Noel Gallagher ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ – Review

10 Nov

Critics have always had trouble knowing how to receive the Gallagher brother albums. When the now legendary ‘What’s the Story Morning Glory’ was released it got quite a muted reception, so to compensate, ‘Be Here Now’ was greeted like it was the best thing since sliced bread, when in reality it was more like mouldy bread. Since then critics have been totally unsure which side of the fence to set up camp in – reviews of the last few Oasis albums either proclaimed them to be ‘their best since morning glory’ or the one where they finally jumped the shark. In truth, their post millennium output was rarely anything more, or anything less, than just plain average. But this confusion still haunts critics; Liam’s debut album with his new band Beady Eye, ‘A Different Gear, Still Speeding’, was unanimously praised on release, but a few months down the line (after tepid sales and a lack of public enthusiasm) the backlash has already begun. Noel will no doubt be put in the same boat if his long anticipated debut ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ fails to catch the public imagination.

And I’m going to go out on a limb and say that it won’t catch the public’s imagination. Through no fault of his own, Gallagher is a relic from a bygone age – the type of classic rock he writes, just isn’t popular right now. Of course, songs like ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Don’t look back in anger’ are never exactly out of fashion, and if ‘High Flying Birds’ had songs of that calibre then i’m sure he would still get played by radio 1 and he would shift units by the bucket load, but frankly, Gallagher hasn’t written a TUNE in over half a decade.

I was hoping that a solo album would allow Noel the chance to be a bit more introspective, to write songs with personal lyrics – stuff more like ‘Talk Tonight’ or ‘Half the World Away’ – that would be a great album. Actually, he’s just gone and made another Oasis album, without the frontman and without the attitude. admittedly, this is the most ambitious and creative record he’s put out since the mid 90’s, but that doesn’t mean it’s the best since that golden age, cos it isn’t. However, it would be churlish to deny that he still knows his way to a stadium crowd’s heart, and with an opening chorus like ‘you’ve got to hold on, you’ve got to be strong’, this album is practically begging to be chanted along to by tipsy lad rock fans.

My favourite Oasis songs were always the big ballads, the more overblown and soppy the better (‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ and ‘Champagine Supernova’ obviously, but also the overlooked ones like ‘Whatever’, ‘Little By Little’ and ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’.) Here there isn’t anything of that quality but ‘If I Had a Gun’ is the one that comes closest. Apparently it was going to be the lead single but Noel thought it sounded too similar to his Oasis material (as if the other 9 songs don’t?) – it was a mistake as it’s far better than first single proper, the dreary ‘Death of You and Me’.

Noel is at his best when his music can safely be described as ‘uplifting’ or ‘majestic’ – ‘Stop the Clocks’ is one such song. It’s been on the Oasis back-burner for the best part of a decade, and it even lent it’s name to the title of a 2006 greatest hits collection, but this is the first time it’s had an official airing. It was never going to live up to expectations I know Oasis fans had for it, but it’s really quite a fitting closer with a soaring chorus and a stirring string section. The album opens with an even louder bang, in the form of the completely overblown but still enjoyable ‘Everybody’s on the run’. Thankfully Noel has shown signs of restraint elsewhere; at ten tracks long and with no song over 5 minutes this is probably the most concise and cohesive Gallagher record to date, and that really is something to applaud. Occasionally though the tacks drag on for a minute or two too long and it’s usually on the more melancholic numbers. I’ve never liked Moody Noel, and songs like ‘stranded on the Wrong Beach’ and ‘Soilder Boys and Jesus Freaks’ remind me why; they’re way too minor and downbeat to work to Gallagher’s strengths.

So as for that inevitable question – is it his best since ‘Morning Glory? Well, no, but to be honest, the real question on fans lips will be whether this is better than Beady Eye’s surprisingly enjoyable debut. Again the answer would be, surprisingly, no, but truth is, if you took the best bits from both albums you really WOULD have the best Oasis album since ‘Morning Glory’ – combine the grittier rock n roll songs of Beady Eye with the stadium ballads of this album and you would have a very fine record indeed.  As it is ‘High Flying Birds’ feels like it’s missing an important limb; It’s a good album that sounds a bit lost in the woods. The shocking revelation in all this is that Noel needs Liam more than Liam needs Noel.

5/10

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One Response to “Noel Gallagher ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ – Review”

  1. dusty n April 29, 2016 at 8:09 am #

    you got an update on this review btw, looks like hes done okay

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