Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Council Skies

Noel is once again following his own ear - for better or worse.

Label: Sour Mash Records
Released: 2nd June 2023

Six years after he split opinion with ‘Who Built The Moon?’, a record that revealed several surprising turns in the matured rocker’s tastes – and famously added new tools to his arsenal, including a pair of scissors – Noel Gallagher is back with a fourth full-length project that finds its roots in the deceptively simple, stripping back the bells and whistles for a gentle listen loosely grounded by an appreciation of the life he’s experienced since an eventful childhood in the suburbs of Manchester.

Where his 2017 LP and three subsequent EP projects have sought to encapsulate an otherworldly energy conjured up with synth beats and glistening production, ‘Council Skies’ instead reflects on music’s abstract ability to elevate the listener’s own reality. From a council estate to the biggest stages on the planet, the record sees Noel explore the juxtaposition in his life and use it to flesh out a new sonic world.

This world doesn’t tread much fresh ground for the experienced frontman, though – far from his recent risk-taking ventures, ‘Council Skies’ uses whirring guitars and soaring strings to depict a vision that tightly matches the sepia aesthetic of its accompanying artwork. That isn’t to say it goes without its highlights; the three-track run of ‘Easy Now’, ‘Council Skies’ and ‘There She Blows’ justifies a listen alone, with triumphant melodies, psychedelic instrumentals and plodding grooves respectively making their marks as pedestrian lyricisms unfold amongst it all.

If you’re a fan of the songwriter’s past work, there are certainly moments of glory here to be discovered. It’s just a shame, then, that the magic Noel is looking to recreate can only be found buried under such a sterile surface. While his brother might prioritise punchy hooks and predictable progressions, much in the way of their old shared escapades, Noel seems hellbent on revolting against them with drawn-out melodies, elegant vocals and finely-tuned instrumentals. He’s once again following his own ear – for better or worse.

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