As lead guitarist and principal creative force behind Britpop heroes Oasis, Noel Gallagher appeared driven by inexhaustible idol worship. Unlike stylistically diverse contemporaries Pulp and Blur, Oasis seemed uniquely possessed to re-create the look and feel of Swinging London at the height of its grandeur. From their ’60s-style Beatles haircuts to their Stones-like debauchery to the might-as-well-be-the-Kinks brother-on-brother feuding between Noel and his brother, lead singer Liam, everything about Oasis seemed to be referencing some part of musical lore.
“Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds” represents an earnest attempt to broaden Gallagher’s sonic palette. Opening track “Everybody’s on the Run” features Eastern-style orchestration and atmospherics more reminiscent of Peter Gabriel than the British Invasion old guard. The melancholy, minor-key bounce of “Dream On” conjures fellow Beatle maniac Elliott Smith at his least maudlin and most accessible.
Gallagher hasn’t entirely shed his older influences — traces of psychedelia and Stones-style raunch crop up routinely — but these moments feel like part of an integrated vision, rather than overt acts of creative larceny. Not everything works — Gallagher isn’t a heavyweight lyricist, and a vexing penchant for cringe-inducing clunkers undermines more than one track.
Ultimately, Gallagher’s greatest talent remains in the sweeping, populist singalongs that made Oasis hits such as “Wonderwall” ubiquitous cultural fare. “(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine” transcends its ludicrous title, evolving from an acoustic lament into ambitious, swelling chamber pop pitched somewhere between Coldplay and Spiritualized. It’s a clever trick, one that weds Oasis’s Everyman appeal to Gallagher’s adventurous production choices. Singing his own songs, he’s never sounded more comfortable in his skin.
“Everybody’s on the Run,” “Dream On,” “(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine”