High Flying Birds
, October 26th, 2011 08:35
The closing track on Noel Gallagher's debut solo album is called 'Stop The Clocks', and it's been hanging around for some time. The title alone was used for a 2006 Oasis compilation, although the song itself dates from a couple of years earlier, written in the run-up to the release of Don't Believe The Truth.
So, what are we to make of Gallagher rifling through his old desk drawers? Is it a kind of reverse George Harrison situation, The Quiet One's own solo debut All Things Must Pass representing an outpouring of stuff he was never able to shoehorn into Beatles album because of the prolific John and Paul? Has Noel been intentionally holding songs back, hiding them from his kid brother, waiting for their band to implode?
Collectively, the standard versions of the last three Oasis albums contain just 17 songs written by Noel, and 16 by "the others", and offer evidence that democracy doesn't always work in pop. Heathen Chemistry, Don't Believe The Truth and Dig Out Your Soul might all have been better records had the elder Gallagher used his presumably powerful veto and boosted their contents with more songs of the calibre we hear on High Flying Birds.
Make no mistake, the bulk of this album sounds like it could be an Oasis album, which may prove to be too tempting a stick with which to beat Noel and lob a star or two off his reviews. However, and to be more specific, it sounds like a good Oasis album; something which has been conspicuous by its absence over the last decade.
Interviewed on Channel 4 earlier this month, Noel spoke of how he felt many of his new songs were more fully realised than on much of Oasis's back catalogue, arguing that a singer can have a stronger connection to a lyric he himself has originated, as opposed to someone reading another writer's words off a scrap of paper. Having said that, the stomp and spit of 'Dream On', the second track in on High Flying Birds, would appear to be more suited to Liam's sneery drawl than Noel's less flexible voice, but it's a rare instance of something not quite right on this album.
For the most part, Noel acquits himself admirably, while admittedly never veering too far from a recognisable recipe. The strummy reflection of 'If I Had A Gun' is clearly a close cousin to 'Wonderwall', 'The Death Of You And Me' revisits the Kinksian languor of 'The Importance of Being Idle', and 'What A Life' reverberates with the psych drone of 'Falling Down' from Dig Out Your Soul. Arguably, the fingerprints are so familiar because Noel is still working from the same inspirational touchstones.
Yet, for all the frequent Fab Four and Kinks parallels that have dogged either of the Gallaghers' work since Day One (Liam's Beady Eye debut got off comparatively lightly, mind), the bygone British band that Oasis have always most closely resembled is Slade. Think about it; who other than Noddy and Noel has reaped such rich rewards from a hybrid of hearty anthems and borderline nonsensical lyrics? Noel's words on many of these songs aren't exactly gibberish, but they're rarely actually about anything, but is that really so bad? We never expected him to be the new Dylan in the first place.
Ultimately, High Flying Birds seems to take pride in sharing its DNA with what went before, and we'll have to wait until Noel's second album in 2012, the previously announced collaboration with production mavericks Amorphous Androgynous, to see if he can take flight and leave his familiar and well-feathered nest behind. In the meantime, these songs will do very nicely, thanks, as reassurance that Gallagher can still deliver evocative and memorable tunes. It's good to have so many of them on one record, for a change.