Noel Gallagher, chief songwriter of Oasis, and the focal point for a Chemical Generation finally called time on the band. Oasis had done more than any other band to revive British guitar in the past 20 years. The much-publicized quarrelling between the Brothers Gallagher, that had so characterised the band since inception, could no longer be abided by elder sibling, Noel. He’d had enough of Liam; Liam had most certainly had his fill of Big Brother, and their concluding feud resulted in Noel finally fulfilling his threat to leave the band.
Of course Oasis could not continue as a band. They were formed with siege mentality, hunted as a pack, and were always more than the sum of their respective parts. Nonetheless, with immediate haste, the remaining members of the band formed the splinter group, Beady Eye, and declared themselves good enough to fill the void. Noel remained silent.
Beady Eye’s debut was released to mixed review. The whole time, Noel remained silent.
[one_half last=”no”]In fact, Noel Gallagher remained silent for so long that people began to question what his next move would be, if any. Ever since the 1990s, it was assumed by all that post-Oasis, Noel Gallagher would become a solo artist in his own right, given his electrifying cameos on early Oasis records. As a consequence of the ignominious circumstances surrounding the demise of the band, any whisper of a release under his name would fever into perhaps the most anticipated British release of the year.
Evidently, Noel was then acutely aware of this fact, continuing to orchestrate the new masterplan with cards firmly against his chest. Recording began in February 2010, rather fittingly the same night as Oasis’ sophomore album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? was declared the best album of the past 30 years at the BRIT Awards. An otherwise insipid night made memorable by Liam accepting the award, thanking all but Noel, before dedicating the trophy to the fans and throwing it, and accompanying microphone, into the crowd. For all concerned that night, a line had been drawn in the sand under Oasis.
Recording, however, became protracted as during the same night, Noel’s fiancée, Sara, announced she was pregnant. Naturally, Noel remained unhurried in his comeback, knowing his own self-perpetuated mystery would be enough to see the rumour mill continue to run on overtime.
Finally in July, the fervour reached breaking point. Noel was spotted recording in Los Angeles. Ethernet cables sizzled with news of Gallagher in a studio and the subsequent bombardment his phone suffered told the man that the time was right to tell the world the good news… he was back.
Teasingly, it was revealed that his second album was earmarked for Summer 2012. It was a collaboration with production duo Amorphous Androgynous [whom had remixed Oasis’ last single, Falling Down] and was the most ‘far out’ thing he’d ever done.
With the press salivating sufficiently, it was at long last proclaimed his first release was out in October and titled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.
Ever since the Gallagher brothers turned the Parisian air a distinctly Mancunian blue, this has been the album that music fans have been longing to hear. Noel Gallagher was the wheelhouse for Oasis- undoubtedly the most influential songwriter of his generation, perfecting songcraft with elegance and simplicity. His real genius comes from making such great songs appear to come from such effortless ease. The only lingering uncertainties people could have would be whether Noel could carry a whole album on his own; how his new material would differ from Oasis and if the album would address the downfall of Britpop’s most enduring icons…
The first thing to say is that High Flying Birds is not a continuation of Oasis’ music; nor is it a departure – Tracks Stop The Clocks and (I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine) had been mooted as far back as the recording sessions for 2008’s Dig Out Your Soul. This, simply, is the sound of Noel Gallagher being himself, with all his own material on record for the first time since 1997 (really, that long). His sincerity in songwriting was what has always made his music so appealing to the masses, and it his brutal honesty and cunning that make his debut demand so much attention.
And so, High Flying Bird’s was born…
[one_half last=”yes”]The album begins with its central figure screaming at the skyline. ‘Everybody’s On The Run’ throws the listener into a horizon, bronze with anger, Gallagher pointing with accusation and zeal at his worlds itinerate criminality. Straight away he renounces the mendacious nature of the inhumanity he sees and calls for someone, anyone, to come with him in the search of something higher. And with that, you are sat in the passenger seat of his beat-up Mustang. Top down. Westward, ho!
The record really gathers pace by track 3. ‘If I Had a Gun…’ is by far the standout number in his repertoire, thus far, and a future fan’s favourite, for sure. It sees Noel at his most wistful, writing an unrequited love letter to the girl, perennially just beyond reach. This is followed by lead single ‘The Death of You & Me,’ continuing the albums theme of escapology before halfway mark … Record Machine with its more uplifting sentiments ‘Build a little fire where it’s cold’ rekindle the earnest blue-collared optimism first seen on 1994’s Live Forever.
It is clear that this is Noel Gallagher in transition. This is his ‘post-break up’ album. The lyrical theme and soundscape depict Gallagher as a lone dignitary in disillusion and in search of salvation. Co-production with Mark Sardy, at times, is able to recapture the claustrophobic isolation of classics such as Talk Tonight or the heady lysergic psychosis of (It’s Good) To Be Free. An undercurrent of ‘Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas’ runs throughout, underpinning Gallagher as a character looking for a way out of a world he never wished to make. Even the record’s artwork and accompanying videos augment, further, the depiction of a solitary figure pitted against the Purgatorial, seedy underbelly of Dustbowl Americana.
Ultimately, however, it is ironic that a blurred picture of a transitional Gallagher made the final edit for the album cover as this is by far the most focused his work has been since 1995’s …Morning Glory.
The album is spaced, expertly into two halves of 5, lending an episodic feel to Gallagher’s journey. Each side of the record is able to illustrate the fruition from world-weariness to a cathartic clarity. Track 6, AKA… What a Life! returns to themes of post-millennial disenchantment with the state of one’s own life, deliberately juxtaposed by a pulsating dance rhythm to render the song as, perhaps, a scathing antidote to excessive the yet ultimately vacuous hedonism of the ‘90’s. All is well again, however, by the end of Stop The Clocks. In some manner it is … Record Machine Part II although with greater conclusion, allowing Noel to finally being allowed to leave this world behind.
The only notable flaw on the album is that its second half does not quite live up to the first. (Stranded On) ‘The Wrong Beach’ is the weakest point on the album and is the only song on the LP that doesn’t feel as sincere as the others. Though hardly contrived, were it expensed for a song in the same calibre as If I Had A Gun… or even The Death of You & Me, then you would definitely be looking at the number one contender for album of the year.
Overall, Noel Gallagher’s survival album is just what the doctor ordered. A near-perfect departure from his characterising stadium rock (there are only two guitar solos on the entire record) and more than enough of a flourish of previous form to engage old and new fans alike. Most importantly, it remains confessional enough to put the past to bed. As a result of its merits, and just like the morning after that night in Paris, you are always eager to see what Noel Gallagher’s next move will be.
All very foreboding, until you realise he’s just buying petrol.
Worth listening to…
Everybody’s On The Run
If I Had A Gun…
The Death of You & Me
(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine
AKA… What A Life!
Stop The Clocks
Words by Glen Walsh.[/one_half]