Oh Noel G, we expected something more interesting than this. Freed from the constraints of the allegedly bullish retromania of Gallagher junior, and talking up his forthcoming psychedelic long-player with the amazingly ridiculously monikered Amorphous Androgynous (a collaboration with former members of Future Sounds of London), there was an ember of hope that Noel had put the turgid ghost of latter day Oasis to rest, and was about to enter a Paul Weller style Indian summer career-wise. Instead, he decided to go down the merely pleasant route. What a bummer.
Merely pleasant is the key descriptor for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Taken together, these songs will not offend anyone’s ears, which is an admitted improvement of sorts on plenty of the overheated mulch that Oasis have put their names to since What’s the Story? (Morning Glory). Indeed, the songs will (and already have in the case of ‘The Death of You and Me’) drift quite naturally out of daytime radio in an (amorphous?) anonymous sort of way.
Apart from one song, which we’ll get to in a minute, any sense of experimentation on this album is purely cosmetic either through tacked-on instruments, a dixieland trumpet added here, a musical saw there, or through cod-psychedelic song titles and lyrics – ‘(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine’, anyone? This is nothing new from Noel Gallagher. He’s been at this stuff since the monstrously embarrassing ‘Been Around The World’. Only now, that there is less cocaine involved, he can do it more tastefully.
The question must therefore be begged, does Noel Gallagher need collaborators to bring out the best in him? To dis-inhibit that little part of his brain that tells him to play it safe? Nothing after his former band’s classic and truly monumental first album has sounded more exciting than ‘Setting Sun’ his second collaboration with the Chemical Brothers, a strange and monolithic record that readers are urged to re-familiarise themselves with right now. If the above is the case, then maybe all is not lost as the Amorphous Androgynous album drops soon. Perhaps the High Flying Birds material is an attempt to placate the traditionalists before the real freakshow drops?
As for that one song? Well, it’s not going to set the world alight, but it stands head and shoulders above everything else on Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. It’s called ‘AKA…What a Life’ and it consists of Noel singing about his past in an oddly detached fashion over a rolling Madchester dance melody, which is perhaps a nod to his past as a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets. If there was more of this sort of progression, and less of the Noel-by-numbers-plus-trombones stuff, then High Flying Birds would have generated some genuine excitement. Instead, it has generated some daytime airplay and a few pleasant hum-a-longs. The end of term score sheet is therefore marked: ‘Noel is a witty student who talks up his big talent, but shows a lack of imagination and must try harder in practice’.