When I was about 10 I saw the Chuckle Brothers in a pantomime and it was like all of my Christmases came at once. So imagine my delight as a grown-up to find the Gallagher Brothers doing panto? I mean, not literally – they aren’t dressing in drag and chucking cream pies at one another, therapeutic as they may find that to be if they ever try. But the ongoing fraternal feud and now more or less head-to-head solo records duel between these erstwhile princes of Britpop has the feeling of a seasonal musical comedy about it as it sprawls on ridiculously into the festive period.
Oh yes Liam does have a basic grasp of spelling and punctuation when it comes to tweeting insults about his older sibling resembling a root vegetable! Oh no he doesn’t. Where’s the girl playing scissors (scissors!) in your band Noel? She’s behind you!
After many merry, happy years together walking the earth as ludicrously popular lad rock ensemble Oasis, two brothers fall out spectacularly and vow never to speak again, to the extent of having to come to a convoluted shared custody arrangement over stuff like the posh seats at the Etihad Stadium and Bonehead. After a time Liam, the slightly backwards younger brother who just stubbornly will never grow up, valiantly launches a solo career of more reductionist Beatles-isms with As You Were and there is much rejoicing throughout the land among lumpy men in parkas. Not to be outdone, Gallagher the older hatches a devious plan to steal his brother’s thunder with a tricksy pseudo-experimental rock record. The stage is set for an epic battle of wits and music.
The jokes are weird and arcane, but the entertainment value is high. For instance when Noel, in an effort to signify his sonic adventurousness, gets a girl with a severe fringe to manipulate a popular stationery item to negligible percussive effect during a performance on Jools Holland. Taking the bait, Liam sarcastically rips his brother on Twitter (“proper out there”), and then invites fans to theatrically peel potatoes at his shows – a reference to a running joke about how Noel looks like a spud. Comedy like this just writes itself, doesn’t it?
Im afraid not but I do have somebody sharpening a pencil it sounds mega with a bit of reverb on it proper out there gear
— Liam Gallagher (@liamgallagher) November 1, 2017
It’s maybe a shame for Noel, because laughter seems to be the last thing he’s seeking to elicit with Who Built The Moon?, his latest album under his High Flying Birds solo nom de plume, an effort to shed some of the “parka monkeys” in his fanbase, as he puts it. Northern Irish electronica wizard and soundtrack composer David Holmes’ influence looms large as producer, and there’s much to admire about the most sonically ambitious album of Noel’s career. Dressing still quite conventional songs in swirling sound effects, samples and scissor snips only counts as being far out to a cosmetic extent – the flute band-decorated Holy Mountain makes me think of The Vaccines crossed with the sound of an Orange Walk – but tracks such as the glam-disco She Taught Me How To Fly shove Noel’s typically stubborn songwriting muse in auspicious new directions.
The flute band-decorated Holy Mountain makes me think of The Vaccines crossed with the sound of an Orange Walk
The album’s best moment comes at the end in Dead in the Water, a bonus live recording of a threadbare and pretty wonderful Ryan Adams-esque Americana acoustic number. It reminds me of gentle early Oasis B-sides like Talk Tonight and Half The World Away, which were similarly unceremoniously dispatched in their day as if an afterthought. Imagine a whole Noel Gallagher album of songs like that?
Meanwhile the Gallagher panto creeps towards an unlikely feel-good ending. “I guess it would be nice to put it all to bed for me mam’s sake,” spoke Liam recently as regards a potential Oasis reunion, in a rare softening of tone. “I miss hanging out with my brother. I fucking love him, but at the same time he’s treated me like a bit of a cunt.” Picture the scene, as Liam and Noel are reunited over Christmas dinner at their mum’s. And lo, tongues were held and peace did reign. Until the spuds came out.