Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

I’ve been waiting for this album since 1996. When Noel Gallagher took over vocal responsibilities for one night to record Oasis’s episode of Unplugged, I went from constant hater to mid-level fan. I’d always been fond of the way the songs were written for their records, but I can’t stand Liam Gallagher. When the band split and Liam formed Beady Eye with the other members of Oasis and Noel went solo, I thought “Finally! He’s finally free of the shackles his brother bound him with!” Unfortunately, on Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, my optimism was not rewarded.

My biggest problem with this album is that the songs sound like they were all written in a period just after that Unplugged concert. Many of the tunes here could be B-sides or demo versions of songs from the Definitely, Maybe and What’s The Story Morning Glory? sessions. Hell, “AKA Broken Arrow” is pretty much Wonderwall at a different tempo, and more than once I thought, “This song sure sounds a lot like ‘Champagne Supernova’.” The difference between this record and Beady Eye’s is that Noel wants to recreate the past glory of his old band, while Liam is content to continue destroying his legacy by putting out the same bland records that plagued Oasis the past decade.

Gallagher still manages to deliver a couple good songs in this solo debut. He’s putting out a second release with Amorphous Androgynous next year, and that one sounds like an experiment that’s sure to polarize. So, if you’re looking for the pop-friendly Gallagher that you’ve grown to love, this is your shot. There’s way more misses than hits, but there are a couple to check out if you’re curious.

“Dream On” is the second track, and it shows some of that promise that I heard 15 years ago. It’s a sunshine-y jolt that features some great harmonies and horns. It feels a bit like Noel’s version of Sgt. Peppers, but doesn’t quite reach that bar of excellence.

The first thing released off the record, “The Death Of You And Me,” is easily the best song on the album. If you like old Oasis tunes, you’ll dig this one. It’s got a strong percussion section driving the whole thing, and Noel fills it with vocals that crest and crash all over the place. More horns come into the album here, as trombones fill in the gaps between the verses and Gallagher’s lyrics add some darkness to an otherwise light sounding song:

high tide, summer in the city
the kids are looking pretty
but isn’t it a pity that the sunshine
is followed by the thunder, with thoughts of going under

Those two are the big highlights of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. There are some flashes of possible greatness elsewhere, but for the most part it’s Oasis retreads that wouldn’t have made the cut on either of their first two records. I’m a bit let down by this, but after fifteen years I don’t know what I was expecting. I still like Noel Gallagher, and hope that when he comes out with another solo record it sounds more contemporary.

I’d still go see him live if he were playing here, because I think his show would be awesome. He’s already stated that he won’t shy away from playing Oasis material like Beady Eye has. Currently he’s only touring the east and west coast and then a quick jaunt around the world. I believe he said that in the spring of next year he’d be going on a more extensive tour, but that could be wishful thinking. Either way, I look forward to hearing more from Noel, even if this was a disappointment.

2 thoughts on “Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

  1. I like this record a lot (granted I’m a HUGE Oasis fan…embaressingly so.) His lyrics have always been kind of bleh (if not cringe-worthy), but I like the escape/death theme that permeate this album. It ultimately just sounds like a solid late-period Oasis record, which I’m totally fine with. (Full disclosure: “Don’t Believe the Truth” is one of my favorite records ever.) Although some reviewers call it “pedestrian,” Noel’s voice just kills me, so to finally hear him singing a whole record fulfills a long dream of mine. I’m curious though whether or not it’ll have a strong shelf life for me or if I forget it in a few months…

    1. Total agreement about Noel’s voice. I like a couple of the most recent Oasis songs, but overall I haven’t really enjoyed them since high school (which for me was quite a while ago).