Noel Gallagher
Noel Gallagher at the EE British Academy Film Awards, February 8, 2015 in LondonGetty Images

Noel Gallagher has wound everybody up. Again. The latest controversy comes from an interview in Esquire magazine in which he describes One Direction as "c*********s" and asks "who gives a s**t" what Ellie Goulding or Adele are up to. He thinks Thom Yorke would still receive rave reviews even if he "s**t into a light bulb and started blowing it like an empty beer bottle". And apparently his cat is far more rock'n'roll than Alex Turner.

It's not like we're treading new ground here, Gallagher wise; this is the man who described Jack White as looking like "Zorro on doughnuts".

What is weird, though, are the indignant reactions. It's as if people don't even know who Gallagher is. Some people have commented that the use of Oasis' Half The World Away in the latest John Lewis advert makes Gallagher something of a sell-out, or a hypocrite for criticising others while his track is simultaneously covered for commercial purposes of a huge retailer.

It's puzzling. Why are we pretending that Gallagher has integrity? Why are we pretending he's meant to be likeable, even? Of course he's unlikeable. He follows in the grand tradition of fellow Northern provocateurs Mark E Smith and Morrissey; wilfully antagonistic, bombastic and belligerent in a way that seems to fill them with utter delight.

It's a mixture of performative attention seeking and an impish, childlike desire to irritate people – it can be spiteful and misanthropic, sure, but it's often rather clever and frequently extremely funny.

On current chart toppers, he said: "The new generation of rock stars, when have they ever said anything that made you laugh? When have they ever said anything you remember?"

It's no surprise that Gallagher singles out Kanye West as being the only modern star worthy of fame. Look a little further than the initial dissimilarities in the output of the two artists and it's clear to see that they're cut from the same cloth. West takes himself far more seriously than Gallagher does but he's similarly uncompromising and successfully winds people up with a frequency and volume that puts even Noel to shame.

That's not to say he's not often wrong - he referred to women as "dithering f*****s" in the interview, for example, which is neither funny nor interesting. But you have to admire his chutzpah. In an age of social media shamings, it has become rather easy to be subject to an angry Twitter pile-on should you say the wrong thing, even by accident. And this has led to a landscape of bland celebrities who are terrified of saying the wrong thing, with a swift apology to follow when they do.

As interviewer Alex Bilmes points out: "It's hard to express quite how refreshing it is to interview a famous person who... feels that giving funny, honest, even outrageous answers to a journalist's questions is part of the job of being a performer." And Gallagher's take on his love of doing interviews? "Because I get to be a gobshite, and I get to do that thing: to be the last of a dying breed."

I'm certainly not a fan of Gallagher nor have I ever particularly enjoyed much of Oasis' music. But he's famous, Britpop aside, because he's biting, and because there's nothing or nobody he's too scared to brutishly and inelegantly skewer on his wit. He's a d******d, basically. But that's the whole point of a rock star, isn't it?


Emily Reynolds writes about science, technology and culture at Wired, Dazed, The Observer and others. She is based in London.