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Friday, October 07, 2011
BBC Review Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds Album
Songwriters who listen to too many records can struggle to come up with fresh ideas for their own. They’re too cowed by their own taste, too aware of pantheons and precedence, and too easily influenced by old and dusty sonic blueprints.
It’s hard to say whether this is a greater problem for the artist or the listener. Certainly it would be easy to provide a list of reference points for Noel Gallagher’s pugnacious solo debut, some of which come from his old band – two songs reference Wonderwall. But that’s missing the point.
Which is: Noel’s got his confidence back. After years of watered-down Oasis albums, where anyone with a band membership and a silk scarf could throw an authentically scuffed tune into the pot, this is not a tentative recovery, nor does it bluster and huff. It rests on a bed of quiet authority, that sense of calm over turmoil, which comes from Noel’s mournfully bullish voice. Or to put it another way, this is the sound of a man who no longer has to give a stuff what the rest of the band thinks.
You can divide the songs into three categories: one, the jazzy shufflers – Dream On, The Death of You and Me, Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks. Two, the Oasis throwbacks – If I Had a Gun, AKA… Broken Arrow, (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach. And three, the big rock anthems – Everybody’s on the Run, (I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine, Stop the Clocks. The exception is AKA… What a Life, which takes Noel out of his traditional comfort zone and into a disco, albeit a very lean and spartan sort of disco. It suits him well, and he knows it.
Jazzy interludes aside, there’s nothing particularly new here, and certainly nothing that will change anyone’s mind about the music of Noel Gallagher: he’s listened to a lot of records and he knows what he likes. But, finally freed of the burden of his old band, their hot streak and their lead singer, he can concentrate on making enjoyable records for other people to enjoy.
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