Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: Review

Noel Gallagher returns with his debut release, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, out on Sour Mash on October 17th.

The Chief has taken two years out since the end of Oasis and has put his time to good use, recording two albums; this, and the to-be-released next year follow up with Amorphous Androgynous.

It is rare that I’ll write a music review on Seldom Seen Kid these days, so please forgive my blatent self indulgence, just this once…

This could be the most important album that Noel has recorded since What’s The Story Morning Glory, not for himself, his past or even his future: it’s important for music to know that Noel Gallagher is still the standard by which all UK rock and roll should be measured.

There have been doubts, prompted by the more recent Oasis output, that Noel is, and was, a one-trick pony.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying birds will put to rest any claims that he had run out of gas.

The album is a 10 track exploration of Noel’s musical landscape.

There are songs, such as Stop The Clocks, which are more than ten years old that he recently admitted in an interview, didn’t fit with the constrains brought about by being in Oasis.

Stop The Clocks has been worth the wait, from the scratchy bootlegs that have lurked on the Internet, to this final full production, we’ve clamoured for it. It does not disappoint.

There are songs that show the mature Noel Gallagher that the media commentators choose to continue to ignore, but there are also instances where his playfulness shines through: this record is what every Noel Gallagher fan hoped it would be, and more.

It shows Noel heading in a less restricted direction, free to wander where he chooses, from the edge of acid house in AKA… What A life, to pomp and circumstance stadium rock on opener Everybody’s On The Run.

In Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks, Noel breaks into full Lennon/McCartney mode with brass and the most wonderfully crafted Beatles-borrowed melody – it’s a track that would sit quite neatly in the middle of Sgt. Pepper.

What’s so encouraging about the record is it’s diversity, each song leaves it’s own unique stamp on the LP and could be a single – there are no tracks that are filler here, each has their part to play.

From the brilliant, and long awaited (I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine, to the Force of Nature-esque (Stranded On) The Wrong Beach, each song is indicative of a man who’s been biding his time with a collection of songs that he’s been waiting to share with the world for years.

It’s a record that is full of hope and quietly placed optimism; it’s a fresh and re-invigorated Noel Gallagher that greets us here, a man who’s now on his own and presenting us with access to potential greatness once more.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds may just be the wake up call the British music industry needs: it’s a genuine record that is full of genuine vigour and an authenticity that is missing in rock and roll.

Going solo may not be what Noel Gallagher wanted, but it’s given him an opportunity to stretch his musicality and the result is a truly wonderful album that could, just maybe, take Noel to a level that will re-instate him alongside the likes of Neil Young and Bob Dylan.

Noel, it’s good to have you back.

Track List

Everybody’s On The Run
Dream On
If I Had A Gun…
The Death Of You And Me
(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine
AKA… What A Life!
Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks
AKA… Broken Arrow
(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach
Stop The Clocks

To get you going, here’s Alone On The Rope, a track that will not be appearing on the record, but is tipped to get a future standalone release:

Ok Go vs. Kasabian

I found myself in a little quandry today after I read this article in the NYT from the singer of Ok Go – Hat Tip to Marshall Manson for sharing.

In it, Damian Kulash Jr. explains how EMI stopped allowing videos by Ok Go from being embedded. Their view is that each viw of that video should be subject to a royalty payment, of which they will be entitled to a hefty chunk.

However, Damian explains that without the viralty of their self-financed video for Here It Goes Again (the one where the band are all on treadmills), they’d have a smaller fanbase and potentially not be where they are today.

You can guess my stance on this. I am fully in favour of Ok Go creating music, videos, imagery etc and giving it away for free, allowing their fans to distribute it on their behalf, without having to pay their record company a penny.

I am of the belief that the actual asset is a means to an end – in a band you want to play music live to people; the more people you can get to turn up at your shows the more money you’ll get paid. Record companies make very little money from each gig a band does, which is why they want to protect their product, the actual recorded artifact, as stringently as possible.

However, an article appeared in the NME last week where an interview with Tom Meighan from Kasabian essentially said that the Internet has killed the mystique of rock and roll.

Tom said:

“I think – especially in the last three or four years – the internet’s taken a stranglehold and killed off the myth of the rock star now. You know when you used to buy the records and there was the myth behind them? There’s too much on blogs now and I think it’s killed it off. Nobody’s surprised by an interview anymore or anything. It’s quite tragic.”

He also said blogging has taken away the spirit of rock ‘n roll’. He told Bang Showbiz: “There are so many rock stars writing these self pitying blogs and it’s not in the spirit of rock ‘n’ roll, it’s like ‘Wow, what rubbish’.”

And in parts, I agree with him.

I remember the first time I went to a gig (2000), I had no understanding of these mythical creatures that stood high up on the stage before me – I knew very little of their innermost thoughts other than what I’d read in the newspapers, and I put no consideration into the actual act of putting on the show. It was amazing.

Now I can garner every single piece of information i’ve ever wanted about a band from the Internet, and tied into my knowledge of how the ‘live product’ is delivered, the magic has disappeared and that to me is a great shame.

However, the Internet has changed the way that we consume media, and enabled us to get closer than before to our heroes. Had Noel Gallagher been writing a blog during that hectic 93-97 period, It would have made fascinating reading. We would also have got to see the other side of the tabloid circus that followed Oasis around at the height of Britpop.

It’s a double edged sword – do we want access to these guitar-playing demi-Gods, or do we want to be able to hold them up on an untouchable platform where there is just music and character?

I would rather have access and the ability to help show my support for an artist by sharing their music and videos with my friends who may in turn show up at a gig and soak up the full experience.

What can the record companies do then to stem the revenue flow that is going in the opposite direction?

They need to be savvier about the physical experience of buying a CD or a download, offer individual purchasers more ‘stuff’, be it additional tracks or artwork or exclusive merchandise. Record companies need to engage with fans. Polydor have a pretty good Twitter stream. It’s not great, but it’s a step in the right direction.

So can record companies become more personal?

What about offering their Twitter followers discounted downloads, or what about offering their followers the chance to hang out back stage – that cementation of the band/fan relationship will of course lead to more sales.

Whatever they do, they’ve got to realise that control of music and video is over and in the fans hands, if they don’t more and more artists will simply do it themselves and then the record companies will have no music to sell at all.

Bad Lieutenant and Oasis

Bad Lieutenant is the brainchild of former New Order/Joy Division/Warsaw singer and guitarist Bernard Sumner. Following New Order’s apparant split, Bernard has drafted in Phil Cunningham, he too of New Order, and some others to form a new group. Their single Sink or Swim, can currently be downloaded for free from their website Badlieutenant.net

Surely this should be on CBM? Perhaps. But what I like about this is that the band have already got a Twitter account and an active Facebook group. They’ve not gigged yet, but they are using Twitter and Facebook to spread the word about their music, as well as the ineviteable Myspace page.

Now, this may well of course be down to the record company’s insistence, but it demonstrates the importance of these platforms when reaching out to new audiences, be it from a band or a brand. Indeed, Bernard is blogging on the Myspace site to give fans an insight to the inner workings of the group.

Now, the announcement from Noel Gallagher that he was leaving Oasis came too from a ‘blog’, albeit a website based platform. The statement did not come through a traditional press release, it was a few words on the Oasis website, which shows how the power of reaching millions instantly is much more important in some circumstances than reaching millions over the course of a few days.

Again, as we all know, that is what the Internet does best, giving us instantaneous delivery of information, whether you’re a musician, a banker or a mobile phone operator, and is an effect a press release can never hope to achieve.