Essential Listening features often try to introduce you to acts who may have flown under the radar, or come from a more niche genre and background and if you really need an introduction to Noel Gallagher, then I suggest you may have roughly 25 years of British popular culture to catch up on. If you’ve not got the time to read around football, Britpop, the Royals and Brexit, then I’ll bring you up to speed on the music. Here, we’re looking at the solo exploits of Liam Gallagher’s older brother. The animosity between the siblings divides opinion, with most people coming down on the side of one or the other. It’s an argument you’re simply never going to win. So, I won’t try to. Instead I’ll look back through five of the best from Oasis’ little big brother.
In the Heat of the Moment
The quintessential Noel Gallagher tune. A raucous chorus, and enough lyrics about God and other ethereal beings to keep things interesting. This was the lead single from 2015’s album “Chasing Yesterday.” It may not have been written at all were it not for Noel being inspired by a documentary in which an astronaut compared going into space to “touching the face of God.” The result is uplifting yet subtle, exactly the sort of track to usher in summertime festival singalongs. Is there anybody else who can get a crowd singing “na,na,na,na,na,nana,na,na,na,na,na” so passionately? I think not.
AKA What a Life
The second single from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ eponymous debut album. The record saw Noel reunite with Dave Sardy, as Noel lifted the tempo from the album’s lead single. His voice sounded better than it had in years, striding across rolling percussions and the shred of electric guitars. Noel’s songwriting has never been in doubt, but vocally this was an enormous return to form.
It first aired as part of a Vauxhall advert which featured members England’s 2012 football squad. Fortunately, the record was rather more successful than that particular vintage of England players.
Let Forever Be (Featuring the Chemical Brothers)
This is the one pick on the list which is entirely self-indulgent. A rare collaboration with dance music icons the Chemical Brothers saw Noel move his songwriting and vocal talents outside of their comfort zones. The result is messy and distorted, but absolutely exhilarating. This might not have been everyone’s cup of tea, but with the highly anticipated and sadly abandoned Amorphous Androgynous project. It would’ve been great to see Noel spread his psychedelic wings further, but this taster will do nicely for now.
High Flying Birds’ third album is perhaps the closest we’ll get to such a psychedelic trip. The album saw Chris Sharrock and Gem Archer reunited as band members, and their effect was immediately noticeable. This was a departure from their earlier work, the band leaning on Primal Scream, synths and glam rock like never before. The whole album is vivid, but Holy Mountain speeds off into this new direction. It’s been a particular favourite in recent live shows, breaking up some of Noel’s more considered records with a more abrasive style of rock and roll.
If I Had a Gun
The jewel in the crown of High Flying Bird’s self-titled debut album. It may be slightly mawkish and the video over-indulgent (forming one third of a three-part scene throughout the album) but the record is surely up there with anything Noel has ever written. The chords and the composition are familiar, but years of honing his sound paid off. The song was originally passed over for the role of lead single, as Noel was uneasy with the comparisons with his previous work. It first surfaced during a soundcheck during Oasis’ 2009 tour, but Liam wasn’t a fan.
And to think, I was so close to writing this piece without mentioning Oasis.
Noel Gallagher and his band High Flying Birds will be taking on a special homecoming show in Manchester's Heaton Park on Friday 7th June.
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