Album Review: Noel Gallagher – Who Built the Moon?

If you listen to Noel Gallagher’s third solo album hoping to hear ‘Wonderwall’  or ‘If I Had a Gun’ redux, you’re going to be disappointed. There is nothing like that on Who Built the Moon?—there are no stadium-filling anthems, no recycled Oasis offcuts… nothing for the parka monkeys.

Instead, you will find sounds including a ringing alarm clock, a French musician playing a pair of scissors, and a tin whistle sampled from an obscure sixties pop song (“don’t try and Google it, it’s beyond obscure, you’ll never find it”, says Noel, but dig deep enough and you will).

Some of Noel’s most interesting music has come when he’s deviated from the script and tried something different (his collaborations with the Chemical Brothers or the piano-driven ‘AKA… What a Life!’ to name a couple of examples). While he teased us with flourishes of experimentation on his first High Flying Birds records, both still had Oasis’s fingerprints all over them. On Who Built the Moon? he’s broken out of the shackles completely to create something entirely different.

Much of the credit for this lies with the album’s producer, David Holmes (an Irish DJ and Producer – you’ve likely heard his work on film  soundtracks such as Ocean’s Eleven and Logan Lucky), who persuaded Noel to enter the studio without any songs in tow, and to build the album from a clean slate. Writing and recording this way allowed Holmes to put Noel back on track whenever he ventured too close to familiar sounds.

In a recent interview Noel told Rolling Stone magazine how he would sometimes play songs in the studio, only to have Holmes to stop him and say, “That sounds a bit like Oasis… try something different.” It seemed to work, with Noel recalling that, “Eventually, something different would come.”

The result is an album that is rich, diverse and intriguing, but not as immediately accessible or enjoyable as its predecessors. It is an album that needs time invested in it before it clicks. Thankfully, when it does the pay-off is solid.

The album opens with ‘Fort Knox’, a surging, psychedelic instrumental that Noel has likened to Kanye West’s ‘POWER’, before ‘Holy Mountain’, a song more contagious than the bubonic plague which sounds like Plastic Bertrand singing Ricky Martin in the style of Bowie’s ‘Diamond Dogs’ (I told you this album is different!).

The unexpected influences don’t stop there, with Noel also citing inspiration from the likes of Marvin Gaye, Can and Blondie. Touring with U2 has obviously rubbed off, too — the gorgeous ‘It’s a Beautiful World’ (complete with a spoken word French monologue) has some serious Acthung Baby! vibes, while another highlight is the New Order-esque ‘She Taught Me How to Fly’, complete with guitar notes that Bernard Sumner would be proud of.

The record-crate digging and experimentation doesn’t always work, though. Different’ isn’t always synonymous with ‘good’, and there’s the occasional miss,  like the plodding ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’.  Similarly, while the two instrumental interludes on the second half are pleasant enough (and do work well in the context of the album), part of me wonders if another ‘If I Had a Gun’ might have added more to the album.

To that point, one of the best songs on the album is one of it’s more conventional Noel Gallagher songs, ‘If Love is the Law’, a joyous affair resplendent with sleigh bells and strings.

Ultimately, Who Built the Moon? is a better album than the sum of its parts suggest. It isn’t Noel’s best collection of songs. But as an end-to-end piece of music, it is his best solo record to date and a resounding success.


Best songs:
Holy Mountain, She Taught Me How to Fly, If Love is the Law

Album Review: Liam Gallagher – As You Were

The last time I saw Liam Gallagher he was on stage with Beady Eye (his post-Oasis band) at the last ever Gold Coast Big Day Out. A scorching Queensland sun and a lifeless crowd of a few hundred people completed the scene. Knebworth, it was not.

Not long after, Beady Eye quietly disbanded, to no one’s great sadness. From there Liam went into a long hibernation, punctuated only by a messy divorce, a solitary live performance (singing ‘My Generation’ with Roger Daltrey on a British television show) and the occasional ‘potato’ insult directed towards his brother via Twitter.

While all this was happening, Noel released a number one album, wrote a song with Paul Weller, recorded one with Johnny Marr, and sold out concert arenas. Together their opposing fortunes set a narrative of Noel as the talented, clever one, and Liam as the hooligan has-been.

it was not a solid foundation from which to launch a solo career. Even an Oasis obsessive like me began to doubt whether ‘Our Kid’ had it in him to make it as a solo artist.

I am pleased to say that my doubts have been extinguished by Liam’s debut solo effort. As You Were is a fine record, and the best thing he’s been involved with since Oasis’ Don’t Believe the Truth came out 12 (!!!) years ago. The reward has been commercial success: not only did As You Were top the UK charts, it outsold the rest of the Top 20 combined. For good measure it’s also the highest selling vinyl LP of the last 20 years. As far as comebacks go, it doesn’t get much better.

When I reviewed Beady Eye’s BE, I saved my biggest criticisms for the songwriting and lyrics. I wrote that Liam would benefit from having someone else writing for him. My crystal ball must have been on point that day, for Liam has brought in professional songwriting help on  As You Were.

“I can’t write those fucking big songs”, he told NME earlier this year. “I’m limited. My verses are up there, but I just can’t do that next bit.”

Scrolling through Oasis fan forums, some have criticised the decision to bring in hired help. They’re talking bollocks. Sinatra barely wrote a song in his life.  Most of the few songs Elvis wrote were shit. The Stones wrote one song on their debut LP. Good enough for them, good enough for Liam. Besides, he’s still written six of the songs on the album (with co-writing credits on four more).

The first song released from As You Were was ‘Wall of Glass’. Written by enough people to fill a Toyota Camry (including Greg Kurstin, the Adele hit-maker), it’s slick and punchy with a radio-friendly sheen. The opening song on the album—and one of its best—it is a statement of intent announcing the return of one of the last remaining rock n’ roll stars: “you were sold a one direction / I believe the resurrection’s on”.

Elsewhere, highlights include the reflective, post-divorce ‘Bold’ (“you’re ticking all the dickheads off, you know what I mean?”, says Liam), the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club-style acoustic stomp of ‘Greedy Soul’, and the delicate and heartfelt ‘Paper Crown’ which features the best Liam vocals on the album.

There is a noticeable dip in quality on the second side of the record. ‘I Get By’ and ‘You Better Run’ are Beady Eye level plodders, while the pleasant ‘Chinatown’ struggles to be taken seriously with its awkward lyrics (“well the cops are taking over / and everyone’s in yoga” … err, what?).

Fortunately, the run home is saved by the last three songs, the Stones/late-Oasis sounding ‘Come Back to Me’, the dreamy ‘Universal Gleam’ (a bit of a ‘Tender’ by Blur rip-off, but hey – Noel’s been nicking tunes for years), and the most anthemic song on the album, ‘I’ve All I Need’, which should have been released as a single.

There’s another stand-out song buried away in the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition. ‘Doesn’t Have to be That Way’ sounds like Liam Gallagher fronting Tame Impala, and should definitely have been on the main track list.

All in all, As You Were represents a spectacular career resurrection for Liam Gallagher. While it may not be a perfect album—the second half is too patchy for that—it is undoubtedly (and unexpectedly) a great one. Put it this way: Noel has his work cut out to top it when he releases Who Built the Moon? next month.

Welcome back, Liam.


Best songs:
Wall of Glass, Paper Crown, I’ve All I Need

Concert Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Margaret Court Arena, Melbourne, March 29, 2016

Walking towards Margaret Court Arena on my way to see Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds on Tuesday night, I was SHOCKED to see so many young kids and families making their way in.

Who knew that the ex-Oasis man had such a big following amongst school kids?! Here I was thinking kids are all into Beiber and One Direction when in actual fact they’re in the schoolyard swapping bootlegs from Cardiff 1996 and debating who was the better drummer out of Alan White and Zak Starkey.

Then I realised they weren’t going to see Noel Gallagher at all; they were all walking next door to Hisense Arena for Planetshakers Awakening 2016, an Evangelical Christian movement’s conference for followers to “seek, worship and encounter God”.

noelgallagher1

Quite apt actually, because seeking, worshipping and encountering were exactly what the rest of us were planning as well – not for God though, but for the ‘God-like Genius’ who once claimed that God is an Oasis fan (I’m not religious myself but it’s pretty obvious to me that if he was real God would dig Heathen Chemistry).

Noel is 48 years old now, and the days of Oasis playing to packed football stadiums with bottles of piss being flung through the air are long gone. Instead, Noel takes to the stage at a very civilised 8:30 and without a word launches into ‘Everybody’s on the Run’, delighting a crowd adorned with Man City shirts, Pretty Green parkas and Adidas trainers.

It’s a testament to Noel’s solo career that his High Flying Birds songs are so well received. But while Chasing Yesterday is a bolder and better album than NGHFB, the songs from the latter are more anthemic and translate better live; especially ‘If I Had a Gun’ and the before-mentioned ‘Everybody’s On the Run’.

Out of the Chasing Yesterday songs, ‘Lock All the Doors’ and ‘The Riverman’ perfectly bookend his career. LATD was written in 1992 and sounds like it’s just been cracked open from a Definitely Maybe-era time capsule. ‘The Riverman’ on the other hand is a spaced-out jazzy number with a saxophone solo on it. Perfect antidote to the Oasis-haters who claim that everything Noel writes sounds the same.

Of course there are plenty of Oasis songs too – ten in fact, including ‘Wondewall’ (done in the style of Ryan Adams), ‘Champagne Supernova’ and a rousing ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’ that evokes a mass-singalong straight from the football terraces.

More interesting for the hardcore Oasis fans are the selection of B-Sides and album cuts rarely played in Australia before, including ‘Digsy’s Dinner’, ‘Sad Song’ and ‘D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman’.  

This is my sixth time seeing Noel (twice with Oasis, once solo with Gem Archer, and now three times with NGHFB) and he sounds as good as the first time I saw him over a decade ago.

There’s some A-grade Gallagher banter thrown in, too. He’s particularly baffled – as I think we all are -by a self-proclaimed “magician” in the audience who somehow manage to bring a BUBBLE MACHINE into the gig. How the hell did he get that past security?.

“You’re a magician? Why don’t you make the fucking bubbles disappear then?”, he says. “Did you pay to get in? Or did you magic yourself through the fucking door. If you bought a ticket you’re a shit magician.”

It’s hard to find fault with your favourite artist, but if I had to be critical I’d say the setlist was too safe. Noel is infamous for sticking to playing the same set of songs, and I think the time has come to finally retire ‘Half the World Away’ and ‘Talk Tonight’ – he’s played both the last 4 times I’ve seen him and it would be nice to hear something from say Be Here Now or Standing on the Shoulder of Giants for a change.

That minor criticism aside, Noel Gallagher at Margaret Court Arena again answered the question about when will Oasis reform. The answer: it doesn’t matter. This is just as good.

Setlist

Everybody’s On the Run
Lock All the Doors
In the Heat of the Moment
Riverman
Talk Tonight
The Death of You and Me
Champagne Supernova
The Dying of the Light
Sad Song
D’Yer Wanna Be a Spaceman
You Know We Can’t Go Back
Half the World Away
If I had a Gun
The Mexican
Listen Up
Digsy’s Dinner
The Masterplan
Wonderwall
AKA.. What a Life!
Don’t Look Back in Anger

Album Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Chasing YesterdayWhen I reviewed the debut Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album back in 2011, I got a bit carried away and made some hyperbolic comparisons between songs like ‘If I Had a Gun’ and Oasis classics like ‘Wonderwall’. But buried amongst all the fawning and excitement I also wrote that it was an album a little too entrenched in familiar territory.

Fast forward to 2015, and with the release of Noel Gallagher’s second solo record, I can flip those sentiments around. As a collection of individual songs, Chasing Yesterday might lack the expansive, sweeping anthems of its predecessor – but as an album, it steps outside the more obvious Beatles and Kinks influences for something more experimental and less derivative.

There’s no Christian Rap Metal or Hoomii Mongolian throat singing to be found here, but woven into the sonic landscape of Chasing Yesterday are bass clarinets, pianos, saxophones, female backing vocals and even hints of jazz (all this from the man who once declared that “music is just music, except for jazz… jazz is shite”). This broader set of sounds makes for Noel’s best work since Oasis’s Don’t Believe the Truth was released a decade ago.

Some of the more captivating tracks are album opener ‘Riverman’ and ‘The Right Stuff’. The former is “Pink Floyd meets fucking Santana in a weird funk atmosphere” (Noel’s own words – how could I ever eclipse that remarkable turn of phrase?), while the later features a soothing female voice accompanying Noel over the top of keyboards and interspaced with a bass clarinet solo. Bet you didn’t expect that on a Noel Gallagher solo album!

Other highlights include ‘The Ballad of the Mighty I’, an almost dancey-track with a cameo from Johnny Marr, and ‘Lock All the Doors’, a Definitely Maybe-esque balls-to-the-wall rocker which was first written in 1992 and would not have been out of place alongside the likes of ‘Columbia’ or ‘Bring it on Down’.

Now, I’ve done nothing but wax lyrical about how great this album is, so I suppose I better take off my Noel-tinted glasses and offer up some criticism. For me, Chasing Yesterday’s one blemish is ‘The Mexican’. It is by no means a bad song, but it is weighed down by some lazy lyrics (“They say that you need love / Just like a kid on crack”), and benchmarked against the rest of the album I feel it should have been omitted in favour of the superior B-Side ‘Do the Damage’.

That minor misstep aside, Chasing Yesterday is an outstanding album that together with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds vindicates Noel’s solo career and the end of Oasis.

The Verdict
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High Flying Birds soar Higher than last time
Best Songs: Riverman, Lock All the Doors, The Right Stuff, Ballad Of The Mighty I

Oasis Albums from Best to Worst

As a long-time Oasis fan, the re-mastering and re-release of the band’s back catalogue has got me revisiting their albums. Over the last few weeks, for what must be the umpteenth time, I’ve listened to each and every Oasis album from start to finish, and taken the opportunity to rank them from best to worst.

No matter how many times someone ranks Oasis albums, Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory will always be number one and two (arguing otherwise is like arguing that Ringo was the best Beatle), but from there it’s less clear-cut, with Heathen Chemistry and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants the most difficult to place. Alas, to see where they ended up, read on….

1. Definitely Maybe (1994)

Definitely Maybe picks itself as Oasis’s finest album. It’s perfect, with Liam’s sneering ‘John Lennon meets John Lyndon’ vocals fronting up Noel Gallagher’s songs about living forever and being a rock and roll star. Songs like ‘Supersonic’, ‘Colombia’ and ‘Bring it on Down’ beg you – no, force you – to turn it up loud. But for me, the crowning glory of Definitely Maybe is ‘Slide Away’, a six-minute long track which could be another six-minutes long and still not overstay it’s welcome. It’s a love song (“I don’t know, I don’t care, all I know is you can take me there”) which provides a genuine tenderness many would never think Oasis capable of. By my reckoning, it’s still the best thing Noel and Liam have ever done.

oasis0012. (What’s the Story) Morning Glory (1995)

There are more hits on the first half of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory than most artists have across their entire discography. Really, what can you say about an album that features not only ‘Roll With it’, ‘Wonderwall’, and ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, but also ‘Some Might Say’, ‘Morning Glory’, AND ‘Champagne Supernova’. Hell, that’s a return on investment that even the Beatles or the Stones would proud of. But as utterly brilliant as …Morning Glory undoubtedly is, for me Definitely Maybe just eclipses it, offering up a sense of urgency and rawness that it’s ubiquitous successor can’t quite live up to.

oasis0023. Don’t Believe the Truth (2005)

Don’t be put off by the dull cover art – Don’t Believe the Truth is the best Oasis album of the new century. It’s their least ‘Oasis-y’ sounding album, bringing together influences from the likes of the Kinks, the La’s and even the Velvet Underground. As the best of Oasis’s ‘democratic’ albums, it features strong contributions from Andy (‘Turn Up the Sun’), Gem (‘A Bell Will Ring’), and Liam (‘The Meaning of Soul’). Noel too, was in a rich vein of creativity; with ‘The Importance of Being Idle’ he wrote Oasis’s last number one single… and arguably their last truly mega song.

oasis0044. The Masterplan (1998)

In the argument that Noel Gallagher is one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, I present Exhibit A: The Masterplan, a compilation of B-Sides from Oasis’s first three albums. Incredibly, these are songs which were deemed not good enough to make it onto an album. I say ‘incredibly’, because many of the songs here are on par with those on Definitely Maybe or (What’s The Story) Morning Glory. Of course, as a compilation, The Masterplan lacks the flow of a ‘proper’ album, but nonetheless there are some absolute gems here, amongst them the gorgeous ‘Listen Up’, the Gallagher-brother duet of ‘Acquiesce’, and the rueful ‘Rockin’ Chair’.

oasis0035. Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000)

The come-down to the cocaine excesses of Be Here Now, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is Oasis’s most underrated album. It’s an album that I used to rarely listen to, but over time I’ve come to appreciate it’s vulnerability and neo-psychedelia, most notably on the likes of ‘Gas Panic’ and ‘Roll it Over’. It’s not all melancholic gloom though – Liam’s vocals are at their snarling best on ‘Go Let it Out’, while 15 years later the menacing ‘Fuckin’ in the Bushes’ still sounds like it could start a riot. There is only one travesty here (no, I’m not talking about ‘Little James’) – the omission of the superb ‘Let’s All Make Believe’, which instead lived out life as a B-Side to ‘Go Let it Out’. It’s a song that deserved so much more.

oasis0056. Be Here Now (1997)

To me, listening to Be Here Now from start-to-finish is a bit like eating an entire packet of jelly beans in one go. At first. it seems like a tantalising prospect, but by the time you get to the end, it’s all been a bit too much to take in. And, like a packet of jelly beans, everyone has their favourite flavours (mine being ‘Don’t Go Away’, ‘D’you Know What I Mean’ and ‘All Around the World’) and their not so favourite flavours. In short, BHN is the sound of Oasis coked up to their eyeballs, fuelled up with lager, with the volume turned up to 11. That doesn’t make Be Here Now a bad album, but it does make it an album that you have to be in the right mood to listen to.

oasis0067. Heathen Chemistry (2002)

There was a time when I would have placed Heathen Chemistry in the top half of this list. Even today, I still marvel at that run of songs from tracks four through to six – ‘Little by Little’ / ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ / ‘Songbird’ (Liam: “It’s about a bird who sings”). The problem with Heathen though is two-fold. Firstly, those songs aside, there aren’t enough songs here which have stood the test of time (of the others, probably only ‘The Hindu Times’ and ‘Born on a Different Cloud’ are in anyway notable for me). Secondly, the in-house production on Heathen Chemistry doesn’t do the album any favours, resulting in an album that somehow manages to sound both flat and overly saccharin at the same time.

oasis0078. Dig Out Your Soul (2008)

It wasn’t the best way to go out. Put it this way, if Oasis reformed tomorrow and went on a world tour, it’s unlikely that anything from Dig Out Your Soul would make it onto the set list, with only ‘The Shock of the Lightning’ (notable for it’s pounding drum solo) a long-shot of inclusion. Where Dig Out Your Soul falls down for me is the half-way mark, where we are introduced to Noel trying to do something different – but not really hitting the mark – with ‘(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady’. From there, there is a brief glimmer of hope with ‘Falling Down’, before a disappointing run of largely forgettable Liam/Andy/Gem songs ends the album – and Oasis’s discography.

oasis008

Album Review: Beady Eye – BE

Beady Eye - BEThe Beady Eye equation (Oasis – Noel = Beady Eye) is both a blessing and a curse for Liam Gallagher and his band of Oasis alumni. If Liam Gallagher turned up at the opening of a garage door he would make headlines, so there is no chance of a new Beady Eye going unnoticed. But equally anything released by Beady Eye comes under incredible scrutiny and inevitably gets compared to both Oasis past glories and brother Noel’s work with his High Flying Birds solo outfit.

Beady Eye’s debut album, 2011’s Different Gear, Still Speeding, was put together with the wreck of Oasis still smoldering. Pinned down by big singles in the shape of ‘The Roller’ and ‘Four Letter Word’, it was a capable but predictable slice of sixties-inspired rock music.

Two years down the road and Beady Eye are back for round two with new album, BE (“It’s BE. Be. Be who you are. Be whatever you fucking want to be. Be. Fucking bumble-bee” – Liam Gallagher). All the talk coming out of team Beady Eye in the lead-up to BE’s release has been about seizing second chances and branching out from the meat and potatoes of Different Gear, Still Speeding. It is a sentiment that shines through in the title of lead single, ‘Second Bite of the Apple’.

If ‘Second Bite of the Apple’ is indicative of Beady Eye’s second chance, they have clearly bitten off more than they can chew for it is a tepid and forgettable song that almost invites the listener to hit ‘skip’. It is one of the more forgettable songs to come out of the Gallagher stable –  that it sank like a stone to 112th in the UK Singles Charts says it all.

Somewhat fortunately though, it is a momentary lapse in judgement rather than a genuine yardstick of where Beady Eye are at, and those who persevere with the album will be relieved to hear track one, ‘Flick of the Finger’. A call to arms, a genuine statement of intent, it is dominated by Liam Gallagher swagger and bravado (“the future gets written today”) and notable for its driving horn section and spoken word passage from a Pakistani author’s book about 1960s revolutionary counter-culture. Who ever expected that on a Beady Eye album?

One criticism often leveled at Oasis was that their songs ‘all sounded the same’. While that is an unnecessarily harsh assessment, it is fair to say that Oasis albums rarely offered up much in the way of surprises (“Without a doubt” responded Liam when asked in a recent interview if Oasis lacked adventurousness). Therefore it is refreshing to hear that while there is no freestyle jazz or Christian power metal on BE, the band have demonstrated a willingness to experiment and push the boundaries.

Some of the credit for this must go to producer Dave Sitek, he of TV on the Radio fame (whose previous production credits include the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Foals). Sitek is not the type of name one would expect to pop up in the liner notes for an album by a band like Beady Eye, but his fingerprints are all over the record as he helps to bring together a sonic tapestry that pulls together horns, flutes, and spoken word samples around classic sixties inspired rock sounds.

Beady Eye - BE
Liam Gallagher has his Beady Eye on you

But copious sprinkles of Dave Sitek magic dust and Liam Gallagher swagger can’t paper over some of the deep songwriting cracks on BE. Save for a few shining lights, most of the songs just don’t stand up to repeat listening. Lyrics are the biggest problem, with too many infantile rhymes and too many words shoe-horned in by blunt force (“Shake my tree where’s the apple for me / Tickle my feet with the NME” from ‘Second Bite of the Apple’ is a particularly bad example). There are just not enough ear-worms on BE and your reviewer is left thinking that the group would be best served if they could outsource the song-writing to someone else. Someone like … Noel Gallagher?

Noel and Liam may move in entirely different circles these days (they have not spoken to each other properly since Oasis broke up in August 2009) but don’t expect to get through BE without encountering Noel. He’s not there in person, of course, but he’s there in spirit on the dad-joke titled ‘Don’t Brother Me’. Lyrically it’s all a bit simple (with lyrics like “Did you shoot your gun / You know I’m a man, I’ll do what I can”, long term Oasis fans may get a ‘Little James’ vibe), and it meanders on for far too long, but it is not as bad as the name may suggest.

The quality may wear a bit thin of the course of the album, but there are some definite diamonds in the rough on BE. As well as the before-mentioned ‘Flick of the Finger’, other highlights come from ‘Iz Rite’ and ‘Start A New’. The former has a pulsating ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’-type groove masking jangly guitars reminiscent of the Byrds, while the latter has the sweetest Liam Gallagher vocals since ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ and is just waiting to soundtrack TV montages. Elsewhere, another standout comes from ‘Soul Love’ where Liam’s vocals come to the fore on a track with a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club versus Death in Vegas feel.

A two and a half star rating might give the impression that there is nothing worthwhile here, but that is not quite right. About half of BE is really good – it is just a shame that the other half is so forgettable. There is one sure-fire way to get the best out of this album – let your ears cherry pick the best bits, locate the skip button, discard the rest, and let BE be what you want it to be.

The Verdict
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Moving in the right direction but not quite there..
Best Songs: Flick of the Finger, Iz Rite, Soul Love, Start A New

[Music Review] Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - S/T“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.

The Verdict
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A solid debut but one firmly in familiar territory
Best Songs:
Everybody's on the Run, If I Had a Gun, AKA... What a Life!