thu 20/06/2024

Album: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Council Skies | reviews, news & interviews

Album: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Council Skies

Album: Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Council Skies

Noel's latest is portentous but never convinces

Kevin Cummins' shot of the last remaining part of Man City's old Maine Road stadium

Council Skies was created in Noel Gallagher’s new studio, partly during lockdown, an attempt to reconnect with where he came from, Manchester, as per its cover art. It’s not an exercise in nostalgia (except insofar as everything either Gallagher sibling has ever done is), but more about mining his origins for inspiration, authenticity and emotional meaning.

There’s an audible earnestness, then, a ferventness, but, unfortunately, the ratio of catchy anthems is low.

Let’s face it, neither Gallagher sibling actually needs to reform Oasis. Both their solo careers have proved strong, chart-topping albums all the way (if we conveniently forget Liam’s Beady Eye years). There’s also no doubt, as is repeatedly proved on his fourth album, that Noel is, technically speaking (for whatever it’s actually worth in rock’n’roll), the better singer. He throws a plaintive tone at songs such as the woozy yet impassioned slow-strum of “Dead to the World”, which comes on like an offcut from George Harrison’s All Things Must Pass via a modern orchestral rejig.

Johnny Marr appears on the drum machine chug of single “Pretty Boy”, a song that fires up its chunky rock chops, as does the catchy, driving “There She Blows”, but much of the album has a ploddy mid-Seventies feel, as if pub rock had never blossomed into punk but, instead, been given an epic polish and makeover, and assimilated into shiny FM radio fare.

The title track and the slowie, “Trying to Find a World That’s Been and Gone”, both explicitly engage with the album’s stated themes but, overall, it doesn’t feel like a cohesive conceptual statement. Cards on the table, I take the Gallagher brothers’ side in pub arguments. They’re old school rock stars. I’ve always liked that. Which is to say I often find things to enjoy in their retro ethic and musical ploddiness. But, where Council Skies’ self-consciously aims to sweep us into its heartfelt portentousness, it's eventually unpersuasive.

Below: Watch the video for the title track of "Council Skies" by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

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