Thursday, November 3, 2011
Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds review
When Oasis first arrived they made their intention very clear on the first song of Definitely Maybe - "I wannabe a rock n' roll star." They made unapologetic big rock tunes without modesty or artifice - they wanted to be the biggest band in the world and have all the money, drugs and women that came with it. While unoriginal, that didn't mean they weren't fun to listen to. Even though they never reached the heights of Definitely Maybe or Morning Glory again, they were still capable of producing some good singles and the occasional good album (Heathen Chemistry). That the acrimony between the brothers Gallagher reached its inevitable conclusion causing the end of Oasis came as no surprise to anyone. The band members left with Liam to form Beady Eye, whose first record continues a similar trajectory to Oasis while Noel goes solo for the High Flying Birds.
Whatever the reason of the Oasis split, it seems to have reinvigorated Gallagher on this record. Sure, it's a lot of mid-tempo numbers and might have the worst named song of the year on it ([I Wanna Live In a Dream In My] Record Machine) but without the constraints of Oasis, Noel goes rampant with big harmonies, orchestration and a big, big sound. Noel is incapable of making a small record and within the first minute, it is clear that the grandiose pop Noel has been churning out for years is amplified on High Flying Birds. Fortunately, he gets his Liam potshots in early on the first track Everybody's On The Run (one of several thousand references to his sibling):
You've been drifting and stealing,
Trying to walk in my shoes,
But they don't belong to you, you know they don't.
As with Oasis, Noel knows how to pick the singles and the strongest tracks are The Death of You and Me and AKA...What a Life! but the set is remarkably strong for a songwriter written off as a hack years ago. Whatever your thoughts on the basic rhymes, nonsensical lyrics and simple choruses, they are effective in this context and the record is a smooth enjoyable listen. Further, while the music is big, the stodge rock of late-Oasis is put on hold for a slightly more elegant version of the Gallagher sound. There's nothing here you haven't heard before but that may be the point, Noel returns to his muse again and again - this time successfully.
The only problem with this album is that while I like Noel as a singer, I can imagine at least five of these tracks being elevated even higher if Liam had sung them. I'm sure Noel would probably punch me out for saying it but that's ok, this record is still pretty great.