Monday, 4 December 2017

But which is better: Noel or Liam?

In the words of Harry Hill - there's only one way to find out.

Only this fighting is not done in the boxing ring, on stage or in the pages of the highly respected, and always correct, media.

This battle is being fought across the airwaves. and probably cooked up by one of the record companies (or both) to ensure maximum notice, interest and potentially sales for the "Fiery Feuding Brothers" (© The Sun, The Mirror, The Mail, etc).

Both these new albums are their third offerings since the inevitable, but strangely unexpected end to Oasis back in 2009.
Liam was the first to release post Oasis material in early 2011 (beating Noel's High Flying Birds by about 8 months).
To all intents and purposes, Beady Eye was basically the last Oasis line-up with Noel Gallagher.
That first album contained some good moments, unfortunately not enough to sustain interest for a long period of time.  What was missing was Noels knack of writing a tune that was both original and reminiscent
Beady Eye managed a second album, without really breaking sweat, and limped to a conclusion soon after.

Three years since Beady Eye's last outing comes his first solo effort 'As You Were'.
There has been mention, not least by Liam, that this album was his "last chance".  I don't think that is entirely true, but the record company were obviously concerned with his shortcomings as a songwriter he was teamed with  co-writers and a producer to ensure a smooth, commercial product.
And in the main it has worked - the rough edges are shorn, and the album is a return to Britpop-ish/Oasis-esque material with a lighter touch (one can't help but fearing the homogeny of sound his found Liam veering into Robbie Williams territory).
The album starts on a high - the feedback (recalling Morning Glory), crashing guitars and harmonica opening "Wall Of Glass".  But the songs never really build or lift from there - all competent stuff, but never really hitting new ground.
That said, "You Better Run", "Come Back To Me" or "For What It's Worth" (along with the aforementioned "Wall Of Glass") are amongst the very best his post-Oasis career has produced.
Sometimes the lyrical back references grate a little (Purple Haze, Tomorrow Never Knows, Helter Skelter and Happiness is still a warm gun all get a mention), but the vocal delivery, and charisma, remain second to none and re-inforces the notion that Liam does indeed posses one of the most recognisable voices of the past 20 years, and with the right song one of the best too.
There's much to like and enjoy here, but sometimes you just yearn for a bit more "edge" to it all.

Just over a month after Liam's 'As You Were', Noels Gallagher also releases his third set.  Unlike Liam, who seems happy/comfortable to remain in the rocking vocalist position, Noel always seems to be striving to do something a bit different.
Weirdly, across 3 albums there is a lot of moving forward and trying of new things, but always seemingly staying in the same place (is that possible?).
Ultimately, in my mind, Noels solo output has ultimately been more rewarding than that of his sibling.  And there is no change here, although I must add that of the 3 so far, this one is probably the weakest - it just doesn't seem to "hang together" as well as his last two offerings.

If Liam is "the voice of a generation", then Noel is "the songwriter of a generation".
The songs may not be complex, or breaking any new songwriting craft, but they are direct, accessible and memorable.
And that's what you get here - 11 tracks (12 on the bonus edition) which have all the hallmarks of Gallagher The Elder, as well as the desire to change the template.

It wouldn't be a Noel Gallagher album if he didn't implore us to "hold on", and that's just what he does on the coda to opening track "Fort Knox" (an instrumental not a million miles from Oasis's "Fuckin' In The Bushes").
Unlike past albums, there is no rehash of the "Wonderwall" chord structure, but there is plenty of references to influences, all wrapped in in his own package.
All the favourites/expectations are here: Beatles, Stone Roses, Smiths etc.
"Holy Mountain" adds something new with a Mott The Hoople stomp, a bit of The Vaccines and a bit of a Plastic Bertrand "oo-whoo-oo" backing.
Whilst the album is not an out-and-out rocker, there is plenty to keep spirits up, and also a couple of well placed instrumental atmospheric-y outings in the shape of "Interlude (Wednesday Part 1)" and "End Credits (Wednesday Part 2)".
Noel has never had the strongest of voices (certainly not in comparison to his younger brother).  To compensate for this he places his voice somewhere in the mix, rather than above it, and uses it as another texture/tool of the song.
And like everything Noel seems to release, both Paul Weller and Johnny Marr are once again drafted in for support (Weller on "Holy Mountain" and Marr on "If Love Is The Law").
The album is a bit of a mixed affair, but repeated listening reveals more and I think it might be a stayer.

Who wins?
On balance, I think it might be a score-draw.
But Noel may just nick it in the last minute as I think 'Who Built The Moon' has more staying power (and is more likely to return to mu CD player more often) than 'As You Were'

Liam Gallagher - For What Its Worth

Noel Gallagher - Holy Mountain

1 comment:

  1. Wait, Beady Eye did two albums? Blimey! The only track I can recall, and feel fond of, is For Anyone, which featured as the theme to the shortlived family sitcom In With The Flynns