What’s a Punchout? It’s like mixed martial arts for pop culture: two reviewers battling over one film or book or musical release–and you get to decide who wins. Who wrote the better review? Whose opinion do you agree with? Scroll down to vote for the review you like best. Support your favorite reviewers, because we’ll be keeping score. And we want to know what you think: please comment and feel free to share on Facebook, Twitter, and Google+.
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Sour Mash Records
by Matt Gonzales (4-1-2)I didn’t get Oasis when the band exploded on the alt-rock scene with Definitely Maybe in 1994. From risibly stupid lyrics (“I’m feeling supersonic / give me gin and tonic”), to singer Liam Gallagher’s moronic deadpan preening, everything about Oasis ran counter to what I wanted out of rock music back then: self-awareness, ironic distance, and at least a modicum of subtlety, among other things.
These days, I’ve mellowed a bit, and I appreciate Oasis for what it was: a competent, if irrationally confident, Britpop band that at its best had an uncanny knack for swaggering Britpop anthems and radio-friendly, Lennon-lite ballads.
The brains behind Oasis belonged to lead guitarist and songwriter Noel Gallagher, who finally parted ways with his coattail-riding brother and the rest of the band in 2009. Two years later, he has released his debut solo record, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – the best collection of songs he has penned in years.
Lead track “Everybody’s On The Run” is the sound of Noel breaking loose from those rusty old Oasis shackles. It’s not the best song on the album by a long shot – it’s actually a bit corny on first listen – but it does a fine job of setting a thank-god-I’m-free tone. The album’s best tracks include the jaunty, Beatles-esque (surprise!) “Dream On,” and the effortlessly tuneful “The Death of You and Me.” Meanwhile, “If I Had a Gun” stands up with the very best songs in Oasis’s catalog.
Nothing here is particularly groundbreaking or even smart (see song titles “AKA…What a Life!” and “(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine”) but then again, Gallagher has always worn his anti-intellectualism like a badge of honor. If nothing else, Gallagher deserves the benefit of the doubt based on his recent emergence as a folk hero of sorts in England, where he regularly delights Brits with crowd-pleasing bon mots like this one. Supersonic indeed.
by Chris Overpeck (1-3-1)Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds starts off with a few seconds of dead air and a cough in the background. The idea is to make the listener think that these recording sessions were so laid back that there was no need to remove this errant background noise. This happens before launching into the most overblown and over-produced album on the track. “Everybody’s on the Run” is replete with a full string section (maybe the cough came from one of them) and a ridiculous vocal delay that punishes the listener by making us hear each awful lyric not once, but twice per listen.
It does get better, but only a little. “If I Had a Gun” is the closest Noel comes to the old Oasis grandeur and, while it’s a highlight on this album, it doesn’t come close to any of their old classics. If you were paying attention (and nobody could fault you if you weren’t), Oasis were on a steady decline since the mid- to late-nineties and by the end, they were releasing some seriously bad albums. High Flying Birds is ultimately just an extension of that decline. It feels very much like half (you know, minus Liam) of a terrible Oasis album. It is worth pointing out that Gem Archer and Andy Bell, both former members of Oasis, opted to follow Liam in his solo venture, Beady Eyes. Most people assume that Noel was the saner brother, but this detail makes you wonder.
You don’t have to look much further than the track list to get a gauge on this album. “AKA… What a Life!” and “AKA… Broken Arrow” are the worst offenders. This “also known as” business is as phony as the accidental cough. I suppose we’re meant to believe that these songs previously had other titles and Noel was too lazy to officially change them, thus making the “AKA” necessary. It all smacks of false cool (or laziness), and it’s especially ridiculous given the excessive production. Even if you’re an Oasis completist, this album isn’t worth your time.