“Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds” Review
A few months ago I reviewed Beady Eye’s “Different Gear Still Speeding” the first studio album to be released by a Gallagher brother in the period henceforth to be known as Post-Oasis. Now that the other Gallagher brother has seen fit to pull his finger out and release his own album, I thought it only fair to give his a crack of the whip and see if this sucker bleeds.
I thought the biggest problem with Liam’s album was that it was all swagger and no sway. A rebel with no cause, defined by it’s own sense of self importance but with no real confidence to try anything remotely original. It had all of the arrogance you expect from an Oasis album with none of the soul.
After listening to Noel’s effort it’s clear where that soul went. Then again for those of you who have followed any of Oasis’s work for the last two decades this will hardly be a surprise. Liam’s has all the cockiness, Noel has all the substance. And I know which one can stand by itself without the other to lean on.
The album has a real Northern feel to it. Brass plays a big part in giving the album a sense of celebration and community. There is a triumph to this music but it also has the thread of the Macabre running through it. A sinister edge, a surreal undertone caused by the deep and damp nature of the Brass. This is music you can imagine being played at a street party populated by Goths or a wake for a Camden rocker.
The most obvious comparison here is “The Importance of Being Idol” which now feels like a prediction of this albums very existence, the video especially. You can see Rhys Ifans using this music to rehearse his next big dance number, flanked by coffins. It’s grim up North but you can see the Sunshine through the rain clouds.
The biggest contribution to this theme is perhaps the bitter sweet tones of Noels voice. Soft, soothing, sightly sarcastic and sincere all at once, this album retains the mocking antagonism of Oasis without the aid of Liam’s sneer. This is aided by the cryptic, yet heartfelt messages strewn throughout the lyrics.
If there was one thing truly absent from the other brothers album it was Noel’s sense of poetry, which I am glad to say is back in force here. The combination of the mundane and the magical, the gritty realism seen through a haze of a surreal smog, create a landscape which provides both escape from a depressing existence as well as a better understanding of it.
The words and music form a subtle beauty that entrances and intoxicates the subconscious. In fact so subtle is this beauty you may not even be aware of it upon the first listen. The album has a tendency to fade into the background of the environment, it never fights for your attention, that arrogant Gallagher spirit knows how good the songs are and its up to you to realise this, not them to persuade you.
But when you get the urge to put the record on for a second time, you will be amazed how much of the album you can remember. How many lyrics you can recite, how many hooks latched on to your mind, how this album got under your skin without you even realising it.
Noel Gallagher stands as one of this nations great songwriters. Not many people hold such a commanding authority over melody, or are able to twist and manipulate music to their bidding. But Noel, along with his heroes to whom much of his career as well as this album owe so much, is one of them.