Well, there had to be one, right? There was just no way that the man who made millions off of syrupy ballads like “Wonderwall” and “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” with former band Oasis could resist releasing one on his debut solo album. Ostensibly more radio friendly than U.K. lead-off single, “The Death of You and Me," “If I Had a Gun" became American listeners’ first taste of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds when it debuted last Tuesday on KROQ in Los Angeles alongside a schedule of ensuing U.S. tour dates. (Chicago was noticeably absent, much to this reviewer’s chagrin.) The new tune, despite its title sounding like some early-aughts, faux-repressed rage drool-fest from the likes of Puddle of Mudd or Staind, is an unabashed love song. It starts out humbly enough; accompanied by an acoustic guitar, the elder Gallagher croons sweetly to his intended, but the lyrics immediately take a bizarre turn: If I had a gun/I’d shoot a hole into the sun/and love would burn this city down with you. It takes an odd sense of humor to juxtapose feelings of unbridled love with the desire to wildly fire bullets into the sun, which will subsequently and, quite naturally I might add, burst and rain fire down upon the earth, but keep in mind this is the same man who liked to have a laugh by peppering in bits of Coca-Cola jingles and Gary Glitter lyrics into his songs during Oasis’s heyday.
Following the release of the New Orleans brass-laden “The Death of You and Me”, there was hope that Noel Gallagher was taking a more unorthodox approach to his solo music, but “If I Had a Gun” sounds like it would feel right at home nestled between the gooey pop songs of Oasis’s 2005 effort, “Don’t Believe the Truth." Indeed, the song has the fingerprints of that session’s returning producer, Dave Sardy, all over it, with its tinny drums and nondescript guitar tone. The song is partially redeemed by the sincerity with which Gallagher approaches the material. It would take a heart of Mr. Freeze-level gelidity to not at least be somewhat moved by the songwriter’s longing from afar act: excuse me if I spoke to soon/my eyes have always followed you around the room/because you’re the only god that I would ever need.
The song also provides a nice stage for Gallagher to flex his increasingly improving vocals as his intoning, lilting falsetto takes the place of a typical chorus. The accompanying melodic guitar line is a nice touch, as well. Still, the song creeps a little too closely to “Oasis by numbers” territory, dutifully filling its role as the acoustic ballad that some doofus will breakout on his out of tune Yamaha FX 355 in order to get laid. It’s hard not to feel just a little bit disappointed by the song’s rote quality and the apparent cynicism in the choice to selectively target it to American audiences. “If I Had a Gun” is a good tune, but given the mind behind it, better than good is expected.
With “The Death of You and Me," its crystalline B-Side “The Good Rebel" and now “If I Had a Gun," Noel Gallagher has so far chalked up three straight solid songs from his solo effort. Not bad, old man, not bad at all. Now get your ass to Chicago.
"Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds" will be released on November 8th in the United States and Canada. Mexico too, for what it’s worth.