I know, I know…here he goes again, pedaling more post life, 'Oasis' stuff with, ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’. My deep rooted love for, ‘Oasis’ and keen interest on both siblings' progress in life after the band has already been shared on this blog. It was indeed something of a surprise to me that the loveable rogue that is, Liam jumped ahead of, Noel in releasing new music. In doing so, he made some shrewd acquisitions with the recruitment of former band mates, Gem Archer and, Andy Bell who are not only valuable for their instrumental talents, but just as much for their song writing capabilities. The, Liam venture of, ‘Beady Eye’ and their debut album, ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’, released earlier this year suitably impressed me scoring a solid 7/10 in my initial review (http://scoaustin.blogspot.com/2011/03/album-review-beady-eye-different-gear.html) and probably now worthy of at least a 7.5.
Noel took a little longer to bring what he has to the table and has partaken in fairly heavy publicity and social media posting as part of the promotion. Not something I’m overly fond of…surely he doesn’t need to make this album release a circus. Released in the UK on 17th October and attaining fairly positive reviews on the whole, the album is set to hit the US on the 8th November, just before Noel embarks on the US leg of his tour. He too has leaned on a few musical friends including former 'Oasis' keyboardist, Mike Rowe, but at the end of the day, this is a solo effort. The peculiar name apparently draws inspiration from the ‘Jefferson Airplane’ song. Ultimately, it’s great to have, Noel back in the game. The penultimate years of 'Oasis' were pretty dark and in all truth, a bit of a drudge. The music, though decent, didn’t get close to the qualities of, ‘Definitely Maybe’ or ‘What’s The Story, Morning Glory?’ This album marks the calm after the storm in which, Noel brings his mournfully upbeat voice and solid lyrical ability. In essence, this album is the sound of a man who is no longer bound by what other band members think and, Noel already has some credibility on the solo front. By their second album, the guitarist was already taking lead vocals and lest we forget the notorious MTV Unplugged episode proved he could do just fine without his brother.
The album begins with a snarling, Noel on, ‘Everybody's on the Run’ – “Hang in there love…you gotta hold on…everybody's on the run”. The drumbeat, backing keyboards and strings on this track are fantastic. It's a very strong start to the album in which the closing strings and piano sounds like the end of a 'Rocky' movie. ‘Dream On’ that follows is home to a drum beat and tambourine jingle that is oh so familiar to 'Oasis' fans. Noel emphasises his lyrical ability once more with some cleverly constructed lines. It’s in the, ‘She’s Electric’ and ‘Importance of Being Idle’ genre. A thumping sing-along track that’s chorus of "shout it out for me" might be better applied by the gritty vocals of his younger brother, but it is rather catchy.
‘If I Had a Gun’ is more in the ballad format of a, Noel love tune. Not up there with the epic, 'Masterplan', but a similar kind of effort and I like it. Apparently this track was previously called, ‘Wonderwall’. I can’t say too much more than that this is typical Noel Gallagher tunage. ‘The Death of You and Me’ carries a bit of a circus feel and though it is also 'catchy', but this is not a favourite of mine. A trombone solo takes the place of guitar and quirky noises appear throughout this, ‘Kinks’ homage. ‘(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine’ begins with the sound of school kids in the playground. It’s another captivating song with great use of strings combined with guitar. The appearance of a ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ type guitar solo here also takes us back to the best of 'Oasis'.
‘AKA... What a Life!’ starts with a blurred warble of sound, then a steady rhythm kicks in before Noel joins in with “Someday, you might find your hero…some say, you might lose your mind”. This is not too dissimilar to some of the things Noel has done with 'The Chemical Brothers' and others. I love this sound and wish there was far more of it. This is the furthest on offer here from “the usual Noel stuff” with more of a house beat and feel. It has a turbulent piano loop (not unlike Beady Eye’s, ‘Bring The Light’) and Noel's melancholic feelings on twenty years in the limelight. ‘Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks’ has a jazzy feel to it, strings and horns again appearing. It’s toe tapping and decent, but no more than that for me. ‘AKA... Broken Arrow’ is another hark back to, 'Oasis' with well coordinated rhythm and finely attributed lyrics, but for me, we’ve lost the gusto of track 6, ‘AKA... What a Life!’
I like the build of, ‘(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach’. The slow, but temptuous guitar riff builds with, Noel’s well placed vocals and concluding with some flippant and nonchalant lyrics from the talented songwriter. We come to the end of the ten track solo album with, ‘Stop the Clocks’ which is openly an, 'Oasis' leftover…it’s been knocking around in bootleg form for quite some while. It’s a simple muse about what happens when you die, yet somehow succeeds in being more uplifting than depressing.
We can pretty much put these songs in two three buckets: Oasis throwbacks - ‘If I Had a Gun’, ‘AKA… Broken Arrow’ and ‘(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach’, rock anthems – ‘Everybody’s on the Run’, ‘(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine’ and ‘Stop the Clocks’, and jazzy toe tappers - ‘Dream On’, ‘The Death of You and Me’ and ‘Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks’. The exception to these is my distant favourite, ‘AKA… What a Life’ on which, Noel is well of out of his traditional comfort zone. It suits him well, and he knows it. I hope to hear more of this untraditional, Noel in his forthcoming solo effort with, 'Amorphous Androgynous' which will drop in 2012.
Aside from the jazz styled interludes there’s nothing all that new on this album, and as aforementioned, the second of his solo projects may be a little more ‘out there’. 'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' follows a safe flight path staying close to the, Noel Gallagher of, 'Oasis' lifespan. He’s provided us with a collection of tracks of which the best can stand proudly alongside ‘The Importance Of Being Idle ’. This review may alter upon seeing him deliver these songs live in the impressive arena of the Beacon Theatre in New York on November 14th. Rating 7/10
The album in it’s entirety can be streamed here - http://soundcloud.com/piasbelgium/sets/noel-gallaghers-high-flying/s-bEO8h