Is The New Noel Gallagher Album Shit Or THE SHIT??

With the release of his first full-length solo record, Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, former Oasis guitarist Noel Gallagher breaks a two-year silence and, in doing so, finally joins his brother Liam in the post-Oasis sweepstakes. Liam, of course, lobbed the first grenade with his band Beady Eye and, while that album was not without its charm, many (myself included) felt the band and the album wore their influences a tad too obviously.

Of course, Noel is no stranger to penning tunes that owe an obvious debt to "the classics" - the Beatles, for starters - so perhaps its a bit much to expect Noel to shun all imitation now.

Album opener "Everyone's On The Run" sounds like the sort of Oasis b-side that a sold-out Wembley Stadium crowd knows all the words to, its grandeur tastefully heightened by a sweeping string section. Heck, I can see the video in my mind's eye, Noel at the mic, singing to the back row as a fan unfurls a large banner that reads "Liam Who?!"

"Dream On" follows, sounding very much like the song Chris Martin has been trying to write all his life. Noel's love for Coldplay's "Yellow" notwithstanding, this track proves quite succinctly that Noel's talents far out-kick Martin & Co. when so inclined.

Let's face it, unless he's been quietly blowing through his cash since splitting Oasis, Noel's got enough money to never need to make another album. He's sold millions, played to millions, seen his name in lights, and those of us who've never experienced such things respectfully wonder what's really left to prove? Of course, that hasn't stopped many a rock legend from making a crap album anyway.

"If I Had A Gun" defies its own title in exploring Noel's wistful, sentimental side. It's the sort of song the hooligans would've hated, but the girls would have loved and, at the end of the day, it's the girls who really matter. After all, hooligans don't buy records, they steal 'em.

Thus far, stylistically speaking, the album hasn't strayed too far from the Oasis formula, which is just fine by me. One surmises that if Noel had gone out trying to sound like anything but Oasis, most of his fan base would have chucked the album out the window by now. Therein lies the rub for a guy like Noel. Maybe he really wants to make a country album. Or maybe his heart lies in the burgeoning Icelandic folk metal scene. Sadly, because he's known the world over as the guitarist/songwriter/sometimes-singer in Oasis, he's forever tethered to that soulful mid-tempo rock sound for which Oasis is known. Of course, nobody said he couldn't throw the occasional wrench into the spokes. "The Death Of You And Me" is that wrench - for this album at least - wherein Noel seems perfectly content to not be himself today. The result is a jaunty, folk-tinged ditty that soars on gossamer wings, highlighted by finger-picked guitars, horns, and tasty falsetto flourishes from Noel himself.

What's most admirable about Noel circa 2011 is that he knows damn well the world has changed, that only the remnants of a once-thriving music industry remain, and that now is without a doubt the worst time ever to be "starting from scratch". You couldn't blame the guy for choosing to now look back in anger, but, on "(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine" , he chooses to relive those heady days when the turntable was a universe unto itself.

"What A Life" begins with a propulsive drum/piano groove upon which Gallagher builds a slyly hypnotic vocal melody that you'll find yourself singing later, trust me. This is the sort of song lesser artists have built an entire career upon, whereas dear Noel's tossing off winners left and right. It wasn't until I heard this song that I realized that Noel's about halfway through the most ambitious record of his life.

While tracks like "Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks" and "(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach" rock convincingly, it's when Noel indulges his knack for elegiac mid-tempo ballads like "Stop The Clocks" that he's impossible to ignore.

"A Simple Game Of Genius" rocks a little harder, but is a grand gem nonetheless, even if Noel can't help himself by slipping "kaleidoscope eyes" into the chorus.

The album closes with "The Good Rebel", a rousing rocker recorded loosely and with an obvious devil-may-care swagger. Close your eyes and you can see the credits roll on a mind movie you can't wait to watch again. Just hit "REPEAT" and away you go.

VERDICT: The new Noel album is THE SHIT.

Superior St. Rehearsal Facility

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