Noel Gallagher isn't cool anymore. Just ask Radio 1, they're not playing his stuff because he's too old. Ask any of the bands pouting from the pages of NME, Oasis has been a dirty word for years. Or ask Liam, he'll tell you: “SHITBAG,” he called him on Twitter. “One word. Dido,” went his curt review of Noel's first single.
The thing is, unlike Liam, you get the impression Noel couldn't give a shit. While Beady Eye hastily released an album of underwhelming Oasis B-sides, backed with endless glib quotes and photo shoots coinciding with the launch of another new range of scarfs; Gallagher Sr. was dropping diverse references to Ennio Morricone and Derrick May, talking up a collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous – “some of it's krautrock, some of it's soul, some of it's funk and that's just the first song” – and underplaying the merits of his first solo album: “It's not very Guitar Hero,” he said at the press conference unveiling Noel Gallagher's High Flying birds.
He's been doing all the things he couldn't do with Oasis for fear of being hit by a toy thrown from Liam's pram.
“There's echoes of Oasis in there,” Noel said of this record. And that's understandable. It's the way he's written songs for the past 20 years. In older songs (I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine, with its daft rhyme scheme, and the terrace-existentialism of Stop The Clocks, it's more than just an echo; they're proper post-Standing on the Shoulder of Giants, mid-album Oasis songs. That's not to say they're no good – if you like Oasis, you'll love them. But this record's preface hinted at something slightly more left field.
AKA... Broken Arrow – featuring Santana's bongo player, no less – sounds exactly like Wonderwall, albeit with the addition of a saw – a proper saw – played using a violin bow.
Despite esoteric nods to Italian composers and techno progenitors, however, there's no great experimentation here. If Morricone's felt anywhere, it's on album-opener Everybody's on the Run, with it's deft strings and the brooding backing of a choir. As for Derrick May, Noel points to his seminal Strings of Life as inspiration for the piano line on AKA … What a Life!, which does have a certain house music quality to it – the looped-up “woo-hoo” outro is more Cadenza than it is Colombia.
“The most poppy thing on the album,” according to Noel, is Dream On: all gloriously nonsensical lyrics, stomping percussion and a flurry of brass reminiscent of Round Are Way – if a little more restrained.
If I Had a Gun... was earmarked as Noel's first single. The only song more underwhelming than this track is the song that ultimately replaced it as his debut release, The Death of You and Me.
The tunes are mostly solid, sometimes forgettable, but occasionally brilliant.
Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks is a Ray Davies-indebted tale that jabs at religious nuts and war – in an endearingly clunky, roundabout way.
AKA... Broken Arrow – featuring Santana's bongo player, no less – sounds exactly like Wonderwall, albeit with the addition of a saw – a proper saw – played using a violin bow. It may not be original, but it's catchy as hell. Same goes for the glam-rock riffs of (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach.
This is far from the boundary-pushing, genre-blurring debut that Noel Gallagher's preamble hinted at. It's him, a guitar and typically dodgy lyrics, with some relatively interesting stuff going on around them. The tunes are mostly solid, sometimes forgettable, but occasionally brilliant.
Noel Gallagher isn't cool anymore. But he certainly isn't Dido, either.