Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds: Chasing Yesterday
If there was ever any doubt- and there shouldn’t have been- which of the Gallagher brothers was the creative force behind mega-group, their post-Oasis output has pretty much put the matter to rest. Lead singer and younger brother Liam formed Beady Eye (along with all of the other members of Oasis, except older brother Noel) and, after one mediocre album, imploded midway through their second one. Liam’s drug-addled rockstar posing and proved to have weak legs without the songwriting and musicianship of brother Noel. In a nutshell, when you call one of the songs on your first album “Beatles and Stones,” you’ve not only confirmed every Oasis critics suspicions, but you’ve also shown that you don’t have a whole lot to offer beyond your influences.
Which brings us to the awkwardly-named Noel Gallagher’s High-Flying Birds, and their second album, Chasing Yesterday. As the title of the album suggests, Noel Gallagher is abundantly aware of his past. He knows it is not the mid-1990s and that it’s never going to be again. That said, he’s also neither ashamed of what he accomplished those many years ago nor bound to it. For the second album in a row Gallagher delivers a sound that is both broader and more consistent than anything Oasis ever delivered and that can be both pleasing and frustrating as a listener. While one is spared the cringing minutes of “Little James” or “Force of Nature,” one is also deprived of the brilliance that Oasis was at its best. I could give you a list of songs from that category that you all know, but instead, I’m going with this, a throwaway, a B-side that is better than anything most other groups dream about.
It’s kind of hard to top that, and luckily for Noel Gallagher, he’s not trying to. Instead, he’s trusting his songwriting and musical talent and producing consistently excellent- if not “epic”- music and, perhaps as importantly, continuing to explore and improve. Which results in songs like this, and this is pretty good.
The Real McKenzies: A Rat In The Burlap
The McKenzies are a niche band, there’s no doubt about that, but that should not lead you to the conclusion that they are a “limited” band in any way. For almost a quarter century this Scottish-Canadian punk band has somehow managed to combine hardcore, rock, traditional folk songs, novelty songs, instrumentals, and, of course, bagpipes to great effect. This is once again the case on their eighth full-length studio album, A Rat In The Burlap.
A Rat In The Burlap is not as good as 2012’s Westwinds– which might be the McKenzies’ best work to date- but it is a worthy follow-up just the same. The album opens up with bagpipes blaring on “Wha Saw the 42nd?” before moving on to “Upon A Motorbike,” which adds to their large list of songs about the trials and tribulations of being in a hard-working but only marginally successful touring band. All of the other “usual suspects” are here as well: “Who’d A Thought,” a straight-head rock song complete with searing guitar solos, “Midnight Train to Moscow” is all mid-1980s hardcore…with bagpipes, “Bootsy the Haggis-Eating Cat” provides the laughs, and the album closes with a touching acoustic number with swirling bagpipes called “Dead or Alive.” A Real McKenzies’ album is like listening to all of your favorite groups/genres on one album.
Here are a few examples of songs from this album which you will enjoy, but which will leave you with more questions than answers.
And, of course, frozen, drunk, angry about the independence referendum…and “unplugged!”
Stay tuned for part three featuring Samantha Fish and Donny Hathaway.