Best tunes of 2011: #12 Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds “The death of you and me”

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One of the earliest posts on my old blog, Music Insanity, was some initial thoughts on this tune, “The death of you and me.” It was the first single off Noel Gallagher’s first album of recorded material that wasn’t released under the Oasis name. And I was pretty excited because, as I wrote at the time, my first thought after hearing that he was leaving Oasis was: “God, I hope he releases some solo material!”

As great a frontman as his younger brother Liam was and is, I was always certain that Noel was the more talented of the Gallagher siblings. He was definitely the more gifted as a songwriter and I would argue that he has a better voice. It’s not for no reason that of all Oasis’s songs, I always preferred the ones on which Noel took the microphone for himself (“The masterpiece”, “Don’t look back in anger”). Don’t get me wrong. Liam has a great voice and he certainly had the stance and the swagger down but Noel didn’t need any of that.

A few months before the release of “The death of you and me”, the leftovers of Oasis had released their own first collection of new material without Noel under the moniker, Beady Eye. And although there were some good songs on “Different gear, still speeding” (e.g., “The roller” and “The beat goes on”), I will admit that I was a bit disappointed with their album. As my friend Andrew Rodriguez so eloquently put it, at the album’s best parts “they simply sound like Oasis”. It was as if they changed their name just to signify a break from their Oasis past but in reality, were still so deeply mired in it. Beady Eye would go on to release another album (and another disappointment) before calling it quits in 2014.

Liam finally hit the mark with a solo album, “As you were”, in 2017 but Noel Gallagher, on the other hand, hasn’t ever really looked back, just continued doing his thing with his new band The High Flying Birds. I remember seeing Noel and the band perform live in 2016, the set a mixture of his solo work off the group’s first two records and some of the songs he wrote in the Oasis days, having the whole crowd in his hands, and me thinking to myself, “It doesn’t at all look like he needs an Oasis reunion”.

And well, “The death of you and me” is the single that started it off. There’s no mistaking that it’s Noel but it doesn’t sound like an Oasis re-hash. Yes, some of the Oasis hallmarks are there (the violin backing and the anthemic chorus) but he has infused a carnival/sideshow theme into the song (also reflected in the video) that would have never appeared on an Oasis album. The song is also instantly likeable, something lacking in many of the songs on the Beady Eye albums and also on much of Oasis’s later material. I guess what I’m saying is that if I were to compare: I’d say it sounds more “What’s the story” than “Dig out your soul”. As a lead off single, “The death of you and me” definitely did its job. After hearing it, I was looking forward to the rest of the self-titled album and thankfully, it didn’t disappoint.

For the rest of the Best tunes of 2011 list, click here.

Live music galleries: Virgin Festival Toronto [2008]

(I got the idea for this series while sifting through the ‘piles’ of digital photos on my laptop. It occurred to me to share some of these great pics from some of my favourite concert sets from time to time. Like my ‘Vinyl love’ series, these posts will be more photos than words* but that doesn’t mean I won’t welcome your thoughts and comments. And of course, until I get around to the next one, I invite you to peruse my ever-growing list of concerts of page.)

Early crowds at V Fest day two

Artists: The Weakerthans, Stereophonics, Paul Weller, and Oasis
When: September 7th, 2008 (day two)
Where: Main Stage, Virgin Festival, Toronto Island, Toronto
Context: In the introductory post to my Best albums of 2008 list that I am in the midst of counting down, I made mention of the fact that Toronto’s Virgin Fest of that year was the first time I ever attended a multi-day music festival. It was the third year being held on Toronto’s Island over a two-day weekend in early September, the same weekend as Montreal’s Osheaga so as to share bands amongst them. (Incidentally, the following year, where it was moved off the island to a location north of Toronto and Osheaga moved its festivities to the first weekend in August, was Virgin Fest’s final year in Canada.)

I attended both days with my friend Mark and his friend Denise and Victoria joined us for the second day. The photos here are all from the second day because Victoria had the foresight to document the fun for future reference. I didn’t think of it myself and so you’re missing shots of Airborne Toxic Event, Spiritualized, The Fratellis, Bloc Party, and multiple trips to the Baccardi bar for mojitos on day one. The lineup on the main stage for day two was good enough for us to plant roots there for the entire day and we caught The Weakerthans and Stereophonics from a comfy place on a picnic blanket. We had to pull it up around the time the crowd moved in for Paul Weller, at whom Victoria was surprised was so old.

Oasis was the headlining act that night, which was the sole reason I was able to convince Victoria to join us, and there were rumours going around that Paul Weller was going to come back onstage to perform a song or two with them. However, it was not to be because some idiot 40-something climbed up onstage during Oasis’s set and pushed Noel Gallagher from behind on to the stacks of monitors. I can’t say I saw it because Victoria and I were on our way back from a prime but very squashed spot near the front of the stage to a spot further back with more breathing room when the music abruptly stopped. There was confusion as to what actually happened amongst the people we asked around us and I only got the full picture the next day on YouTube.

The band eventually returned to the stage to finish what was likely a shortened set with Noel Gallagher being a trooper (with what he later learned was a few busted ribs) performing a couple songs solo and acoustic. It was a slight taint on what was an otherwise fantastic weekend and only whet my appetite for more outdoor music festivals.

Point of reference song: The shock of the lightning” by Oasis

Walking bushes at V Fest
A very tall lady at V Fest
The Weakerthans at V Fest
The Stereophonics at V Fest
More Stereophonics at V Fest
Crowds at dusk at V Fest
Paul Weller and his band at V Fest
Paul Weller at V Fest
Noel Gallagher of Oasis at V Fest
Liam Gallagher of Oasis striking a pose
Oasis at V Fest

*I will allow that many of these posts are getting wordier the more of them I post and this particular post is practically a novel…

Best albums of 2017: [Special honourable mention] Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds “Who built the moon?”

We interrupt our regularly scheduled programming for… something completely different.

On the morning of Friday November 24th, I posted the first in a series on the “Best albums of 2017” list I had been working on for the previous couple of weeks. Later that same day, I went to the record store to purchase “Who built the moon?”, the third album by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. It sometimes happens when putting these lists together that an album is released so late in the year, it doesn’t get its due because it hasn’t as much time out in the sun as other releases. Unfortunately, I was suspecting this might be the case with “Who built the moon?” because I’d been quite enamoured with all the advance singles. And on the second spin through on Friday night, I found myself agreeing with my friend, Andrew Rodriguez, that we needed to write something about the album.

So here it is, a special honourable mention. I won’t dare to conjecture where this might have sat on my list had it been released one month earlier and I won’t say much more right now than how fresh and energizing a record it is. Instead, I’ll just let Andrew Rodriguez do the talking. And you’ll notice the format is a bit different than the other posts in my “Best albums of 2017” series and that’s because he doesn’t he doesn’t take instruction well and I refused to cut and hack his words. However, this also means there might be some strong opinions (some of which I may or may not share) and some possibly offensive language. Enjoy.

Well, this is likely one of the most tardy reviews of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album, “Who Built the Moon?” I am writing this 19 days after the release (in Canada), 17 days after I first started writing this review – and countless days after atrocious, inaccurate, inapplicable, essentially lazy, wrong and just outright horrid reviews have been written elsewhere (I’m talking about the Guardian and NME). Why the tardiness? Well – I am a busy individual and MLIML is a busy place – and one with certain (high flying) standards.

John mentioned to me a couple of months ago that there was a single out – and a HFB album forthcoming. That single was “Holy Mountain”. I was immediately hooked. See, I have nearly from day one, been a fairly unabashed fan of Oasis, and really, all that they ‘stood’ for. Not a Kool-aid drinker, but a fan nonetheless. A fan of the whole package. Of course, Oasis are history now (in several ways). I mentioned being ‘immediately hooked’. The first time I heard “The Death of You and Me” from the debut HFB album – I was just that – hooked. It was so different. I have always had a very clear sense of what I like and what I don’t like. I am open to new things, and open to changing my mind – but on some level, I respond very decisively to new material. “Death of You and Me” hooked me instantly. And the album overall was excellent. The next HFB outing – it took a bit of time for me to warm to it. John and I had many conversations about that. While we live in different cities these days – we always keep in touch. So when John brought “Holy Mountain” to my attention – I watched the video. Over and then over again. I was hooked.

John alluded to how ‘energising’ the record is. And I agree. “Holy Mountain” – first listen.

Not nearly so ‘psych’ as ‘professional music critics’ would so lazily suggest. “Holy Mountain” has a great driving rythm. More uptempo than what fans are accustomed to. And when I am talking about fans – I am talking HFB fans. It has a gloriously Northern Soul-esque feel and tempo, which (having heard only the single not the whole album) I was uncertain of after the first listen – more on that in a moment. Unlike what ‘The Guardian’ had to say – it is not even remotely Slade-esque. I like Slade. NG likes Slade. NG is a shameless ripoff artist. This doesn’t sound a thing like Slade. Youtube comments “I love the flute player – so retro with his hair – like the Beatles”. It wasnt a flute. And the musician looks nothing like a Beatle. If anything – he looks like Clint Boon of the Inspiral Carpets – early 90s. Around when NG was a roadie for that band (which has been mentioned in these pages before should you wish to do some homework).

There are some guests on this album. Paul Weller (the Jam, the Style Council, solo) plays organ on the track. This is not the first time that NG and PW have worked together. Minus a lot of his later solo efforts, I am a lifelong PW fan. I will admit I didnt really pick up the organ sound on “Holy Mountain”. What I DID pick up on – NGs driving vocals, and – the Bass. The basslines in “Holy Mountain” are such that – well if they don’t make you at least tap your feet – then you should be in the emergency room – not reading this.

The next single to come out was “Fort Knox” – many have likened that to Primal Scream (admittedly, I am not overly familiar with them – I like a bit of their material – I thought it sounded a bit more like Stereo MCs).

Ultimately, who the fuck cares what something sounds like??? Other reviewers relish the opportunity to parade their Google driven knowledge of music and rub it in other peoples faces. I do not do that. MLIML doesn’t do that. These are the impressions of Andrew Rodriguez and if you are wise – you will just take them as such. “Fort Knox” starts out with a crescendo – it reminded me of an airshow – just a ‘ROOOOOOOOSH!’ – well after the twangy sort of guitar intro. Then, it keeps the tempo. It sounds like a song that you would really want to listen to on repeat if you are on Ecstasy (which I can’t condone but would not shout down either – you are adults). And in the absence of the chemicals, it – much like old hymns, spirituals and some classical music – CREATES A SENSE OF ECSTATIC EXPECTATION. Now – when i first heard this song I had not heard the album yet. Spoiler alert – “Fort Knox” is the opening track. As such – it is a BRILLIANT choice. HFB really put thought into the track order on the album. And this album has actually been in the works for almost 4 years. I’ve mentioned ‘tempo’ several times. But that is just it. Anyone who has listened to past HFB outings will know that they tend to be almost like movie soundtracks. NG has a very locked in view of what a listening experience should be. I think that is partially why he so openly and freely rips off other music – he is “I like that – I’ll nick that”. Why? Well, he loves music as much as we do. He realises what works and what doesn’t work and has an extremely high level of competency when it comes to assembling a bunch of songs and placing them in an order that essentially creates a cathartic experience. You don’t need the drugs. “Fort Knox” is hypnotising.

Next Single was “Its a Beautiful World”.

Now this one – I will admit – I was not as hooked on the first listen. John loved it. I have since come around. A little more pensive. Slightly slower tempo. But still purposeful. Sort of like the antidote to “The Ballad of the Mighty I”. The video may cause seizures in some viewers so be forewarned. The change in Noel’s pitch during the chorus – I find beautiful. Noel can hit high notes – and I remember years back thinking that they sound ‘strained’ – but if you listen closely – he doesn’t waver. Noel hits the high notes. Now if I was writing for NME that would have been my final line. But it isn’t. And fuck them. Their review was a bad as the Guardian’s was.

But those were the singles – released before the album. Now, some minor biographical info – John and I have known each other for close to 30 years. We are frequently in contact. Once John had told me the date of the release for the Album – I was so excited! As I mentioned above – I was already hooked. Thus, started my text countdowns. Every morning – I would text John with the countdown. When the album finally came out, I listened to it early on the Friday. I was instantly taken with it. Grabbed by the orgiastic introduction of “Fort Knox”, yes – okay I can listen to this song again. Oh – ‘HI!’ second track is “Holy Mountain”. Sure I can listen to this again. Next up – never heard this before – “Keep On Reaching”. FULL STOP. My first thought after hearing track 3 – was ‘cue it up again’. THIS was Undiscovered Country – although – in hindsight – not unsurprising country. Now recall I mentioned Northern Soul earlier – well – yeah. Now it all began to make sense. “Keep On Reaching” is easily my favourite track on the album. It has a heavy late 60s Motown feel. Noels voice is CREDIBLY soulful – tempo is just right. And the basswork (Jason Falkner) combined with the horns and the drums – it is a masterpiece. I cannot rave about it enough. Listen to it yourselves oh dear reader. If you get it – you will GET it. And if you don’t? HA.

But again – just when you think that you ‘get it’…you DON’T. Why? Well because we are dealing with Noel Gallagher and the High Flying Birds. And they are anything but predictable on this album. Further in the vibe subtly changes. You end up with “Be Careful What You Wish For”. Borderline litigation territory (not the NG is a stranger to that). ‘Come Together’ much? Regardless. A brilliant tune, and a cathartic change of pace from the opening few tracks. And then – for me – the real show stopper – “Interlude”. No band could believably include a track like “Interlude” on the same album as the first three songs. How a moody soundtracky sounding acoustic dreamy melody could fit in? Well, again – you need to listen to it. This is another track that caught me. And I repeated it several times before moving on. Just a beautiful and moving progression of sounds and notes. And case in point that a song does not need to be uptempo and driving to hit your soul straight on. Last highlight for me was the (sort of) title track. “Man Who Built The Moon” brings the entire album full circle. The first time I heard it – I just thought “Next James Bond Film theme”. And it should be. It melds the soul of the earlier tracks with the moodiness of “Interlude” – throws all of the seemingly disparate ingredients together in one big sonic pot and lets it reach the boiling point. You cool off with the second “Interlude” – and then get prepped to listen to the album again.


For the rest of the albums in this list, check out my Best Albums page here.