Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds marks the most inspired, complex and aesthetic piece of music by Noel Gallagher since What’s the Story (Morning Glory). It begins with ‘Everybody’s on the Run,’ a cinematic track featuring a 100-piece choir, a 24-piece orchestra and some of Noel’s most emotive lyrics. The state of freedom portrayed is echoed in of ‘AKA… What A Life!’ and ‘(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine,’ showing perfectly the power that could be projected from one man’s musical mind.
The first three singles, ‘The Death of You and Me,’ ‘AKA… What A Life!’ and ‘If I Had A Gun’ are joined by a cross-song music video. ‘The Death of You and Me’ is jazz-infused and built with the same bricks as ‘The Importance of Being Idle.’ ‘If I Had A Gun’ was supposed to be the first single, but, instead, Noel wanted to come back with a “whisper, not a bang.” It’s a song you’d expect from Noel, but instead of it being repetitive, it is beyond beautiful. A grown up ‘Talk Tonight’ with lyrics like “Give you back the dream / I’d show you, now, what might have been / If all the tears you cry would fade away,” presented is the much-loved depth and emotion of Noel’s song writing.
My least favourite song on the album is ‘Dream On’; even Noel described it as “pop for pop’s sake.” It does, however, raise the idea of a sly dig at Liam Gallagher; the chorus blasts “Is that the songbird singing?”: ‘Songbird,’ of course, being one of the only Oasis singles written by Liam. This probably is just a conspiracy, but it’s a curious one.
The other songs are ‘Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks,’ ‘AKA… Broken Arrow’ and ‘(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach.’ These songs aren’t spectacular in any obvious way, but they do contain some of the best choruses on the album. They lead wonderfully into ‘Stop the Clocks,’ a song from which nothing could follow on from. The ending riff, symbolising the rewinding of the album, perfects the entire song. This spectacular finale juxtaposes the controlled but uncontrollable, the wild but respectable, and the modest but epic to create a finale that we all must applaud. It ends similarly to ‘The Masterplan’ with the exhausted numbness which surfaces after the finishing of true art.
For years, Noel Gallagher had been swaying away from the anthems he mastered circa Definitely Maybe and What’s the Story (Morning Glory), leading him to create this bold and brassy sound. It had found its way as lukewarm elements onto later Oasis albums, but only by going solo could Noel fully devote his talent to this. Noel Gallagher needed to escape to nurture these ideas, until a point was reached, two years following the devastating but inevitable split of Oasis, where he could allow these songs to leave the nest as high flying birds.
Words by Caitlin O’Connor