Depending on your tolerance level, knowing that Noel Gallagher is the man responsible for Oasis’ “Wonderwall” is either a deal–maker or a deal–breaker when approaching his solo work. It’s true this mixtape–regular is unbearably overplayed, but it is undeniably good. Besides, Oasis’ award–winning catalogue of music extends far beyond this single, and the band reigned supreme in the 90s U.K. rock ‘n’ roll scene, with a wild lifestyle to boot. In 2009, one of the many well–documented fights between frontmen Noel and his brother ended in break–up, and Noel’s solo career took flight. It’s unsurprising that the talented writer of “Champagne Supernova” and singer of “Don’t Look Back in Anger” craved full attention, and the self–titled debut from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds leaves no question as to who’s in the driver’s seat this time around.
On the opening track of the debut album, “Everybody’s on the Run,” Noel croons, “Falling from above/Through the ceiling.” He leaped from a towering success, but hopes to make a loud crash on the way back down. The album is thick with instrumentation — electronic sounds team with horns and strings to provide a rich background to Gallagher’s familiar voice. A choir of backup vocalists fills out many tracks with an arena rock sound, bolstering Gallagher’s lyrics with dramatic “oohs” and call–and–response.
The record is fast–paced, and the energy rarely lulls. “Dream On” is a cheery, head–bobbing jam with a sing–a–long quality, complete with a catchy “lalala” section. Gallagher’s ear for unorthodox instrumentation is spot–on in “The Death of You and Me,” where electronic sounds flutter above a jaunty piano and pronounced drum beat, before tumbling into a New Orleans–style horn section ripped straight from the Bayou.
Like any good British rock album, the album has a token love song. In the tambourine–shaking “If I Had a Gun,” the singer goes up against nature for a girl. Not quite “Wonderwall,” but it satisfies nonetheless. Tracks like this one demonstrate Gallagher’s successful songwriting abilities, and his lyrics are relatable without feeling overdone. Gallagher’s voice is surprisingly versatile throughout, hitting both angelic, rounded notes and harsher, deep tones. It loses a bit of steam mid–way with the lumbering, tiresome, “(I Wanna Live in a Dream In My) Record Machine,” yet the album recovers with grace.
The last track, “Stop the Clocks,” ends the album on a poignant note, with a soft song that asks the question — “What if I’m already dead, how would I know?” If this is Noel’s idea of heaven, his skepticism is understandable.
High Flying Birds