When Kurt Cobain died of a drug overdose in 1994, the music world was almost immediately given a new savior in Noel Gallagher. He and his brother, Liam, brought music directly inspired by the nihilistic energy of grunge and the psychedelic elements of the Beatles into the world. They had created a monster – their band, Oasis, became the biggest musical act in the world. The only thing larger was Noel’s subsequent ego.
Noel wrote all the music and lyrics for Oasis, while he and his brother shared lead singing duties. He brought a clean, highly developed sense of melody which contrasted nicely to Liam’s snarl. The only thing as combative as their approaches to delivery was their personal relationship.
Two albums later, Oasis suffered a drug-related death as well. Instead of killing a member of the group, however, drugs killed what had made Oasis great. For nearly a decade, the brothers made uninspired albums while cycling through bandmates at an unheard-of rate.
By 2009, however, the band had returned to form. Just as their seventh album restored their credibility, the band fell apart as Noel declared he could no longer stand to work with his brother.
Now, Gallagher has released his debut solo album, self-titled under his solo monicker, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Newly unburdened by the need to please anyone but himself, Gallagher clearly created this album in just the manner that he wanted.
As such, the songwriting is immediately reminiscent of mid-90s Oasis, when the group was at their commercial and creative peak. Lead singles “If I Had a Gun” and “The Death of You and Me” are particularly poignant and catchy, yet retain all of the integrity absent from middling Oasis albums.
It is simultaneously simpler and more diverse than the orchestral and overblown efforts that he has been criticized for. Orchestral arrangements are present, but they never overpower the simple chord-based melody that has been Gallagher’s trademark since his early days. The songs are made all the better by the fact that they could be played just as effectively by a full band as they could in a solo acoustic setting.
Critics of the album will point to the occasionally clich?d lyrics, Gallagher’s very British voice and the high expectations he always attaches to new creations. However, compared to Liam’s new band and the countless pseudo-Oasis clones that have clogged indie record stores since the late 2000s, this is a standout piece of work.
Without his brother and without pretension, Gallagher has delivered what is perhaps the best British album since the turn of the century.
4 stars out of 5