Two years after leaving Oasis
, principal songwriter Noel Gallagher has emerged with his first new album, entitled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
after the name of his current group. Those who were hoping for a suite of Oasis-like songs will only be slightly encouraged by these 10 tracks, which only rarely show the melodic brilliance of old. And while Gallagher sung on occasion during Oasis’s reign, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
suggests that he doesn’t exactly have the vocal range to make these tunes fly.
The Gallagher Brothers Go Their Own Way
When Gallagher departed Oasis
in the summer of 2009, it seemed to be just the latest skirmish in the longtime, tabloid-friendly public feud between him and his brother, singer Liam Gallagher. But instead the split was permanent -- at least for now -- with Liam moving on to Beady Eye
and Noel focusing on solo material. But just like Beady Eye’s Different Gear, Still Speeding
, Noel’s album seems to want to both embrace the legacy of Oasis while traveling into new sonic terrain. Because Noel was that band’s principal songwriter, there was an assumption that High Flying Birds
would be the stronger of the two Gallagher brother efforts. But in reality, they’re both rather mixed affairs, with Liam’s album being more easily accessible and Noel’s showing more musical ambition.
Everybody Sing Along
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
finds Noel Gallagher indulging the ‘60s psychedelia and melodic melancholy that were hallmarks of Oasis’s musical blueprint. That isn’t to say that the album is a straight Beatles
rip-off, however, which was a knock on Oasis that proved less accurate as the group evolved on later albums like Don’t Believe the Truth
and Dig Out Your Soul
. Throughout High Flying Birds
, there’s a dependably sing-along quality to the mid-tempo material, but there’s also a discouraging sameness that keeps the record from really popping. When your stock in trade is pretty, catchy songs, you’ve got to make sure they’re as sharp and precise as possible. Unfortunately, High Flying Birds
too often sounds undernourished and familiar.
Some Superb Ballads
If some of Oasis’s most enduring songs (like “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” which Noel sang) were moony ballads, then it shouldn’t be surprising High Flying Birds
succeeds when Gallagher writes more tunes in that vein. “If I Had a Gun...” is a wistful, blissful ode to finding a way to bring happiness to the love of your life. Its comforting, romantic tone is very reminiscent of “Wonderwall,” while the album-closing “Stop the Clocks” (a track written during Oasis’s time but never released) hearkens back to “Champagne Supernova,” which concluded (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?
At its best, High Flying Birds
catches Gallagher in a nostalgic, pensive mood, whether it’s celebrating the power of music (“[I Wanna Live in a Dream in My] Record Machine”) or lamenting a doomed love affair (“The Death of You and Me”). The cocky attitude of Oasis’s heyday -- most personified by Liam’s strutting vocals -- is nowhere in sight here.
Not Much of a Singer
But that’s not the only way in which Liam’s absence is apparent. Noel isn’t a bad singer, but High Flying Birds
suffers from his flat, sometimes colorless delivery. Even on the album’s sweetest tunes, his voice doesn’t really embody or embolden the songs. As a result, quite often the album seems to have a strange void at its center where a singer’s charisma and flair should be. That’s most problematic on the album’s weaker songs, but overall that lack of personality only succeeds in clipping the record’s wings. When Oasis broke up, observers were curious to see which Gallagher brother would come out on top on future records. Now that we’ve heard one album from each, it’s tempting to conclude that neither of them won, which means we listeners ended up losing.
'Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds' - Best Tracks:
“If I Had a Gun...” (Purchase/Download
“Stop the Clocks” (Purchase/Download
“(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine” (Purchase/Download
“The Death of You and Me” (Purchase/Download
“AKA...What a Life!” (Purchase/Download
Release date – November 8, 2011
Sour Mash/Mercury Records
Disclosure: A review copy was provided by the publicist. For more information, please see our Ethics Policy.