Noel Gallagher has kept busy in the last year, even making appearances with former rival Damon Albarn on not only a Gorillaz’ record but tour as well. Never without something going on, Noel’s latest record with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is immediately gripping even after all his time between records. A sonic powerhouse of a record, there’s always something amazing to grab your ears. Even with some less dynamic writing at times, the record is Noel at his distorted best.
Through roaring distortion and echo that might remind Oasis fans of “Morning Glory,” “Fort Knox” quickly drops into a heavy hip hop beat and brings exotic majesty in its unorthodox strings and massive wall of sound. The screaming vocal work and sonic barrage is a powerful and stirring opening, while Noel’s chanting brings in the right touch of pop. Sweeping into a brass fanfare, “Holy Mountain” carries the same sonic grit and immense energy while switching to much more uppity pop writing. In the wave of this loud opening, you can hear just how much Noel’s mastery of sound is, regardless of the tone of the song.
While this sound is invigorating and a true standout of the album, it does feel like it might compensating for slightly derivative writing on tracks like “Keep on Reaching.” This said, Noel’s energy and the utter grime of the keyboards here is enough to give the track an extra heft as well. “It’s A Beautiful World” however starts to show the true wonder of the record, as Noel blends electronica and rock together for a mystifying track. Inherently repetitive, it becomes a much more rewarding track on repeat listens.
“She Taught Me How To Fly” brings his pop to a more ethereal place, never falling into something too predictable and letting his entrancing use of effects guide the writing appropriately. This said, the lack of a true edge in the song makes its extended run-time feel a little long. Riding its groove with a hint of “Come Together,” there’s a suave drive to “Be Careful What You Wish For.” Absolutely hypnotic in its bridge, a wave of white noise hits while vocals and keyboards dance under it.
There’s an immediately intoxicating rush to “Black and White Sunshine” that really hits the mark on everything Noel does write in his writing. The glistening guitars and constantly moving undertones of the song make for an exciting listen every time. While enveloping in its sound, “Interlude (Wednesday Part 1)” doesn’t altogether stand on its own very well, and unfortunately feels a bit out of place even as a connecting tissue between tracks.
Without any hesitation, the uplifting chords and sleigh bells of “If Love Is The Law” are delightfully happy for Noel’s writing, making it easy to get lost in its cheery emotions. Even in its simple writing, the swirling sound-work makes the whole track a journey one way or the other. Saving one of the album’s most grungy tracks for the finale, “The Man Who Built The Moon” is howling from its opening notes bringing demented strings and a haunting tone to an already overpowering track. Showcasing some of his most clever lyricism and song writing, it’s a shame how songs like this can make others on the record look poor by comparison. Like its sister track “End Credits (Wednesday Part 2)” does feel a tad out of place in the record. It does however earn its place with the goose bump inducing keyboard solo it slides right in its final moments.
With records out by both Liam and Noel this year, it’s all the better for Oasis fans that both of them are a great listen. As to which album is best will really come down to your preferences in the writing and production. Noel’s music is a sonic marvel, experimental at times and elevating simple pop to something more at others. Liam’s writing on the other hand is deeply satisfying, and while less dense production wise, offers a strong emotional payoff. Regardless of which one excites you most, Noel has really made something worthwhile with this record.
Words by Owen Maxwell