Throughout the 15-year existence of Oasis, it was widely assumed that Noel Gallagher was the group’s mastermind—he wrote the songs, shaped the band’s look and sound, and determined the proper level of collective on-stage inebriation. But judging from his self-titled debut as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the closest Oasis came to replicating the music in Gallagher’s head was on stately B-sides like “Talk Tonight” and “Flashbax” and the more contemplative parts of 2000’s post-glory years LP, Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants. On his own, Gallagher fancies himself a gentleman tunesmith, goosing Burt Bacharach-style pop bounciness with strings, choirs, and a little (but only a little) classic-rock bombast.
It goes without saying that the songwriting on Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is much sharper than what his former Oasis bandmates (including brother Liam) mustered on Beady Eye’s 2011 release Different Gear Still Speeding. “If I Had A Gun…” starts with plaintive guitar strumming before exploding into one of Gallagher’s patented lighter-waving anthems, but much of High Flying Birds is concerned with more understated charms, like the sloppy, good-time horn section and boozy vibe of “The Death Of You And Me” and the heartfelt balladry of “Everybody’s On The Run.” Gallagher is still a lazy lyricist, and lunges into sing-songy self-parody on “(I Wanna Live A Dream In My) Record Machine.” But on songs like the pounding “Dream On,” he offers his strongest material in years with an appealing lightness that’s lacking in Oasis’ wall-of-sound productions.
All that’s missing is the shot of snotty energy that Liam Gallagher used to bring to his brother’s music. Different Gear Still Speeding might lack for songs, but Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds could stand to rock a little harder. (The album’s fastest song, “AKA … What A Life!” is also the weakest.) It’s as if the best parts of both records would sound better if they were together or something.