Self-titled debut albums are usually shorter than Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds debut, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. They also need a hyphen, but that is neither here nor there. Both Gallagher brothers were expectantly busy following the bust-up of Oasis. One chummed it up on chat shows while the other got to work with a less successful group which thrived in the fallout of Dig Out Your Soul. Oasis was never quite flying high, and Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds shows as much, for the consistencies found on this debut piece were locked away like a prison-clad martyr, never to be shown again after a stint in the spotlight.
For the real tragedy is not where we go but what we had when Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds first dropped this record. Two tracks stand out most of all, opener Everybody’s On The Run and sixth track AKA… What a Life!. Both were rooted in a place of formidable desire and they see Gallagher, clearly influenced by the acoustic barrage of which Oasis had their heyday, move on. He moved on quicker than Liam, although not sonically, as Dream On provides evidence of that post-Oasis hang-up. Yet there are only so many chords on a guitar, less so for Mancunians. Gallagher finds the same strings of Wonderwall in the etchings of tambourine clad If I Had A Gun… a necessary hook to the glory days. One of many. But when Noel shakes off those flickers of Gallagher on Gallagher, as he does on The Death of You and Me, a surprising and dutiful reinvention of honesty and whining guitars, it settles well.
Much of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds does. He is no troubadour, but the hollowed-out vessel of jazz that closes up The Death of You and Me moves Gallagher toward a comfortable new spot, vaguely close to where he benefits best but in a territory that seems quite new to him. He may want to live inside of his record machine, and although the closed-up claustrophobia is deafened by strings, Gallagher comes close to hitting on charming, essential moments that would soon be shed by the commercially viable bigshot. In a state of caffeine-induced fear of inertia, it could be seen that listening to Gallagher’s High Flying Birds debut is an act of rebellion. It is more because of heirlooms gifted by living relatives, mainly some CDs in the back of a box from a father whose pivot to trance music leaves no room for Noel, meaning the shelves need decluttering. This is one of them, but also AKA… What A Life!, a nostalgic tool successfully firing through, is one of the finest tracks either Gallagher has mounted.
Despite that, Noel’s writing qualities and consistencies are still up for debate. Do you know how difficult it is when the lines of a Word document flash up blue so often, a warning sign of an elusive hyphen? Noel Gallagher does that to you. Does it to me. Everyone. Grammarly has a field day in the editing process, but at least Noel and his high-flying chums find good ground to work from here. There is a youthful spirit to Tory Boy Noel, rather than the diminished and jutting thuds of his later works. His vocal work here is powerful, strangely in tune with a direction that suits him and his new band. What promising times they were when some had just entered secondary school, while others began contemplating shaving what was left of their Ian Brown haircut for fear of receding. Brutally satisfying in places. What could have been, and hanging onto every word of Everybody’s On The Run is a bittersweet experience even now.