To Die By Your Side

Keep on chasing down that rainbow

November 5th, 2011

So seeing as he’s featured in my most listened artists for the last few weeks, I thought I’d say a little bit more about Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds. Not that I’m under any impression that anything I write will change the opinion you already have. If you hated Oasis, you’re unlikely to have a road to Damascus moment here. While if you liked Oasis, it’s almost certain that you’ll enjoy this record. You see, Noel Gallagher hasn’t exactly reinvented the wheel here. There are no wild shocks, no unexpected musical tangents taken, no dubstep mid eights. What there are however, are 10 good, solidly reliable songs and sometimes, that’s all you need from an album.

That’s not to say that the album is basically Oasis 2.0. As with Beady Eye, Noel’s taken the blueprint and played around with it a little. Granted, while you can virtually connect the dots from all the songs here to Oasis’ ‘The Importance Of Being Idle’ but thankfully, for the first time in years, Noel’s turned down the bombastic over produced guitars. What you end up with is a record that sounds far more palatable. One that doesn’t sound like you’re being constantly smacked around the head with a few Fenders. With the songs here being far more acoustic based, I’m reminded of the early Oasis b-sides that had everyone salivating at the idea of Noel one day recording a solo album. Okay, this might not live up to those early hopes and expectations but it certainly doesn’t disappoint.

Nor does it simply trot the same old sounds. Well, not quite anyway. While any one of these songs could easily be an Oasis track, there are some lovely little flourishes dotted around that demonstrate Noel’s musicianship and his attempts to do more than just bash out 3 rock and roll chords. The New Orleans brass at the end of first single ‘Death Of You And Me’, the almost dance feel of ‘AKA… What A Life’, the jazzy flourishes on ‘Dream On’ and the lack of guitar solos all hint at Gallagher Sr’s attempts to stretch himself beyond the boundaries that were previously in place. While he may not stretch himself too far, you do at least get the impression that he’s at least warming up.

So ultimately, what you have here is probably exactly what you’d expect to have here. While his lyrics still aren’t exactly offering any new insights on the human condition, he still has a firm grip on how to wrap them up in a catchy melody. The sound may not have changed drastically but importantly, the way he’s playing it has. There’s a subtlety demonstrated in the performances that was rarely ever shown before. Everything feels that bit more understated. Noel himself sounds far more relaxed. Calmer maybe.┬áIn less of a rush to bash out a song. While he may not have made the best album of the year, he’s made a really good one. Free of the shackles that his recent interviews would have us believe he felt confined by, he’s made a better and more enjoyable album than anything Oasis managed in their latter years.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – aka what a life (live acoustic session version) : original version available on ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

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