Review Summary: A mirage or an Oasis?
For the majority of the time since Oasis’ acrimonious split, Noel Gallagher managed to keep a fairly low profile. As sibling and eternal rival Liam swaggered his way through the formation of Beady Eye, a fashion label and the usual smattering of crass comments in the press, Noel kept silent and bided his time; emerging periodically to bat away questions about or dispense cryptic comments alluding to that last night in Paris.
During that time however, there was the sense that Noel now fancied himself as the wise old owl of British rock. Able to count Paul Weller as a close friend the elder, famous Gallagher brother appeared to have elevated himself above his station. Even in an industry peppered with flashes in the pan and disposable icons, seven albums and a few collaborations does not a veteran make. With the announcement of his first official solo record this felt like the chance for Noel to prove once and for all why he has always been regarded as the driving force behind Oasis (certainly until Gem Archer was recruited at least).
Whichever way you look at it, it is impossible to escape the inevitable Oasis comparisons. As a result, you can’t help but wonder how many of the songs on offer were pilfered from sessions for any future albums Oasis had planned. One of Noel’s more reprehensible traits as a songwriter, the more desperate, anything-will-do couplets, stand out. “High time/summer in the city/the kids are looking pretty/but isn’t it a pity” he sings on “The Death Of You And Me.” This is followed by “I wanna live in a dream/in my record machine” on the song of the same name. This isn’t 60s-style psychedelia. It doesn’t even make sense in a nonsensical way; it’s a return to the kind of lazy writing that hampered Oasis’ musical progress.
…but let’s try and talk about the music, not the weight of history and reputation. The music and lyrics, bar the two above examples, display a fresh, welcome renewal of the vitality that appeared to have escaped him in the preceding years. “Dream On”, whilst not exactly the most original Gallagher composition, has a spring in its step; drums that resonate clearly and a ‘big band’ feel that sounds like it was a lot of fun to create and record. “If I Had A Gun” evokes a maudlin sense of wonder and lead single “The Death You And Me” is the sound of Noel wiping the slate clean and declaring the start of a new era, good-time trumpet solo and all. “(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach” is propelled forwards by crunchy chords and “AKA…Broken Arrow” is a blissful, ambient number with a playful side to it that exudes the notion of an artist currently in a very comfortable frame of mind. The album’s centrepiece and standout track is the wonderful “AKA…What A Life!” The piano led groove is unobtrusively repetitious, the underlying tune replete with many layers, and the lyrics appear to hark back to quiet reflection upon the road Noel travelled to get where he is today; “It might be a dream but it tastes like poison” he tells us.
Noel has crafted one of those rare gems in an LP where every track is a potential single. Moreover, there are a number of moods evident. It shows much more talent and awareness than his brother’s latest effort. Noel Gallagher and his solo recording output cannot be judged on its own merit just yet, but a couple more records of this quality and his past might just slide away.