This is apparently the first of two completed albums Noel Gallagher has readied for release. The other, a collaboration with studio duo Amorphous Androgynous, will follow next year, and it's to be hoped it has a touch more sparkle and sonic invention than Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds, which, while not a bad effort, doesn't exactly set the heart racing.
The album shuffles in on hazy waves of mellotron strings and choir, before the haze disperses to reveal Noel advising us to "hang in there love, you got to hold on" in "Everybody's on the Run", an almost friendly dismissal of someone trying to walk in Noel's shoes. The late addition of strings, rather than bringing uplift, ends the song on a slightly elegiac note. The next few tracks lollop along in familiar Oasean manner: "Dream On" chugs pleasantly without once implying there were some compulsion behind its existence, while "If I Had a Gun", were it on ...Morning Glory?, might make a decent support to "Wonderwall", though never threatening its supremacy.
The addition of trad-jazz trumpet to the former, and to "The Death of You and Me", just seems a badly misplaced attempt to spice up Noel's standard sound, and it's almost a relief when the Beatle-esque Oriental-style strings make an appearance on "(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine". Though bookended with gimmicky children's voices, it's the most welcoming track here, a classic Gallagher concoction of hints and influences – in this case, The Lovin' Spoonful transforming into psychedelic-era Fabs – which fully bears out its titular desire.
The next few tracks continue the 1960s tour: "Aka... What a Life!" features a rolling piano groove reminiscent of the Stones' "We Love You", layered with raunchy guitar chords and mellotron, and is as pleasing as that makes it sound, Noel exultantly proclaiming how he's "gonna take that tiger outside for a ride". It's not quite that exciting a ride, though it will probably be a show-stopper if he gets round to touring this material. Yet another trumpet appears on "Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks", whose plonking electric piano riff and vocal line have a certain Kinks-y charm, an aspect emphasised by the lyric reference to the "village green": one imagines Noel driving through a village and thinking not of the actual village itself, but of Ray Davies's song about the village, as if his whole worldview were seen through the refracting prism of pop.
Unfortunately, from there the album slides ignominiously towards the exit. "Aka... Broken Arrow" is routine Wonderwallery, Noel seeking to "ease [his] troubled mind" over acoustic guitar and mellotron; and "(Stranded On) the Wrong Beach" is a textbook penultimate track, a nothing song. At least "Stop the Clocks" ends proceedings on a burst of energy, with a soaring guitar-noise climactic freak-out; but one can't help wondering whether this was really the album that Noel Gallagher set out to make when he contemplated a solo career, or just the one he settled for.
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