So, let me tell you how I feel about Noel Gallagher. Way back in 1995, before the Internet was readily accessible and/or worth a damn, I saw the video for Oasis’ "Wonderwall" on MTV, back when that channel was worth a damn. I fell in love instantly. I went out immediately and bought (What’s the Story) Morning Glory. I liked it so much that I bought its predecessor, Definitely Maybe, a week later and I agree with Noel that it is among the greatest debut albums ever. Like much of the civilized world in 1995, I was hooked on Oasis.
Not long afterward, I was talking to an older and cooler friend of mine about Oasis, and she later sent me a cassette tape (ask your parents, kids) of B-sides culled from the import singles from both records. Again, keep in mind that I am in the U.S. where the cd single was never a popular format, and we are pre-Internet, so all of these ‘new’ songs were a revelation to me. It was like having a third Oasis album dropped in my lap! It didn’t take long for me to discover that Noel did the bulk of the singing on these mostly underproduced and acoustic b-sides and it was the older Gallagher – and not Liam – whose voice appealed to me the most.
Oh, I’ll give Liam his due. He was born to sing songs like "Slide Away," "Cigarettes and Alcohol," and the wonderful B-side "Rocking Chair." But song-for-song, I would much rather hear Noel’s pensive, sensitive side explored on an acoustic-based gem like "Sad Song" or the more elaborate "Going Nowhere." Yes, I know Noel would kick my ass, or arse, for suggesting he has a sensitive side but he wrote the songs, not me. Anyway, in short, from my money Liam is good; Noel is better.
Since I discovered Oasis in 1995, I had been hoping for a day when Noel would get sick of Liam’s petulant bullshit and crank out a solo effort, and it only took 17 years after Definitely Maybe for The Chief to deliver Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds and the results are fantastic!
As Oasis fans know, the band explored a more trippy, psychedelic side in the years after they faded from megastardom outside the UK. The post-worldwide phenomenon era saw Noel, still as chief songwriter even with addition of Andy Bell and Gem Archer, exploring more abstract musical and lyrical ideas while still borrowing from The Beatles and other sources, just at different incarnations of the influences’ careers. Where one can listen to the first two albums and hear Rubber Soul and Revolver, later Oasis offerings owed more to Sgt. Pepper and Magical Mystery Tour.
As for High Flying Birds, Noel’s first solo offering is a smooth, mellow effort that is both accessible and easy on the ears. While there are no purely acoustic moments – a bit of a disappointment, I must say – there also are no wailing, bombastic moments either. HFB is best listened to as a whole rather than in pieces, as there really are no weak moments to be found.
My personal favorites after a month of listening include the bouncing, driving single "AKA ... What A Life!" which includes my favorite line from the record "Over the sunset on the horizon/It may be a dream but it tastes like poison" delivered in Noel’s great, soft falsetto. "(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine" is another highlight, as are "Stranded on the Wrong Beach," and the melody-driven "Solider Boys and Jesus Freaks."
Best of all, Noel has generously decided to extend his mini-tour promoting this release, meaning I will finally, at long last, see Noel Gallagher front a band live when he visits Atlanta in April 2012. The tickets arrived yesterday, and I already cannot wait to hear these new songs and old Oasis favorites live.
If you are on the fence, I suggest you jump off and drop your 10 bones and give this thing a spin. If you even remotely enjoy Oasis, Britpop, or music that has easy, trippy vibe, I think you will love this record.