Review Summary: The elder Gallagher takes round one.
Noel Gallagher's come in for some harsh treatment over the past decade or so. It's no secret that his output hasn't exactly matched the standards he set himself in the mid-nineties, when he banged out classic songs almost at will, equally it's not been the creative drought many have claimed. The final two Oasis albums, Don't Believe The Truth and Dig Out Your Soul were probably their best since the height of cool Britannia, and even their lowest trough, 2003's Heathen Chemistry contained at least three brilliant reminders of the songwriter-in-chief's genius within the field. That ceaseless ability to produce classic singles meant that even the band's least inspired albums weren't without their worth, and also means that this solo debut - his first move since the band's sticky demise - is the first time in quite a while that Gallagher senior has actually had a point to prove.
A Noel solo album has been at the boil for quite a while now, something that you can tell through merely glancing at the tracklist. Many of it's songs have been in circulation on Oasis forums for years now, with 'Stop The Clocks' especially known to date back at least a decade. As you'd expect from numbers composed while part of the band, these songs do closely resemble those that Noel penned while in the Oasis, but that's no bad thing. 'If I Had A Gun...' is a prime example of this, covering familiar territory he's previously mastered with 'Half The World Away' and 'The Masterplan,' but is nevertheless so majestically written that it trumps both of them. It's a similar story with 'The Death Of You And Me,' which bears a striking resemblance to late period highlight 'The Importance Of Being Idle,' while other numbers like 'AKA...Broken Arrow' are uncannily similar to any number of the songs he wrote for Oasis.
This was nothing if not expected, yet there are also a select number of moments which represent relatively new ground for a man who is notorious for sticking to what he knows. The most obvious example is album centrepiece 'AKA...What A Life,' whose looping piano chords give it a glorious psychedelic edge the likes of which he's previously experimented with but never perfected to such a degree. The aforementioned 'Stop The Clocks' meanwhile arrives as one of the most ambitious pieces Noel has ever come up with, and while it hardly lives up to claims that it's the best song he's ever written it still acts as an excellent closer.
However, what sets Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds apart from the majority of his recent output is the level of consistency. Of the album's ten tracks, only one, 'Dream On,' feels at all uninspired, and even that is perfectly passable - it just shows nothing to lift itself beyond that level. This reliability is at odds with even the best post-millennium Oasis material, but as with any record he's involved with this solo debut holds a handful of simply outstanding songs which reaffirm his standing as arguably the most talented songwriter of his generation. What can't be disputed is that this is a towering solo debut, and one which proves a definitive point to those who doubted that he had the attributes to go it alone. At the very least, it ***s all over Beady Eye...