When Liam Gallagher released Beady Eye’s debut Different Gear, Still Speeding earlier this year, he seemed to reclaim the cocky rock star energy of the first few Oasis albums. If Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is any indication, all the older Gallagher got in the divorce was the meandering weariness of the last few Oasis albums. Anyone looking for a whip smart comeback to Beady Eye will be disappointed: Noel doesn’t get into a musical pissing match with his brother, despite the presence of such song titles as “The Death of You and Me” and “If I Had A Gun” (this last not—alas—a bitchy put-down directed at Liam, but a “Wonderwall”-style love song).
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds self-titled debut album is not a statement of artistic rebirth. It’s business as usual, hewing closely to the texture of the Oasis albums like Dig Out Your Soul and Don’t Believe The Truth. Perhaps that’s to be expected: Oasis was Noel’s baby, and as main songwriter and producer, he pretty much set the tone. The upshot is that most of the songs on High Flying Birds sound like they were written for Liam to sing. Liam has always been a better interpreter of Noel’s songs than Noel himself, able to convey the emotion behind even the laziest of his brother’s lyrics. Liam could deliver lines like “If I had a gun, I’d shoot a hole into the sun/and love would burn this city down for you” and make it sound kind of touching—as if a football hooligan were mangling clichés in an effort to express his feelings to his girlfriend. But Noel can’t quite pull it off. His voice is fine for backup singing, or the occasional ballad, but it lacks the inherent drama a lead singer needs to be effective. In his hands, the above lyrics sound awkward and tossed off, as if he couldn’t be bothered to write better ones.
Noel still has a gift for melody, and High Flying Birds offers its share of catchy pop hooks. But there’s nothing urgent here: this is music by a craftsman who mastered his formula years ago. Unfortunately, that formula requires the participation of his kid brother. If he wants to fly solo, Noel Gallagher needs to come up with something new.
(This review originally appeared at vivoscene.com)