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Noel Gallagher: God-Like Genius?

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I am back at home in my Brixton flat at the moment doing a bit of DIY. A mate of mine, Alex, is round to help out with some tiling. He's doing an okay job - a bit slack, likes a tea break, but it's all good, and I like the company. Anyway, when I heard that Noel Gallagher was to receive this year's NME Godlike Genius Award, I thought, sod what I think, ask the mate; man of the people and all that.

Alex wiped himself down, took yet another sip of tea and replied, "He's written some cracking tunes....but genius? He ain't there yet!"

And you know what? I'm thinking Alex could be right. If I was to judge Noel solely on his music then I would put him well above most of the competition - there are very few performers who can claim to have provided the soundtrack for a generation, and Noel Gallagher is one of the few. Wonderwall, Live Forever, Supersonic... they're undeniable classics, lasting anthems - as Alex says: "cracking tunes."

But like Alex, I'm not sure if I can bestow 'genius' status upon him.

If Noel's own musical altar is Lennon/McCartney then his own canon of work is somewhere in row three or four of the front pews. No small achievement, but genius? That's debatable.

Anyone that had a controlling hand in producing Definitely Maybe and (What's The story) Morning Glory? must be saluted, if not loved. For me though, barring the undiluted excellence of those first two albums, Noel has had serious quality control issues.
In the last decade, his records have resembled a stilton cheese - they are shot through with veins of greatness, shadows of promise and musical blasts of beauty - but there's way too much stodge.

At their peak in the 90s, Oasis were a sublimely exciting and inspirational guitar band - they were lean, hungry and passionate. They sold dreams and we bought them in our millions. But there's no denying the goose got fat and they later risked ploughing the formulaic depths of bog-standard plod rock which, frustratingly, would still - but all too rarely - break out into such brilliance that you found yourself choking on your pint and reminding yourself of past glories.

The turning point - everyone knows - was the cocaine-fuelled Be Here Now - where in one fell swoop you can move from the insomnia-inducing pedestrian dross of Magic Pie into the sublime drama of Don't Go Away.

Shucks; just when I thought I was out, he pulls me back in.

Overall, you can't help but feel that these were opportunities lost. Get rid of the filler, condense the last five or six half-decent albums into two belters, and he could've been a real contender.
So yes, Noel reaches for the heavens, and sometimes he gets there. But his ladder skywards is always rickety at best.

But with rock 'n' roll, as with all art, music is only part of the story, and with Noel in particular it's impossible to separate the artist from the art, the musician from the music, the person from the product.

And that's where Noel Gallagher comes into his own.

Undeniably, there's something about Noel that sets him apart. That intangible star quality, shared by his brother, gives his work a weight that will always be denied his more vacuous counterparts. That ability to inspire - not just through melody but through sheer force of personality - lends his work far more clout than might otherwise have been the case. Sure, some of the music is lacking; yes, his latter albums are a bit hit and miss, but when he's not singing or playing guitar, Noel can be just as, if not more, captivating.

Noel is both simple and complex. He's a leader who followed the Beatles. He's a fighter with something beautifully innocent about him. He has a warrior-like work ethic coupled with a reckless abandon. He has the wit and timing of a top drawer comedian along with the charm and warmth of everyone's favourite uncle. Impossibly, he has maintained the common touch despite his multi-millionaire status.

Somehow, you believe that had he never breached the Top 40, Noel would always have been a star. In obscurity he would still have been leading the pack, laying down the law, ruling the roost. Noel was born a rock star; and luckily for him, he had the talent to back it up and translate his unlimited self-belief into mainstream success.

Noel, on balance, has earned enough of a reservoir of good will for me to turn a blind eye to the more dubious of his musical achievements and suggest that this time - just - my mate Alex has got it wrong, Noel does shine through and the NME has got it right.

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