I still want him to be brilliant...
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

In messy divorces, the ensuing battle over custody and alimony can be spiteful and bitter, and is usually at the expense of those caught in the middle. Paul McCartney, for example, forked out £25million to get that Heather Mills out of his life. Noel Gallagher, it would seem, lost out to truculent little brother Liam in the post-Oasis feud as to who was entitled to the electric guitars - and guitarists. ‘High Flying Birds’ is a decidedly acoustic affair, but disappointingly, despite Noel’s frequent advocation of Neil Young’s genius, it’s nowhere near as introspective or penetrating as old Shakey. More frustratingly, this isn’t Noel sitting on a bar stool strumming pastoral ‘Talk Tonight’-like musings; it’s him rehashing ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’ (literally the worst Oasis single) over and over. To be fair though, upon announcing his intentions for the year ahead, Noel had all but apologised in advance for the overshadowing Oasis-isms of this album, noting that all the tracks were remnants left over from those intended for the group to tackle. So, ‘Idle’-ness aside, what else can you expect?

Unsurprisingly, it’s the numbers that are least like the aforementioned single that are most satisfying, musically anyway. The trippy orchestral crescendo that heralds opener ‘Everybody’s On The Run’ gives way to a delicious low-end McCartney bassline, while Noel’s urgings to “hang in there” and “hold on” are saved from triteness by sweeping strings. ‘AKA...What A ’Life, as heard on the recent Vauxhall ads, is great: driving drums, hypnotic piano and sinister Moog-like atmospherics are carried by Noel’s reverb-laden melodies, and injects a bit of well-needed energy into the middle of the album.

Lyrically, there are interesting ruminations on the trappings of fame (‘(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine’) and his troubled mind (‘Broken Arrow’), while the album is all the better for losing some of the bravado Noel hid behind while writing for Liam - but there are admittedly some clunkers (namely, the ‘gun/sun’, ‘moon/room’ rhymes of ‘If I Had A Gun...’ and the shameless Kinks replica, ‘Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks’).

I hate slagging off Noel Gallagher - partly because he can be an easy target, partly because it’s been done so often before - but mostly because he’s still The Guvnor, and I still want him to be brilliant. This isn’t, so all my hopes are pinned on next year’s Amorphous Androgynous collab blowing my mind. Please!



Follow Clash: