“Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds” soars

28 10 2011

When I first fell in love with Oasis’s music, I was largely drawn to Liam’s vocals.  I don’t think there’s ever been a lead man quite like him, and his voice was one of a kind. But as the band rolled on, sliding out of their spot as most popular band in the world, Noel began to assert himself more as a vocalist (and less as a writer.)  He seemed to save some of the best songs for himself to sing.  Oasis’s best work was often b-sides and bonus tracks found on EP’s and the like; the work that never made the LP’s.  Most of those gems were sung by Noel.

In the meantime, Liam’s vocal work, with some exception, seemed to steadily decline in the 2000’s.  Frankly, his voice is shot, probably from too many cigarettes, Guinness and all night partying.  Sometimes it’s hard to listen to him, as is the case on Beady Eye’s debut album.  What became of Muhammad Ali’s body is kind of what happened to Liam’s voice.  If he could write great songs, perhaps that wouldn’t matter.

All that meant that the best work on the last few Oasis albums was created and sung by Noel.  It became inevitable, I think, that he would break away from the band and put out superior work.  That is what he has done.

On Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Noel put together a collection of songs stronger than the last couple of Oasis records.  His first solo album is much what you expect from him.  It sounds like a compilation of sorts of all the great Noel-sung b-sides and bonus tracks.   Admittedly, High Flying Birds sounds a bit like an Oasis album.  But it’s an album full of songs that are reminiscent of “Falling Down” and “The Importance of Being Idle,” and tunes of that quality.

His vocals are superb!  In some spots, unfortunately, he double tracks them, distorts them or obscures them with layers of other sounds.  If Noel weren’t a good singer, that would make sense.

“Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks” and “The Death of You and Me” have that jaunty bounce of a Kinks pop tune.  “The Death of You and Me” is quite similar to “The Importance of Being Idle,” mostly due to the heavy falsetto vocals.  “If I Had a Gun” channels “Wonderwall.”

“AKA…What A Life” is a bass heavy with a neo-disco beat.  You might hear it in a Eurotrash club someday. “(Stranded On) the Wrong Beach” is a nice mid-tempo rocker, with a bit of gritty guitar.  “Everbody’s on the Run” and has some oomph but relies heavily on sounds effects and psychedelic-tinged backing vocals.  It has a power and passion that makes it irresistible.  “AKA…Broken Arrow” is another track that borrows something from “Wonderwall,” though it’s a bit more uptempo.  It’s one of the weaker tracks.

The two most disappointing tracks are “(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine” and “Stop the Clocks.”  Both were demo’d for Oasis and leaked to the internet after Dig Out Your Soul was released.  To me, “Record Machine,” at least in demo form, was one of Noel’s top 5 best songs.  On High Flying Birds, he blunted the edge of the song by cluttering it with choir-like background vocals and swirly organs.  I hoped he would do something different with it for the album — we already had the demo to enjoy.  But he cluttered it in much the same way Phil Spector heaped vocals and layers of instrumentation on “Let it Be.”  “Stop the Clocks” is…well…a bit sad and dull.  He’d have been better off to bury that one or put it out as a bonus track.

Keep your ears peeled for the b-sides, “The Good Rebel” and “A Simple of Game of Genius.”  “Good Rebel’s” respectable and “Genius” should have displaced “Stop the Clocks” or “AKA…Broken Arrow.”  It has a stomping beat, nice slippery bass lines, nice rock guitar and solid vocal work.  It’s a happier “Let’s All Make Believe.”

All in all, this is a really nice disk.  It’s hard to say whether it will stand the test of time, as they say.  But it will almost surely sound better than “Standing on the Shoulders of Giants” and “Heathen Chemistry” sound today.  And, for what it’s worth, it beats the living daylights out of Beady Eye’s thing.

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds




Oasis sell out! (again)

6 05 2009

I don’t get terribly bent out of shape about these things, but I am disappointed that Oasis has sold to Jaguar (or somebody) the right to use “Shock of the Lightning” in commercials.

I love that song.  In fact I named this blog after one of the lines of the song.  N0el Gallagher is certainly within his right to sell his songs as he pleases.  The cash is the obvious motivation for doing it, but I can’t imagine he’s hurting for money.

The commercial’s nice — makes the car look pretty exciting — but it just kind of spoils the grit and guts of the song.   It no longer feels like a rock tune that speaks to me.  It’s a sound bite, a hard-driving jingle.

I know Noel already did this with “All Around the World,” but it feels different with “Shock of the Lightning.”

Oasis’s new video, “Falling Down”

3 02 2009

This video is brand-spankin’ new it appears.  It’s a nice work of art.  I’m not sure what is reality and what is fantasy, but it paints a nice picture of someone cracking up under the pressure of a double life.

The song is one of Oasis’s best in years.  It should eventually find it’s way onto a “best of” collection when the boys finally call it quits.  There’s a bit of “Tomorrow Never Knows” in the rhythm section.  Noel’s vocals are superb.  The lyrics are great, some of Noel’s best work.  I’m biased, admittedly.  Most of their stuff pleases me.


Dig Out Your Soul and the Top Albums of 2008

17 01 2009

The music mags have put out their “Best of 2008” lists. Mojo and Q listed their “top 50” albums and Spin cropped its list to the “top 40.” Considering that it was only released in October, Oasis’s Dig Out Your Soul faired respectfully. For those that care about lists and Oasis, DOYS made it onto Mojo’s list by the skin of its teeth, making no. 50. It did better with Mojo’s big Brit rock mag competitor, Q, who planted DOYS at no. 32. Spin’s list had ten fewer entries, so DOYS looks comparatively good sitting at no. 38.

I’m a big fan of Oasis and DOYS. I think those guys never get the credit they deserve for making consistently good albums with lots of big guitars and some good lyrical work (and some bad, too.) I am admittedly biased, but it seems Oasis got short-shrifted on these lists. They are better as a band, and DOYS is better as an album than bottom feeders on albums of the year lists. I can’t imagine that there are 20 albums released in 2008 that are better than DOYS. My guess is that it didn’t help that the album wasn’t released until October. Some of their competitors had a chance to mature, to breath a bit. Except for Oasis die-hards, it seems like the band has little critical cache these days.

Also, the so-called music experts have seen every Oasis album since Be Here Now have talked about each successive album as some sort of “comeback” attempt. In truth, Oasis never went anywhere. They put out an album every 2 to 3 years, which is a pretty standard cycle for today’s artists. U2 hasn’t put out an album since November 2004, but I don’t think critics will talk about their “comeback” like they do (and have done) with Oasis for the better part of a decade. When the critics see you as perpetually making a “comeback,” they never stop judging you for your last great release. If people would judge each Oasis album on its own merits, they would do better critically.

None of this matters much to Oasis. Us fans get a bit irked by this, though.

I’m not interested in most of the bands on those lists. A band that got a lot of love was Kings of Leon. Perhaps I haven’t given them a fair shake, but their stuff that I’ve heard is, quite frankly, unlistenable. I just don’t get it. Fleet Foxes was also highly lauded (no. 1 on Mojo’s list) and I’m dying to hear their entire album. The songs I have sound like a folk band channeling Smile-era Beach Boys. “White Winter Hymnal” is a pretty damned good song but if that’s all Fleet Foxes have to offer, I’ll stick with Smile, Smiley-Smile and Pet Sounds.

Noticeably absent from all three of the lists I saw was Here We Stand by the Fratellis. It’s a fantastic rock record. These guys were the darlings of British rock scene a few years back after Costello Music was released, but for some reason Here We Stand, which hit #5 on the British album sales chart, has been snubbed. I think Here We Stand has Costello Music beat. Maybe the critics don’t think much of fun rock and roll these days. Maybe to get attention your music has to be folksy and take itself seriously. Or just steal from the Beach Boys and the experts will anoint you as groundbreaking and original, the next and new best thing.

Thanks for the inspiration, Noel.

31 12 2008

I love the line in the new Oasis tune, “Shock of the Lightning”: “So godspeed to the sound of the pounding!” Indeed!

What a great line. It’s one of my favorite lines from an Oasis song and it’s a perfect fit for this blog.

Thanks Mr. Gallagher. Cheers!