The Lonely Minotaur

Music & Concert Reviews

Noel Gallagher’s Three E.P.’s — March 2, 2020

Noel Gallagher’s Three E.P.’s

Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds tried something new over the last 10 months as he attempted to spice up his artistic release patterns. He didn’t release a proper album to follow up 2017’s brilliant Who Built The Moon? but he did treat fans with three distinct sounding EPs that were dropped in June 2019 (Black Star Dancing), September 2019 (This Is The Place) and the last one in March 2020 (Blue Moon Rising). All together the three EPs featured 9 brand new tracks that covered a wide range of genres from acoustic based tunes to acid house infused guitar rock. Noel has said that these EPs were designed to flush out his back catalog of unused material, release more experimental tinged tracks and tide over fans until he begins work on his 4th solo album later this year once his new home studio is completed. No word yet on who will produce or what sonic direction he might go outside of Noel telling Zane Lowe in November “it could be a double album….with lots of eclectic stuff on it”. We shall see what comes to pass over the next year or so. Overall this EP campaign has been a rewarding experience for all Oasis and Noel Gallagher fans alike. 

Black Star Dancing EP

Black Star Dancing – The first single out of the gate keeps the vibes of Who Built The Moon? alive and well. A thumping bass Line and a ZZ Top style guitar solo keep this tune buzzing with fresh surprises. Noel has said this song was heavily influenced by his David Bowie obsession. Guitarist Nile Rodgers who dropped by the studio during recording sessions called the track “dope”. Good enough for me!

Rattling Rose – A more traditional sounding Noel effort that could have easily been on his debut album or Chasing Yesterday. Led by a bouncing acoustic strum and a shuffling beat, the most interesting aspect of this track is the The Left Banke style horn breakdown featured in the finale. In classic Noel fashion he described the song as “It manages to combine the influences of Chris Rea, Chris De Burgh, Mike and the Mechanics and Slipknot FFS!!! I may have eaten too many gummy bears recently.”

Sail On – A stunningly beautiful acoustic/banjo ballad about lost love and finding your place in the world. “Sail On” feels like a lost cousin of previous B-side “I’d Pick You Every Time” from 2011. Noel has said this track dates back to the Chasing Yesterday era and was only included at the persistence of the girls who work at his record label who adored it. Hats off to them!

This Is The Place EP

This Is The Place – For my ears this is the crown jewel of the EP project. A proper acid house banger with heavy echoes of New Order. Noel’s very own ode to Manchester’s legendary Hacienda nightclub. I hope Noel cooks up more babies like this moving forward.  It is also fantastic to hear live. 

A Dream Is All I Need To Get By – A gentle floating acoustic number that Noel has described as “To my ears it sounds like one of those iconic B-sides by The Smiths, only obviously not as good.”. This is the safest sounding song released from any of the EPs and is sure to please any fans of Noel’s previous work while in Oasis. 

Evil Flower – A dark hypnotic driving tune that sounds equal parts “(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady” and “Soldier On” from Oasis’ Dig Out Your Soul. Heavy electronic Spaghetti Western vibes are drenched all over this composition. In terms of being “experimental” this is the most challenging offering from Noel out of anything found on the three EPs. 

Blue Moon Rising EP

Blue Moon Rising – Each of Noel’s previous EPs started off with a heavy dance influenced rocker and this current offering is no different. You can really feel early 1980s New Order rubbing off on Noel immensely. I am very much looking forward to Noel traveling down this road further as I’ve been extremely pleased with the results of the tracks “Black Star Dancing”, “This Is The Place” and “Blue Moon Rising”. I suspect that if Noel continues to work with producer David Holmes I just might get my wish. Both fingers crossed! 

Wandering Star – A much anticipated release by the fan base all summer long with the belief it had the potential to be a “huge” throwback hit. What Noel ended up giving us was an unofficial Christmas holiday jingle packed to the brim with sleigh bells, church bells and cheerful horns. Noel even hired actor Stephen Graham to star in the music video as a shoplifting but good hearted Santa Claus. Terrific casting. Just put Stephen Graham in everything already!

Come On Outside – It took over 12 years for this legendary unfinished Oasis track to see the light of day. The origin of this song began during studio sessions for Oasis’ 7th album Dig Out Your Soul in the winter of 2007. At one point it was going to be the lead single off Dig Out Your Soul until Noel said the band “ran out of time” to record vocals for it as a result of his brother Liam abandoning the sessions to fly back to England unannounced to marry his girlfriend at the time Nicole Appleton. Oasis had been in Los Angeles with producer Dave Sardy mixing the album in early 2008 when this alleged incident went down. The song would not see the light of day (outside a demo leak in 2013) until last week. The end result is a bombastic groove filled rocker with supporting keyboards and a female backing choir. It’s very easy to imagine Liam singing this song. In an alternate timeline it was a smash single off Dig Out Your Soul. Instead it’s the last track in a series of EPs intended to bridge the gap between Noel Gallagher solo albums. Either way the song is ours now.

Liam Gallagher Strikes Back With Why Me? Why Not. — September 22, 2019

Liam Gallagher Strikes Back With Why Me? Why Not.

Liam Gallagher has been on one hell of a roll since officially announcing his solo career in the summer of 2017. Out of the devastating breakup of Oasis in 2009 and later the ashes of Beady Eye in 2014, Liam has not only resurrected his good name and public perception but also delivered not one, but two well rounded solo albums. As You Were set the table in October 2017 proving that Liam could successfully navigate a post Oasis world without his big brother Noel guiding the way both lyrically and sonically. That album would go on to be a #1 record in the UK, become one of the biggest sellers in England that year and his concert venue sizes would continue to bloom with each passing month. Liam jokes that soon he could play his own Knebworth. Maybe that is a bit tongue-in-cheek but he might have a solid point. Things are escalating rather quickly for Gallagher who only 4-5 years ago was down on his luck, basically out of the music business and slowly piecing his personal life back together after a bitter divorce sparked by an affair with an American journalist. 

Now in 2019 Liam has unleashed his newest solo record titled Why Me? Why Not. It’s not a grand departure from his debut which was a lot of straight forward rockers and power ballads built to be sung by legions of adoring fans. The album was previously teased with lead single “Shockwave” that feels like it was destined to be in a Guy Ritchie crime caper, followed by the swamp rock of “The River”, then the self reflective ballad “Once” which many see as an olive branch to his brother Noel and lastly “One Of Us” with its military like stomp. Four different slices of the Liam Gallagher pie that should fill the appetite of any former Oasis fan. As with As You Were, Liam reunites with uber producers Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt (fresh off an Oscar win for “Shallow”) to help craft the sounds he envisions in his head. So get ready for a steady diet of 1967 Beatles, All Things Must Pass slide guitar action and some Between To Button era Rolling Stones. 

Highlights from the album include the catchy singalong “Now That I Found You”, the driving piano rocker “Halo”, the Magic Mystery Tour drenched “Meadow” and spaghetti western tinged closer “Gone”. There is a lot more musical diversity on this album compared to As You Were and it makes for a very enjoyable listen. It must have been difficult for Liam and his management to select what songs to make singles. Pretty much all 11 tracks could be commercial enough to promote the record. It wouldn’t feel out of place to have songs like “Halo”, “Alright Now” or the title track “Why Me? Why Not” set the table for what is to come on Liam’s newest LP. When it comes to musical accessibility look no further than the men behind the controls, Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt, who really understand how to not only get the most out of a song but also the artist performing them. Liam’s good fortune of linking up with these two Hollywood hitmakers could not be better timed as both helped to solidify his solo career with some serious musical thump and prestige behind it. We can only hope that Liam’s third album isn’t too far down the road. Now about that Knebworth gig….

Grade: B+

Checkout:   “Halo”, “Why Me? Why Not.”, “Meadow”, “Gone”

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Touch Down in New Jersey — August 9, 2019

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Touch Down in New Jersey

The 16 date Noel Gallagher/Smashing Pumpkins North American tour launched Thursday night in Camden, New Jersey. Or as Noel kept saying all show……Philadelphia. Very close but wrong side of the Delaware Mr. Gallagher! The High Flying Birds began their hour long set with 5 straight songs off 2017’s excellent Who Built The Moon? that really incorporated the strengths of the 11 piece band. Holy Mountain got the crowd twisting and shouting from their seats. I was behind a woman who kept holding up a sign that said “She Danced, She Danced” during the song’s soaring chorus. A nice touch and it was great to see fans get really enthusiastic over newer material. Thursday night also marked the live debut of “This Is The Place”, the lead track for Noel’s forthcoming new EP of the same name. It went down extremely well for a song most people in the audience still hadn’t discovered yet. The track is equal parts Jungle and New Order and is the most modern sounding recording of music Noel has yet released as a solo artist. He has come a long long way from his Oasis days. Also performed was Noel’s single from earlier this summer “Black Star Dancing”. Loads of bass thumping and heads bumping to that one. Just as Noel predicted to the press back in June. It was refreshing to hear Noel open his show with 7 straight solo songs, all from the last two years. Next came the big ones, “Wonderwall”, “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” and “Don’t Look Back In Anger”. Not sure when Noel dropped doing the slower Ryan Adams version of “Wonderwall” but I’m glad he did. The song goes down much much better live with the faster tempo. Reminded me of his vintage 1996 performances. This was also my first time hearing “Stop Crying Your Heart Out” live. When I saw Oasis twice in 2002, it wasn’t played either time (Las Vegas, Coachella). The evening came to a close with Noel dedicating the last song to President Donald Trump….”All You Need Is Love”. God knows we need it lately in this country with multiple mass shootings this week. Overall the gig was terrific. Noel was in great spirits all night, smiling and laughing with bandmates. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him look that happy on stage in person before. Noel is certainly flying high as a solo artist in 2019. Looking forward to the rest of his EPs this year with one dropping in September and the final one in December.

 

Full set:

Fort Knox

Holy Mountain

Keep On Reaching

It’s A Beautiful World

She Taught Me How To Fly

Black Star Dancing

This Is The Place

Wonderwall

Stop Crying Your Heart Out

Don’t Look Back In Anger

All You Need Is Love

Noel Gallagher Flying High on Record Store Day — April 19, 2019

Noel Gallagher Flying High on Record Store Day

Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds have long been friends of Record Store Day by releasing a steady stream of titles since April 2012. This year was no different as Noel brought in electronic producers Nicolas Laugier (The Reflex) and Richard Norris to rework three tracks from Gallagher’s outstanding album from 2017 Who Built The Moon? The Reflex tackled two songs for this EP release titled Wait and Return. The first being “She Taught Me How To Fly” which doesn’t at all sound like a remix. This track always reminded me of Oasis meets Technique era New Order. The Reflex plays off those ideas to extraordinary results. I’m willing to bet that many Noel Gallagher fans would have had no problem if this was the version of the song found on Who Built The Moon? It really is that good of work. Hats off to all of those involved in this remix. If you can’t tell it is a remix then mission well accomplished.

The Reflex’s second effort on the EP was “Keep On Reaching” which originally sounded more traditional with guitar, drums, bass and a little brass section with a touch of Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels swagger mixed in. Under Laugier’s direction the song gets a modern face lift and fits more in line with the direction David Holmes was trying to accomplish while producing the full blown version of Who Built The Moon? I’m sure you all remember Noel’s promise to work with an electronic producer (Holmes), write material only in the studio and expand upon his sonic palette that was only ever hinted at while doing one-off side projects over the years while in Oasis. Think Goldie, Chemical Brothers and UNKLE. These two interesting pieces by The Reflex really make you wonder that maybe Noel should hire this man to produce his future albums. I don’t think it would be a bad idea at all based upon the results of this collaboration. 

Richard Norris gets a crack at the final song on this EP “Black & White Sunshine”.  The album version of this track was one of the more straight forward and safe rockers found on Who Built The Moon? I don’t mean that as huge negative but it is the one song from Moon that could have easily been on Noel’s 2011 debut album or 2015’s Chasing Yesterday. Norris strips away a lot of the introductory guitar lines and drums fills, replacing them pulsating electronic thrills. The song is stretched out to an atmospheric 7 minutes that really lifts the song to a more interesting level than its official studio brother. Noel has a real talent for selecting electronic producers who really know how to re-imagine his work. Be it Beyond The Wizard’s Sleeve, David Holmes, Andrew Weatherall or Mike Pickering/Graeme Park. The results are always the same. Outstanding work and contributions I’m proud to have in my record collection. Keep it coming Noel.

Wait and Return EP (2,500 copies)

A1. She Taught Me How To Fly (The Reflex Revision)  

A2. Keep On Reaching (The Reflex Revision)  

B1. Black & White Sunshine (Richard Norris Remix)