- - Monday, November 7, 2011

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds

Sour Mash

★★★1/2


Eight musicians cycled their way through Oasis’ lineup, but the band was always the product of its two most famous members. Liam Gallagher was the mouthy frontman, the physical embodiment of the swaggering, revved-up rock songs that earned the band its cocksure image. Brother Noel was the pop craftsman, responsible for balancing his sibling’s wilder instincts with structured songwriting and clever, Beatles-esque melodies.

The two clashed often, but it was the conflict between Liam’s untamed yin and Noel’s disciplined yang that made Oasis work. When the band split up in 2009, the Gallaghers took their contrasting approaches with them. Liam funneled his love for roaring, retro rock ‘n’ roll into Beady Eye, while Noel - acting with typical self-control - laid low for nearly two years before announcing plans for his well-mannered solo debut, “Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.”

Left to his own devices, the elder Mr. Gallagher turns down the volume knob on his electric guitar and delivers gem after gem of lush, pretty pop-rock. Orchestral strings weave their way through the mix, and “Sgt. Pepper”-influenced horns pop up several times, ratcheting up the Fab Four allusions during songs such as “The Death of You and Me.” Some songs bounce along with the cadence of a marching band; others amble through a psychedelic haze like lost tunes from the ‘60s.

Most of the music jogs along at a midtempo pace, leaving the heavy sprinting to Beady Eye. As a result, “High Flying Birds” never manages to break a sweat. Even so, this is still the same guy who wrote “Live Forever” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger” - two ballads that always felt more like arena-rock anthems - and the new songs occupy similar territory, packing a heavy punch without sounding like they’re trying too hard.

Oasis’ breakup was a messy one, but if there’s a chip on Mr. Gallagher’s shoulder, it doesn’t show. “High Flying Birds” never tries to beat Beady Eye at its own game. Instead, it dials down the guitar histrionics, focuses on Mr. Gallagher’s voice - a perfectly fine baritone that’s less distinctive than Liam’s scratchy wail, perhaps, but also less nasal - and on melodies that have real heft.

The brawling Gallagher brothers are still equally matched. One sibling rocks; the other croons. Liam may have beaten Noel to the punch since Beady Eye’s debut album was released months ago, accompanied by the first major tour by any Oasis alum - but “High Flying Birds” hits back with equal force, proof that this boxing match is still anyone’s game.

Crazy Clown Time

David Lynch

PIAS

★★★

Long before the release of this solo debut, David Lynch had a hand in the music that filled his films and TV shows, working alongside composer Angelo Badalamenti to develop a spooky, “Lynchian” sound that echoed his distinctive visual sensibility. Even so, he’s never thrown himself into songwriting as completely as he does here, handling all the vocal and instrumental duties himself - aside from Karen O’s guest performance on “Pinky’s Dream” - and diving headfirst into a brainy mix of electronica, synth-pop and left-field mood music.

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