Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is the self titled new album from the ex-Oasis member and a few newfound friends; released back in October over two years after Noel’s infamous split from his frontman brother. Despite promises, the record is not so far-flung from the Gallaghers’ past material and in fact half the album sounds like a seamless continuation from Oasis’s 2005 single, The Importance of Being Idle. The other half, therefore, could be worse.
The tracks are simple but catchy tunes. There’s nothing groundbreaking here musically, but neither were Oasis until they got quite big. “AKA… What a Life”, High Flying Bird’s second single released from the album is a good compromise of Oasis and session band; the all-important sing-along chorus is present to boot. If there’s one thing Noel has mastered it’s writing songs made for crowds sat in sold out arenas.
…trumpets, a trombone, a saxophone… and a musical saw.
For a man famous for his hard-man persona – albeit lessened somewhat now with his affectionate nickname of Wrinkly Rocker – and when compared to his harder-man brother, Liam, a lot of the album is incredibly tame. Though I suppose Oasis were never head-bangers. The Death of You and Me, for instance, is a strolling, laid back ditty through trumpets, a trombone, a saxophone… and a musical saw. I don’t know if these instrumental additions can really justify the label of innovation, but at least it takes a much-needed tentative step towards their own sound.
If I Had a Gun is inexplicably the band’s third release and is quite awful. It begins “If I had a gun… I’d shoot a hole in the sun,” and gets worse from there. Just to give us time to reflect on his lyrical mastery, there are then intermittent ahhhs thrown which, of course, repeat.
…“With ya” should really never, never, never be rhymed with “Cecilia”.
What struck me about Noel’s words, however, is not just the partial lack of imagination and highbrow content, but also the familiarity. Refrains such as “Hold on” and references to “Sunshine” and “Songbirds” are noticeable throughout. The worst example of a rhyme can be heard on A Simple Game of Genius, where it is made plain for all aspiring lyricists that “With ya” should really never, never, never be rhymed with “Cecilia”.
Other songs provoke no comment at all. The mind just draws a blank on offerings such as Dream On which points to an invisible post-it stating “see previous”. At times the thought does creep in that if it wasn’t for these “High Flying Birds” in the background, this record would be remarkable only for being very dull.
The best I can say for this album is that it’s inoffensive.
The best two tracks have to be Stop the Clocks, if only because it is recognisable as itself – it’s a relaxing tune with philosophical lyrics, but easy listening nonetheless; followed by Everybody’s on the Run, where Noel really makes the most of the invention of echo. Who needs a brother to do your backing vocals when you have yourself?
The best I can say for this album is that it’s inoffensive. You won’t be blown off your feet, but you might hear a nice string quartet, a choir and a catchy if overused beat to tap your feet to in that inevitable stadium tour of theirs. Grab your lyric books and get those arms waving; we all know the drill here.
Image courtesy of Sour Marsh Records