A soaring example of excellent song craftmanship, gorgeous production, and skilled musicianship, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Noel Gallagher[/lastfm]’s long-awaited solo début High Flying Birds is a culmination of two years of flying back and forth from London to Los Angeles to record with former [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Oasis [/lastfm]producer[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Dave Sardy[/lastfm], tiresome bouts with brother, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Liam Gallagher[/lastfm] via the media, and juggling fame and family.
If this story sounds eerily similar to that of Oasis fifteen years prior, that’s because it practically is. Accordingly, High Flying Birds isn’t an effort on Gallagher’s part to find a Britpop niche in the modern electro-buzz so popular today. His debut solo album is glorious with[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Oasis[/lastfm]-style orchestration, mid-tempo lyrical mantras, ecstatic choruses, and quintessential ’90s Britpop grit and glamor.
A tight ten-track album, High Flying Birds starts with the organic sounds of people in an audience rustling, a cough in the awkward silence. The first song “Everybody’s On The Run” launches into something almost psychedelic, chord-progressions that seem like subtle nods to [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Pink Floyd[/lastfm]’s The Wall and swooning strings.
“Dream On” is a swaggering, [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Beatles-[/lastfm]esque tune that urges to “shout it out for me” on a chorus that was built for such cheering. Despite the cheeky, upbeat guitar strum and the slinky New Orleans brass band style trumpets, the context of the song is slightly grim with Gallagher singing lyrics like “One day at a time, I’m hiding from the razor blade.”
Even in the first two songs on the High Flying Birds, it’s evident that while Oasis skyrocketed partly because of Liam Gallagher’s self-assured cockiness it was Noel Gallagher’s self-assured song structures that made Oasis one of the most influential bands of the last two decades.
“If I Had A Gun” is a prime example of this with its swirl of lush guitars, the ecstatic clash of cymbals, the melodic shriek of what sounds an organ, and Gallagher’s bucolic baritone.
Considered by many to be the most progressive, stand-out track of the album, “The Death Of You And Me” is a fanciful musical-style lark with percussive rattle, a sing-song chorus, jangly piano-hall fingering, and bawdy Bayou horns.
Next: Listen to “The Death of You and Me”
Similarly to the other songs on the album, “The Death Of You And Me” is musically jaunty and precocious with the grey glitter of hope behind a depleted, sardonic lyrical façade.
“(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine” and album closer, “Stop The Clocks,” were apparently an Oasis demos which can be heard in the strident strings, rain-soaked melodies, and the popular ’90s-style crash course in “contemporary traditional” rock guitar.
“AKA…What A Life!” is oddly-titled and perhaps points to the caricatures and characters Gallagher must portray, but the real sticky musical gem in this song is the infectious [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Rapture[/lastfm]-like dance breakdown in the middle of the song and the dark “woo-hoos” that punctuate the glistening fade at the end of the song.
Provocatively titled “Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks,” the seventh song of High Flying Birds has echoes of British psychedelia from the Nugget-era with traces of the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Kinks[/lastfm], the [lastfm link_type=”artist_info”]Small Faces[/lastfm], and the[lastfm link_type=”artist_info”] Animals[/lastfm].
Despite the familiar structure of the careening melody, “Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks” is a gorgeously articulated, politically bent sparkler and shows exactly why classic songs are indeed considered classic.
The second to last song, “(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach” sounds like a washed-out, wry teenage dream and might be the most modern of the tracks on High Flying Birds.
Heavy with percussion, “(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach” features a sound similar to the clang of a large clock or gong, rubbery keyboard plunks, earnest hand claps, and the usages of sound effects like the creak of an old pier, rain on the ocean, or the wild thrash of waves.
In the song, Gallagher sings plaintively: “And hold me all night/Or say “so long, baby, bye bye”/Pull me one for the road/It’s a long journey baby/And where is gonna take me?/Just depends on the weight of my load/Depends on the weight of my load.”
And all of High Flying Birds is as contextually unsure as this, the constant tug between the sheer talent and bravado of Gallagher’s melodies and choruses mixed with the reticence of his verses. Gallagher almost seems ready to give up and have a bit of a laugh at himself if he isn’t well-received on his solo début.
But High Flying Birds is gorgeous, glossy, and muscular without contrived concepts to drag us down or jewel-toned flits of modernity to distract us and could be as enduring as any classic Oasis.
1. “Everybody’s On The Run”
2. “Dream On”
3. “If I Had a Gun…”
4. “The Death of You And Me”
5. “(I Wanna Live In a Dream In My) Record Machine”
6. “AKA… What a Life!”
7. “Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks”
8. “AKA… Broken Arrow”
9. “(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach”
10. “Stop the Clocks”