Noel Gallagher’s Birds Fly High
Pick a random song off of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ self-titled album, and you’ll hear the classic bangs of the snares, the distortions of a Gibson and a psychedelic groove.
If anyone knows anything about Gallagher’s old band, Oasis, it is the epitome of alternative rock, not psychedelica.
Oasis exploded onto the scene with hits like “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova,” selling over 70 million albums worldwide. But what also won the group attention was the infamous sibling rivalry between Oasis’ frontman Liam and the lyricist and faithful guitarist Noel. In August 2009, the band broke up and the brothers parted ways, with Noel forming his own band, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
Gallagher’s solo venture delivers. Perhaps not fully, but it does so considerably.
Naturally, the album would inherit an Oasis-like feeling, with Gallagher ceding to the fact that some of the material was dug up from his Britpop days. Yet, the songs provide a fluid complexity within a blend of down-home Americana, laid-back boogie, expressive jazz and larger-than-life post-punk.
Out of the 10 tracks, most are ingenious, while a few draw attention to their superficiality.
“AKA…What a Life!” begins in a Gun N’ Roses style fused with a ’70s beat. Sounding current but unprecedented, the song provides a nice, syncopated rhythm. “The Death of You and Me” provides a Southern flair through the haunting notes and blaring trumpet, reminiscent of a Mardi Gras parade.
Again, the melodies of “AKA,” Broken Arrow” and “Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks” aren’t innovative, yet naturally and unnervingly remain catchy. On a more positive note, the latter’s opening and elongated chords are deemed perfection.
Fortunately, “Stop the Clocks” presents the classic Beatles sound. Laden with a heavy guitar element, the track retains a Coldplay-esque, dramatic slurring. Despite being short and simple, the song is deep and very clear.
As for “Dream On,” the flat, edgier notes and harmonizing strings stray away from the automated, while “(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach” has a dark beat that easily synchronizes with the progressive prone bass.
You may have heard of “If I Had a Gun” on the radio somewhere, being the most heavily promoted single out of the album in the U.S. and having had the most airplay. A unique song in its own right, the interstices of the “ahh”s and the flowing strums of the guitar culminate to an alluring tune.
It’s practically unavoidable to compare between the Gallagher brothers’ voices. When Liam provided Oasis’ signature sound, the throaty rawness evoked honesty and a naked exposure.
Noel’s voice isn’t too bad. His falsetto vocals are smoother, ghostly and epic, if not slightly pitchy and overly clean, sparking a yearning for Liam’s distinct vocals.
This aside, the lyrics are what get into your head and leave that ever-impressionable stamp into your memory, creating a segue to younger listeners.
The lyrics for “Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks” provide much political and religious implications in a satirical context, such as “All the people on the village green / are gathered round their TV screens / to hear the government about to speak … They go on heaven … the congregation hopes and prays / … leave their letters in the mail box / for lonely souls they could not save.”
On the other hand, the lyrics become beautifully layered in “High tide / summer in the city / the kids are looking pretty / but isn’t it a pity that the sunshine / is followed by thunder? … The bottom of a bottle is every man’s apostle.”
Gallagher successfully pinpoints the feelings of all generations, tapping into the audience’s discomforts with challenging lines like “Maybe you dream but it tastes like poison.”
Other words, like “Lock the box and leave it all behind / on the backseat of my mind” and “I want a piece of the world and you can’t make me spit it out,” show his amusing twists of the lyrics’ meanings.
Although Gallagher’s group exhibits the manufactured pop-rock sound at times, the High Flying Birds bring a special element of message within the illuminating songwriting, and the striking and humble arrangements.
Rating: 4 out of 5