Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds 4/5 Carping about the lack of adventurousness on this album is rather like whingeing about there being no cheese in a fishmongers. Noel Gallagher is an unapologetic traditionalist in thrall to the classic rock canon; after all, this is the man who in 2008 said that rap had no place at Glastonbury. Noel likes guitars; he likes verses, choruses and bridges fitted together in a non-poncified fashion; he likes songs swollen with the kind of bruiser’s tenderness that would work equally well on the terraces as in enormodomes. And he’s not half bad at writing them.
Flying solo is not such a risky business. Noel knows his way around a pop song and won’t go begging for an audience, so the fact he’s taken few chances is disappointing, if not at all surprising. These 10 tunes opt for a vaguely psychedelic drama, a West Coast ruefulness and bittersweet melancholia, expressed in Kinks-y melodies with reverb, great swathes of strings and a backing choir. The spectre of Oasis is most audible in ‘AKA… Broken Arrow’, but then it’s hard to shrug off your own shadow.
Noel’s voice is less honking than it has been, warmed by Dave Sardy’s rich production, but he’s still no Scott Walker. And the rhyming-dictionary banality of his lyrics (ceiling/feeling, glory/story) still appals. But there are moments of button-pushing potency here. Opener ‘Everybody’s on the Run’ has sexy orchestral heft, although given its reliance on Fleetwood Mac’s ‘Big Love’ it can hardly fail. ‘AKA… What a Life’ has grit and drive to go, while ‘The Death of You and Me’ is a cute vaudeville take on ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’. It’s… not bad. It’s Noel Gallagher. What were you expecting?