Noel Gallagher Flying High Again

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Adrian Dennis / AFP / Getty Images

Noel Gallagher at a press conference to promote his new album High Flying Birds in London on July 6, 2011

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In fact, High Flying Birds is good enough to even turn the heads of Oasis' many detractors. The accusation that Noel Gallagher was stockpiling his best songs for a solo project seems now to carry some weight, at least in the sense that "Everybody's on the Run," "If I Had a Gun," "AKA ... What a Life" are streets ahead of anything on Oasis' last studio album, 2008's Dig Out Your Soul. Crucially, casting off the yoke of Oasis' stadium rock also means Gallagher is free to try his hand at everything from subtle dance grooves to gravelly blues stomps alongside the expected singer-songwriter guitar anthems, making for his most satisfying set of songs since 1995's all-conquering (What's the Story) Morning Glory?

Phil Alexander, editor in chief of U.K. music magazine Mojo, expects the album's combination of "supercatchy songs with elements of experimentation" to add up to a commercial success. "Oasis fans will be very much into what he's doing," says Alexander. "He carries a great deal of goodwill — everyone knows that Liam's going to say things that make people go, 'Ooh,' but Noel's the man who carries the music with him. It's quite telling that there's a second album coming soon. He seems liberated and it's going to be very interesting to see where he goes next."

That second album (originally intended be the first of the two albums to see release until Gallagher decided it "would f — people's heads up too much") is a musically ambitious project with electronic producers Amorphous Androgynous, a.k.a. Future Sound of London. Four of the songs on High Flying Birds were meant for the Amorphous Androgynous collaboration, but after hearing how the electronic duo treated "If I Had a Gun" — "not destroyed it, but demolished it and put it back together again" — Gallagher decided to produce the tracks in a more conventional fashion. The four now appear on both albums; but on the Amorphous Androgynous venture, they are supplemented by 10 fresh ones better suited for the experimental project.

Such prolific output paints a picture of a man going through a creative purple patch after years of artistic stagnation. And yet there's no chance of measuring up commercially against his former band — the group that defined the Britpop era. After all, Oasis shifted a staggering 663,000 U.K. copies of 1997's Be Here Now in just three days — a record that, thanks to shrinking album sales, 
 will almost certainly never be broken. And rarely again will a British rock musician be so culturally influential as to be invited for drinks at 10 Downing Street, as Gallagher was by Tony Blair in 1997. It leaves him as the rock equivalent of the last man on the moon, a rare human being who has scaled heights that few had experienced before and none have since.

"We don't live in an era where indie rock bands sell 60 million albums," Gallagher concurs. "Oasis were the last great, traditional rock-'n'-roll band. We came along before the Internet so, if you wanted to see us, you had to be there. It makes me feel like a righteous old man."

But then, it's not just Oasis that never matched its own early achievements — nobody else has either, from Radiohead to the Arctic Monkeys. So, with people still desperate for the next big guitar crossover record, could Gallagher's own solo album actually be what everyone's been waiting for?

"I have to say I'd be absolutely f — ing disgusted if a 44-year-old father of three came along to save British guitar music," he laughs as he finishes his coffee. "I'd have to go on the news and tell the kids that they'd failed."

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