Release Date: Nov 8, 2011
Record label: Island
Genre(s): Britpop, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock, British Trad Rock
"(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine," announces a song title on Noel Gallagher's first post-Oasis LP. Wrapped in guitars, strings, brass and reverb like a psychedelic Union Jack, he's in full flashback mode. Arrangements conjure Sgt. Pepper and T. Rex; each song fades Pink Floyd- style ….
Many pundits worried that Noel Gallagher was so far past his prime that he was only capable of dull Dadrock. Thankfully, we were wrong. Oasis breaking up was just thing the guitarist-turned-frontman needed. His deftly executed—and surprisingly eclectic—debut features flourishes that Liam never would have allowed: honky-tonk horns (“The Death of You and Me”), vibe-y Chemical Brothers beats (“AKA…What a Life!”) and social commentary (“Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks”).
The rote storyline that presents itself as a backdrop to Noel Gallagher’s solo debut is overwhelmingly obvious: Oasis splits, seemingly for good. Arch-brother Liam and the rest of the group form Beady Eye and release a largely dispassionate record, and in between legal sibling sparring, Noel unleashes a competing project, knowing but maybe not caring that the two are destined for endless and obsessive comparison. Of the two he always seemed less taken with the tabloid edge of things, but there’s certainly a fire in his tortured gut on the aptly named High Flying Birds.
The criticisms levelled at Noel Gallagher since High Flying Birds hit the air - he's not taking enough chances, he's retreading Oasis's formula, he's only hinting at his electronic talents, which are briefly revealed on AKA... What A Life! (one of the debut solo album's premier tracks) - indicate that many people feel it's repugnant for the 44-year-old to keep making the kind of music at which he's proven to be brilliant. How dare he.
Review Summary: A mirage or an Oasis?For the majority of the time since Oasis’ acrimonious split, Noel Gallagher managed to keep a fairly low profile. As sibling and eternal rival Liam swaggered his way through the formation of Beady Eye, a fashion label and the usual smattering of crass comments in the press, Noel kept silent and bided his time; emerging periodically to bat away questions about or dispense cryptic comments alluding to that last night in Paris.During that time however, there was the sense that Noel now fancied himself as the wise old owl of British rock. Able to count Paul Weller as a close friend the elder, famous Gallagher brother appeared to have elevated himself above his station.
Is [a]Noel Gallagher[/a] fucked? Less than 100 days since his comeback press conference and he’s been abandoned by Radio 1 (too old), failed to really set the charts alight with any of his new tunes and seen the debut performance with his [b]High Flying Birds[/b] on Italian TV lambasted by Oasis fans who said he looked too nervous to pull off being a frontman (sample YouTube comment: “Come on Noel! You’ll get used to it!”). Noel’s admitted from the off, of course, that the idea of standing centrestage without little bro around to lap up the attention has left him biting his fingernails. But actually hearing him say that is really weird.
While his brother Liam trundles on with the morose Beady Eye, Oasis’ better half delivers a bracingly kinetic solo salvo. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds folds throwback psychedelia, rootsy Americana, U2-esque arena rock, and ever-present Fab Four nods into one formidable Britpop monster. Noel’s brand of musical theft isn’t Liam’s smash-and-grab thuggery — rather, he’s a gentleman villain who knows exactly what to steal.
On his solo debut, Noel Gallagher ditches Oasis’s stadium-ready rock in favor of more intimate ballads you can hardly imagine younger brother Liam wrapping his hoarse vocal cords around. And this is exactly where Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds works best, when the elder Gallagher isn’t ferrying the well-worn Oasis formula that he’d adhered to with increasingly ill effect over the last decade with the band. In addition to being the most sonically adventurous collection of songs Gallagher has released to date, these are also his best since (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? For what’s unquestionably the strongest string of songs on the album, Gallagher marries the Kinks’ sound with Dixieland jazz to wondrous effect, despite the fact that these tracks all flaunt features reminiscent of the former’s “Dead End Street,” and are effectively exploring similar territory to what Gallagher did on “The Importance of Being Idle”: “The Death of You and Me” haunts and beguiles in equal measure, “Dream On” deftly imparts lashings of gruff jazz onto Gallagher’s sky-high anthem blueprint, while “Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks” sounds like it could quite neatly slot into the Kinks’ Something Else.
After the shoe that had been threatening to drop for years finally hit the floor when Oasis split up in 2009, the Gallagher brothers' artistic severance resounded within the minds of the band's fans around the globe. Predictions about Noel and Liam's separate musical futures ran rampant, and the natural solo-career assumptions were first validated by little brother Liam, who unleashed the debut album from his new band, Beady Eye, in February 2011. Nine months later, the first self-titled full-length release from Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds has followed.
Oasis always thrived on tension between the Brothers Gallagher -- not the interpersonal squabbles but their conflict between instinct and discipline. Liam personified the former while Noel flew the flag for the latter and their distinct, differing definitions of rock & roll continued to churn out exciting rock & roll until the end, when Liam’s cavalier attitude toward work proved the final straw for the elder Gallagher. Unsurprisingly, the first solo projects from the two reflected this dichotomy: Liam’s Beady Eye is all big-legged swagger; Noel’s High Flying Birds is tasteful, mannered craftsmanship.
Many years ago, I was sat in a park with a few friends on one of those hazy summer days where Britain seems the most beautiful place in the world. We were discussing the rumours of Oasis – a band who held a special place in our hearts since our early teenage years – splitting after yet another Liam and Noel row. At that age, a band you love breaking up is far worse than Katie in X-Band sending you a message via a mutual friend that 'it’s not you, it’s me' and so, mulling over our bottle of cider, we were solemnly contemplating the end.
Among the more interesting stories to emerge from Oasis' split was Noel Gallagher's claim that he felt musically constrained by the band. He told Mojo magazine that any suggestion of altering Oasis' sound would apparently cause Liam Gallagher to "start slinging shit around the room", which certainly isn't the least plausible of scenarios. Liam is, after all, a man who celebrated the fresh artistic start Oasis' split afforded him by releasing a song called Beatles and Stones.
Oasis perpetually faced accusations of over-borrowing from rock history, unapologetically nicking words and melodies from the biggest groups of all time. But the band were also skilled samplers of rock'n'roll storylines, arriving in the early 1990s pre-equipped with that classic intra-band conflict, the singer vs. the songwriter. The tension between Noel and Liam Gallagher arrived with Oasis in the early 90s as a fully-formed rock drama worthy of Keith-Mick, Robert-Jimmy, and Rog-Pete, given added juice by shared genetics.
When Britpop’s leading group Oasis imploded in 2009 following one final blow-up between eternally quarreling siblings Noel and Liam Gallagher, it was somewhat surprising that bandmates Gem Archer and Andy Bell would elect to throw their lot in with the latter of the two to form Beady Eye. Of the pair, Liam is the more volatile: easy to rankle, quick to anger, and infamous for resorting to physical violence to settle disputes. Regardless of whatever the cause of the break might have been or who may have been at fault, the aftermath left Noel, Oasis’s lead guitarist and primary songwriter, without an outlet for his material.
It may seem a fatuous question, but who is Noel Gallagher, really? Seasoned observers might have noted a fundamental slippage between Gallagher, meat'n'spuds songwriter and conservative premier of Oasis, and Gallagher, music fan and raconteur. The former has presided over the most successful domestic rock band outside metal since the 60s. He has patented an instantly recognisable sound, which many would agree has been meandering in ever-decreasing oxbows for the last few Oasis albums.
The closing track on Noel Gallagher's debut solo album is called 'Stop The Clocks', and it's been hanging around for some time. The title alone was used for a 2006 Oasis compilation, although the song itself dates from a couple of years earlier, written in the run-up to the release of Don't Believe The Truth. So, what are we to make of Gallagher rifling through his old desk drawers? Is it a kind of reverse George Harrison situation, The Quiet One's own solo debut All Things Must Pass representing an outpouring of stuff he was never able to shoehorn into Beatles album because of the prolific John and Paul? Has Noel been intentionally holding songs back, hiding them from his kid brother, waiting for their band to implode? Collectively, the standard versions of the last three Oasis albums contain just 17 songs written by Noel, and 16 by "the others", and offer evidence that democracy doesn't always work in pop.
He knows what he likes, and has turned his influences into an enjoyable solo debut. Fraser McAlpine 2011 Songwriters who listen to too many records can struggle to come up with fresh ideas for their own. They’re too cowed by their own taste, too aware of pantheons and precedence, and too easily influenced by old and dusty sonic blueprints. It’s hard to say whether this is a greater problem for the artist or the listener.