviewed on the documentary Live Forever : The Rise and Fall of Britpop in 2003, Noel Gallagher maintained that the rivalry was mainly conceived by the NME magazine, musical industry business and members of Blur’s entourage as a ploy to raise their respective profiles. However, Damon Albarn suggested the roots of the feud were much more personal, such as a soccer derby between a working class team and an upper class team.
Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher continued to argue in interviews for years after, but appeared to have settled their differences at the 2012 Brit Awards, where they shared a table, laughed at the winners and embraced each other at the post-ceremony party. After decades of feuding, they have finally reached a musical entente. “It was fake news! Fake news are everywhere! No, the old animosity was a thing of the past”, Damon Albarn said yesterday on French TV. The pair have become friends, they even played together on stage, performing Blur’s 1999 track Tender accompagnied by Paul Weller and Graham Coxon at a Teenage Cancer Trust gig in London in 2013. For the release of his own album Everyday Robots in 2014, Albarn implied in an interview that a collaboration with Noel Gallagher would be possible, but nobody noticed or took that seriously.
During the Britpop quarrel I was more into the Gallagher’s brothers and their “Laborious” lads from Manchester than the arty proper band from London. My father didn’t like them because Oasis members were for him a bad parody of the Beatles! And I grew up, I began to forget Wonderwall lyrics and I learnt to appreciate Blur’s music with 13 and Think Tank in the early noughties. Then after I really started to enjoy Gorillaz experimental sound. That’s why I think now that Damon Albarn, just like Thom Yorke from Radiohead in some ways, is not just a pop star but a real artist, singer, songwriter and multifaceted performer. He has been able to evolve in time with his several bands and projects (Blur, Gorillaz, The Good the Bad and the Queen, Rocket Juice & the Moon, the Dr. Dee opera, Mali Music and his own solo career). On the other side, since he splited up with Oasis in 2009, Noel Gallagher only produced two studio albums with his High Flying Birds and he seems to be still riding on the Oasis wave.
I have to admit that it makes me have a good laugh to see Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher (both 49) nowadays performing together peacefully. It’s not common to see two former rivals being friends like them! According to NME, Albarn has recently described the track We Got The Power as a “victory lap” and “the ultimate self-congratulatory Britpop moment”. Despite this new friendship that sounds like a pretty good news for fans, their collaboration remains weird as far as it was unexpected. Either it is a kind of mockery from Noel to his brother Liam, or it is a strategy from Albarn to always make fun of the Gallaghers. What would other Oasis brother Liam Gallagher think about this collaboration ? Who cares, Damon Albarn and Noel Gallagher agreed. “Listen, nobody gives a fuck what Liam thinks about anything”, Noel told New York this week. When we think about it, it’s quite funny when we look back in the Blur vs. Oasis era. Who was singing Don’t Look Back in Anger by the way ? Whatever…