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Coffee Mate: “You Know We Can’t Go Back” by Noel Gallgher’s High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher is the last of a dying breed.

He’s the final consummate, unmistakable, larger than life rockstar, who smokes, drinks, fights, swears, and fills arenas with the soundtrack to a generation; he’s today’s rock’n’roll archetype, wielding apple-red Gibsons and middle fingers, pouring huge tunes out of huge speakers, and telling people to fuck themselves.

In a world where the effects of rock’n’roll are ever-diminishing, Noel Gallagher is not only refreshing, but necessary.

A few summers ago, I saw Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds play at Live at the Marquee, and Noel ran through his set with a mercenary’s precision, while fans swayed on each other’s shoulders, waved flags, and called out his name like he was a demigod.

Then, at the foot of the stage, one fan asked, “Where’s Liam?” to which Noel replied, “Liam’s at the mixing desk, everybody. He’s come to see us tonight.”

“Unfortunately,” Noel continued, looking right at the fan, “he’s still not as big of a c*** as you are.”

“Imagine that?” he asked a few times, the crowd roaring behind him, as he upped the distortion on his guitar, introduced the “Importance of Being Idle,” and delivered a pronounced middle finger to his heckler, while his band began to play at his back.

It was Noel being Noel, which is exactly what you want from him.

It was a sublime moment, playing right into the arrogant allure and the tall-tales of the legend, making good on the price of admission, even if a note of music was never played.

Controversies aside, if Noel Gallagher’s career ended with Oasis, he would’ve gone down as an all-timer, having penned some of the 90’s most lasting records, and playing in a band that was, in many ways, the closest thing Generation X had to the Beatles, in both in size and sound, at least in Britain.

But following Oasis’s breakup, Gallagher, now 49, has put his creative energies into his High Flying Birds, who have produced two sterling albums, with a third on the horizon, and giving reasons to be excited about Noel’s second act.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Chasing Yesterday have been some of Noel’s best work, another layer in the signature songwriting that have brought him to this point, while  also pushing his sound into a modern territory. They’re not the retread work of a nostalgia act, but new, ambitious collections, which extend the quality of his catalog, while staying uniquely Noel.

While these albums are built with range, atmosphere, and production that can sway from indie to psychedelic, they’re still the work of a rockstar, with songs like “You Know We Can’t Go Back” that are straight forward, true blue rock’n’roll anthems. Off Chasing Yesterday, it’s a towering chorus, a bursting-at-the-seams guitar solo, and doubled-down drums—a huge tune fit for huge speakers, and itself part of a dying breed.

When delivered by the final consummate, unmistakable, larger than life rockstar, who smokes, drinks, fights, swears, and fills arenas with the soundtrack to a generation, “You Know We Can’t Go Back” isn’t only refreshing, but necessary.



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