Cries And Whispers: With all these egos, Oasis won't Be Here Now much longer

THIS COULD be a case for Mulder and Scully: there was a confirmed sighting this week of a Noel Gallagher recording with no guitars on it, no drums, and no chord-sequence that bears a resemblance to anything by the Beatles. The track is called "Teohuacan", and it can be found on the X-Files movie's soundtrack album, out this week. It's a ghostly, trip- hoppy instrumental (a sensible idea, considering Noel's lyrics), and in a way it's his most Beatle-ish recording to date, in that it shows he doesn't always take the movie's slogan, "Fight The Future", to heart. It's either a sign that Oasis's own future is much brighter and more fruitful than Be Here Now led us to believe, or it's a sign that Oasis's days are numbered. It's up to Noel to decide which.

On the one hand, he's foiled his detractors by producing a track that doesn't sound like Oasis. On the other, his detractors could point out how easy it is to categorise what Oasis sound like. By releasing the track under his own name, Noel is acknowledging that there are types of music that are outside the Oasis remit. And a band can be truly great only when its members refuse to recognise that kind of restriction.

Take the Beatles (as a predictable example). They were advancing pop at the speed of light when they turned every influence that came their way into a Beatles song - and if it was startlingly different from what they'd already done, so much the better. It was only when they deemed that one band was too narrow a space in which to exercise their talents that they fell apart.

At the end of the 1960s, John Lennon was putting "Cold Turkey" on a John Lennon album, George Harrison was putting his synthesiser explorations on a George Harrison album, and the quality of the stuff left over for the Beatles sagged accordingly.

Solo albums are always a drain on a band's creative resources. Earlier this year, the Smashing Pumpkins' guitarist, James Iha, released an LP of his own, full of charming, country-rock serenades. But why weren't they on a Pumpkins album? Wouldn't it add an extra dimension to that group's output if Iha contributed more to the writing and arranging? Maybe, but as far as Billy Corgan is concerned, the band exists simply to play his songs. His self-regard has disqualified the Pumpkins from being as smashing as they could be.

Oasis have set their own limits, too; they exist to play Noel's songs. ("What if I wrote a song as good as `Hey Jude'?" Liam once asked. "I'd leave," replied Noel.) And even penning all the material isn't enough for him. He has to take lead vocals on a couple of tracks per album, even though he knows Liam would do a better job.

And now he has released a track outside the confines of Oasis altogether, as if he feels it is too precious to let any of the others share in the glory. Not only are Oasis limited to playing his songs, they're limited to playing those of his songs that fit within boundaries marked Bombastic, Old-Fashioned, Rock'n'Roll Singalongs. Does he want his band to be the greatest one in existence or not?

He has to decide whether the prospect of Oasis's fulfilling their world- beating potential matters more than his own ego. If it does, he'll have to let Oasis's albums include his best work - even if it sounds more like "Teohuacan" than "Wonderwall" - and maybe a couple of Liam's songs to boot.