Noel was always the better brother. He wrote the songs, sung the better ones and was on the right-ish side of monobrow. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is in keeping with this fraternal superiority: it is a helluva lot better than brother Liam and new band Beady Eye’s offering Different Gear, Still Speeding.
I am an Oasis fan. I really am. I know Blur were cooler, fitter and more original but they just didn’t have the tunes that Oasis did. Singing “Girls and boys” never beats snarling “Cigarettes and Alcohol” and of the slow jams “The Universal” pales in comparison to “Champagne Supernova”. Of all the songs I wish I could hear again for the first time, “Don’t Look Back in Anger”, one of the only songs where I know the air-guitar solo off by heart, perhaps tops the list. This pre-disposition is probably why I don’t hate High Flying Birds.
If Oasis wore their influences (Beatles, Beatles, Beatles) on their sleeves, in High Flying Birds Noel shoves them down your throat. Opener “Everybody’s On the Run” is beset with the violins that scream late Beatles and the beginning of “(I wanna live in a dream in my) Record Machine” sounds like a shit “Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds”/“I am the Walrus”. On first listen lead single “AKA…What A Life!” with its urgent and repetitive piano, sounds uncannily like Robbie Williams’ “Let Me Entertain You”. Williams and Gallagher have been publicly sparring since 1997 when a boozy bender got out of hand. In July of this year Williams invited Gallagher to ‘lick his arse’ to which Gallagher wittily replied that he’d ‘rather suck on his man boobs’. Perhaps this track is an olive branch?
Lyrically the album is treat, ricocheting as it does from the familiar (Spot the Oasis lyric!) to the bizarre. On ‘Everybody’s on the Run’ he repeatedly incites the listener ‘hold on’ (oh hai “Stop Crying Your Heart Out”) and in “Dream On” its all ‘songbirds singing’ and claims of ‘hiding from the razorblade’. Having been ‘chained to the mirror and the razorblade’ since (What’s the Story) Morning Glory in 1995, its good to hear he’s sorting his life out. When he’s not rehashing his stock themes, Noel makes some great innovations: mediocre track 8 is transformed by its title ‘Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks’ and two tracks begin with the prefix ‘AKA…’. I don’t really know what this means, but capital letters are always good.
Its hard to know what I would think of the album if I knew nothing of Oasis and High Flying Birds was just another acoustic-rock album. Is it a good solo album in its own right or just dated Oasis with less swagger? I don’t really know, but I do know that however hard I try not to, I quite like it.