Noel Gallagher is an optical illusion of a man. Some see him as the genius tunesmith behind Oasis, a man capable of taking three chords and some beer mat philosophies, and creating the kind of songs that take a hold of your soul and give you goosebumps. Some, however, see him as an overrated relic from a time when cocaine ruled the Earth. Hopefully seeing him as a solo artist should help both sides look at him with a fresh pair of eyes.
After studio noise and the clearing of a throat, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds kicks off with the monumental ‘Everybody’s on the Run’, with its swooshing strings and choir complementing Noel’s bluesy vocals. Much like when Paul Weller went solo, this record features confident, unrestricted, proper singing. It’s as if the rock and roll veneer has been peeled away and what’s left is a rather charming honesty.
Immediately following ‘Everybody’s on the Run’ is ‘Dream On’, a song featuring the Gallagher Stomp™ with which many are familiar. Noel Gallagher is doing what he does best here: repetitive choruses, unforgettable melodies and a toe-tapping beat. The Stomp™ reappears on later tracks ‘Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks’ and ‘(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach’. After ‘Dream On’ is our first ‘slowie’, ‘If I Had a Gun…’. It’s quite romantic, featuring the line “’Scuse me if I spoke too soon/My eyes have always followed you around the room”. It takes a few listens, but once it has wormed its way into your head it’s staying.
Noel has referred to this record as “the best collection of songs I’ve written for a long fucking time”, and he might just be right. The confusingly-punctuated ‘AKA… What a Life!’ is easily one of the best things he has ever written, and ‘The Death of You and Me’ sounds like a classic track from his expansive back-catalogue, having been exposed to it for about four months now. Unfortunately some will find the album a bit samey, with Noel playing it safe on his solo debut. The best moments are when he steps out of his comfort zone, and tracks like ‘AKA… Broken Arrow’ seem to be a bit lightweight. The hyped-up ‘Stop the Clocks’ isn’t really any fun until the final minute.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds contains more than its fair share of great songs, but it is stifled slightly by the lack of experimentation. Fortunately, his collaboration album with Amorphous Androgynous should quench that thirst. A good start.