“Little things they make me so happy
But it’s good, it’s good, it’s good to be free…”
Noel Gallagher may have written those lyrics for a 1995 Oasis B-Side, but they are fitting words today as he releases his debut solo album, the self-titled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Free from democracy of latter-day Oasis, this is the first album he has written from start-to-finish since 1997’s Be Here Now, and his first new material since walking out from Oasis two-years ago.
He may not have sent a song to the top of the charts for six years, but any question over Noel’s ability to deliver a big tune are laid to rest with the opening track. Album opener, Everybody’s On the Run, is an epic ballad drowned in choir and strings, anchored down by a line (“you gotta hold on” pleads Noel) that is this album’s “so Sally can wait” moment. Equally memorable is If I Had a Gun, a gorgeous acoustic track with opening guitar strains that recall Wonderwall.
The most surprising highlight on Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Bird’s comes from the bizarrely named AKA… What a Life!, a track which seems to have come straight from Noel Gallagher’s secret discotheque. A piano-driven, almost house-sounding track, it is just waiting to be remixed into a dance floor hit. As refreshing and intriguing as it is, it is the only time Noel wanders outside his comfort zone (at least until next year’s follow-up album is released – a collaborative effort with Androgynous Amorphous).
Elsewhere, influences come from for more familiar territory – Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks is Eleanor Rigby if the Kinks had written it, while on The Death of You and Me Noel almost lifts lyrics directly from Lovin’ Spoonful’s Summer in The City. Unsurprisingly, the sound of Oasis is never far away either, especially on (I Wanna Live in a Dream In My) Record Machine. Critics may deride Noel at times for ‘borrowing’, but such criticism is redundant when the songs are this good.
The only track that fails to hit the mark is also its most hyped – closing track, Stop the Clocks. The song was first mentioned by Noel Gallagher ten years ago and reached mythical heights in Oasis circles, fueled by a leaked demo and comparisons with Champagne Supernova. Released here at last, it sounds more like a lost track from (the admittedly under-rated) Standing on the Shoulder of Giants than anything to be particularly excited about.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds may not drift far from a well-worn path, but it is a fine album containing some of the best songs he has written since the Britpop era. Best of all, between this and Beady Eye’s Different Gear, Still Speeding, the remnants of Oasis have produced two albums far better than their final effort together as a band. It’s a great time to be an Oasis fan.