Back The Way We Came: Vol. 1 (2011 - 2021)
Ever since Oasis first swaggered into view, Noel Gallagher has presented himself as one of the most self-assured personalities in rock. But working on 2017’s Who Built the Moon?, his third album as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, taught him that vulnerability could be creative fuel. “[Producer] David Holmes used to say to me, when we were doing ‘It’s a Beautiful World,’ ‘This is right where you want to be, a little bit frightened, a little bit unsure, and be prepared for the ridicule,’” Gallagher tells Apple Music 1’s Matt Wilkinson. “He said, ‘Artists like this always come out on top.’” A best-of compendium, Back the Way We Came: Vol. 1 (2011 - 2021) is essentially the story of Gallagher—a bit frightened, a bit unsure—steadily stretching his horizons after the fractious dissolution of Oasis.
If early HFB tracks “The Death of You and Me,” with its Kinks-like stomp, and the aching and widescreen “If I Had a Gun...” recall Gallagher’s old band, it’s not surprising. “I didn’t want it just to be my version of Oasis,” he says. “I guess that’s what the first album was, though, because some of those songs were written, intended to be on the next Oasis record.” But from that same self-titled debut, “AKA… What a Life!” reveals his adventurous impulses, galloping along to a house beat. Gallagher pursued those urges further on Chasing Yesterday in 2015, threading a psychedelic shimmer (“The Dying of the Light”), sax solos (“Riverman”), and some Johnny Marr-assisted dance-floor urgency (“Ballad of the Mighty I”) into his expert mix of yearning and melody.
And after hooking up with Holmes for the vibrant Who Built the Moon?, he suited up for space rock on “It’s a Beautiful World” and let a tin whistle call the tune during the boisterous psych-glam of “Holy Mountain.” “David said, ‘Look, why don’t you just make the music you listen to?’” says Gallagher. “I was like, ‘But I don't write krautrock at home.’ You kind of got to jam that out in the studio. David said, ‘Look, whatever songs you’ve written, I’m not interested. Let’s do this in the studio. Let’s just see what you’re capable of,’ and he’s just throwing things at me. It’s probably my favorite period of recording, because you didn’t really know what we were doing. Then, bit by bit, we started to knock them into shape. I actually didn’t know what kind of record it was going to be until it was virtually finished.”
It opened up a path towards the cosmic disco-rock of 2019 single “Black Star Dancing,” while, on the other hand, “We’re on Our Way Now”—one of two new tracks recorded for this compilation—and the sole radio-session recording of 2017’s acoustic “Dead in the Water” prove Gallagher still knows the power of restraint. “I took my cue from Neil Young, who’s never done a version of ‘Hey Hey, My My’ apart from the live version,” he says. “Oasis did a few gigs with him back in the day, and I said to him, ‘Why have you never recorded it?’ He said, ‘Because it sounds better live.’ And with ‘Dead in the Water,’ I actually went in to record it a couple of times, for this record. We were going to do the orchestra and the big thing. And then I woke up one morning and I thought, ‘No, fuck it. No. That’s the version.’”