Council Skies

Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds

Sour Mash, 2023

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The short review? If your favorite Oasis song is “Falling Down,” from 2008’s career-capper Dig Out Your Soul, then you’re going to love this album.

Noel Gallagher’s sound has evolved through the years; not content to rest on his Britpop-rock laurels of decades prior, he has been exploring psychedelic, electronic and pop leanings on his High Flying Birds albums, to varying results. His best post-Oasis song remains “Ballad Of The Mighty I,” from the second Birds album, which you all would be well advised to check out promptly.

Council Skies, the fourth and most mature Birds offering, is both dreamy and current, chill yet imbued with a pulse that’s hard to turn away from. You’ll keep being drawn back into the music, such is the atmosphere it creates. “Pretty Boy” is the best example of this, and probably the closest thing to a single here, but it’s only one of the very good songs here. Strings, bells and acoustic guitars weave tapestries of sound in the gorgeous “Dead To The World”; it is so good that Noel’s brother Liam acknowledged as such on Twitter (“How can such a mean-spirited little man write such a beautiful song?”), so clearly there’s no Oasis reconciliation happening anytime soon.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

Which, based on the evidence here, there neither needs to be nor should be. The title track throbs with purpose and longing, “Easy Now” is a soaring midtempo piece meant for stadiums, and “Love Is A Rich Man” is a fun little stomper of a song with some Motown influences. They all coalesce into “Think Of A Number,” the penultimate song here, and one that starts off like the others but slides into a dreamy chorus, a piano solo and then explodes into a heroic fuzz guitar solo around the midpoint. It’s clear Gallagher is as fascinated with sound and layers now as he was on Be Here Now, but this time there’s a point to it all, a wisdom that he just didn’t have in 1997.

The better songs here break up the occasional generic tedium of tracks like “There She Blows,” “I’m Not Giving Up Tonight” (the dull album opener) and “Open The Door, See What You Find.” But even these are still solid songs, imbued with Gallagher’s lyrics that both recall his Manchester childhood and his current state of mind at 57 years old. Plus, since much of this was written over the Covid lockdowns, “Trying To Find A World That’s Been And Gone” packs an emotional punch, if not a sonic one.

As an artist, Gallagher will forever be tied to his past, but those who can divorce his first band from his new band—or who can put down the beer steins long enough to listen to something—will appreciate what he’s trying to do here. It may not be a full return to his roots, but it’s still a darn fine album.

Rating: B

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