With Liam Gallagher’s poorly conceived Beady Eye project already slipping away from the public consciousness on a slippery slope of mediocre sales and even worse chart positions (the less said about that dreary Reading & Leeds set the better), the baton falls to Noel – the man traditionally hailed as the more talented of the brothers. That said, the penchant for bonkers band names clearly runs in the family, first Beady Eye, now Noel Gallagher’s... High Flying Birds...
Birds aside, this album’s high flying ambitions are writ all over it. Opener Everybody's On The Run is Noel at his very best, cut free from the limitations of his former band to truly indulge as both songwriter and solo musician. The result is a far richer, more involving level of production than Oasis ever really entertained – with lush, sweeping strings, the song rides on a Bond Theme-esque level of cinematic scope.
Dream On is pure Oasis throwback, revelling in the kind of retro stompy piano chords that worked so well in The Importance of Being Idle. The trouble is, here, Dream On sounds like the tired leftovers – the dregs that have been left swilling around Noel’s brain for rather too long. Of course, with a man of such considerable talents as Noel, even here, the weaker points on High Flying Birds are still more than a match for any of the young upstart bands who all wish for a fraction of the success Oasis had. Noel Gallagher, the original prince of Brit-pop, and still the best.
Truth be told, the album’s greatest asset – sounding like Oasis – is also its greatest problem. There’s not a dud track on here, but equally, a great deal of the record, tracks like If I Had A Gun and Record Machine are nothing we haven’t already heard before a hundred times. Where High Flying Birds really shines is on gems like the horn-riffing fun of Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks and the stately elegance of Stop The Clocks. There’s a beauty in these songs, a soaring sense of some part of Noel’s spirit, trapped away inside him, finally set free.
The most fascinating moment here though is without a doubt lead single What A Life. Eschewing everything else on the record, the song jumps into a psychedelic mix of groove-driven beats and relentless piano chords – it’s not quite Noel Gallagher-does-house-music, but it’s getting on for that. Fellow Manc legend Ian Brown has made a career out of penning weird, wonderful tracks like this and it’s refreshing to see Noel walking the same path; unafraid to push the boundaries – something which proved the downfall of Liam’s stale, unadventurous Beady Eye project.
What’s even more promising is that High Flying Birds is just the start. Not one to rest on his laurels, Noel has already recorded an accompanying album, a collaboration with electronica outfit Amorphous Androgynous (try saying that one when you’ve had a few beers). The group previously transformed the Oasis single Falling Down into a 22 minute exploration into the very limits of sonic innovation, so things look promising.
Situated at the heart of High Flying Birds, What A Life serves as the appetite-whetter, so to speak, the budding shoots that hint at the experimentation yet to come - that moment we’ve all been waiting for when Noel will once again blossom into the flower of British songwriting perfection that over the past two decades has given some of the greatest songs of all time.Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds album is available to pre-order on Amazon now.