Monday, October 17, 2011
Album Review: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (4/5)
One eighth (or rather, one half, if you don't acknowledge the members that don't sing) of former British rock band Oasis return with their solo debut. Noel Gallagher's effort follows the rather soft reception of younger sibling Liam Gallagher and his band Beady Eye's debut Different Gear, Still Speeding--which was a little bit of a misconception, as it was greeted with quite favorable reviews, but was also somewhat of a commercial failure, failing to land any significant hit in the process. On the other hand, Noel seems to be on a superior track, already landing two top 20 hits with the album's first two singles ("The Dead of You and Me," and "AKA... What a Life") and also tipped to top the albums chart next week.
I never gave Beady Eye a chance; reviews (Q in particular) suggest that it's quite a corker, even calling it the "strongest album (he's) made since (What's the Story) Morning Glory)," however any comparison between the two records, on my part, would be somewhat misguided. The album gets off to an abrasive start, "Everybody's On the Run" adhering to progressive rock sensibilities--haunting atmospherics swirl beneath the guitar chords and rhythmic drum patterns before its stripped away to vocal, guitar strings and rain effects for the verse--picking up again for the uplifting chorus, where the choir-mimicking strings, violins undercut the guitars and drums. It's an awesome start.
Following track, "Dream On" reigns things in a little--spurring on a quite a jaunty melody, accompanied by matching nostalgic "ahh's" stapled in the background and of course, the obligatory layered lively guitar work and drums. "If I Had a Gun..." is a high flying ballad (I had to do it)--quite despondent too--highlighting a sensitivity and sincerity in Noel's vocal behind the endeering soaring composition. Lead single "The Death of You and Me" is fantastic--from the hard hitting drum beats toppling the guitar chords on the chorus to the unorthodox old-fashioned "travellers" styled verse, where the horns bleed through the guitar/drum production.
"(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine" begins with quite a mellow, almost trippy aura, perhaps similar to The Beatles at their most experimental on The White Album (a little bit of a stretch, but I think it works) with tambourines and dwindling soundscapes. The chorus picks up nicely, Noel belting the title over the heavy-footed composition. Second single "AKA... What a Life" nurtures deep piano chords galvanising in the backdrop with crashing overcutting drum beats. Guitars are not the main focus on here--this isn't particularly a favorite. It's melody seems a little too blunt.
Horns, drums and layered guitar work make up the rather extravagant, but still tame rock of "Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks," somewhat similar is "AKA... Broken Arrow," which sounds like it wouldn't sound out of place on any of the post-Standing on the Shoulder Oasis records. "(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach" is interesting--static electronic guitars pierce through the backdrop, underpinning the fronting guitar work and drums. Closing the album is the subtle rock of "Stop the Clocks," stripped down to poignant piano chords, an acoustic guitar and Noel's vocal before an electronic guitar intrudes for its second half.
Noel Gallagher's debut is a solid one. Like many recent rock albums, it doesn't venture out of its conventions, however this isn't necessarily a problem when you listen to albums to absorb the lyrics, but when you're more interested in the compositions--it can become a little repetitive, but still a great debut in all.
Best: The Death of You and Me, Everybody's On the Run, If I Had a Gun, (I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine, AKA... What a Life, Stop the Clocks