Music reviews: Noel Gallagher, Gang of Four, Laura Welsh
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Sour Mash Records
With Noel Gallagher’s recent declaration that he would happily re-form Brit-pop louts Oasis for half a billion quid, and with his gobby brother Liam’s band, Beady Eye, thankfully long forgotten, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds are the closest any fan of the iconic Manchester band will get to some pleasant Morning Glory these days.
While Gallagher’s first self-titled solo album in 2011played too much like the blueprint of his former band, Chasing Yesterdays sees the guitarist taking over production duties and also a couple of more artistic chances. But while there are a few toots of sax and a bang on the cowbell here and there, it’s far from a great leap in a new direction; Gallagher can’t help churning out memorable classic pop choruses.
Lyrics are still not his strong suit, of course, but, boy, can Gallagher write a brooding melody or two. His signature wall of guitars propel the rock stomp of Lock All the Doors while the restrained and well-crafted groove of the dreamy opener, Riverman, feels like a wonderful Paul Weller/The Verve mash-up. Sometimes a comfort zone can be a fine thing.
Outsiders Recorded Music Ltd
There's been a lot of talk about British soul singer Laura Welsh (formerly as Laura and the Tears) over the past couple of years, mainly as the next big Adele in the making, so it's with great expectations and weighty shoulders that her debut album finally arrives.
Soft Control is a rousing mix of R&B power ballads and fully charged pop anthems, effortlessly flitting between the sultry tones of Jessie Ware and the intoxicating Emeli Sande. Much like her electro-soul contemporaries, the lyrical themes are dominated by love, heartbreak and broken relationships but it's Welsh's emotive and natural powerhouse vocals that elevate Soft Control over her 1990s revivalist peers. At times cracked and husky, at others smooth and soaring, her majestic voice is good to build an atmospheric album around. Break the Fall, with its big booming chorus, "You break the fall/ It's not easy to trust/ I wanna love you, but I'm just too cynical", could easily be the next euphoric Florence and the Machine hit single.
For fans of modern-day soul, Laura Welsh has shown that she's certainly worth the wait.
Gang of Four
What Happens Next
The ninth album from post-punk legends Gang of Four is an aptly titled beast. After reforming with their original line-up in 2004 for their Return the Gift album, 2011's Content saw them reduced to a Gang of Two after the departure of bassist Dave Allen and drummer Hugo Burnham.
Now with lead singer and lyricist Jon King recently jumping ship, it's left to founding guitarist Andy Gill to test the waters as the lonesome Gang member. In theory, it's Gill's solo album with a revolving guest list of vocalists helping out King's replacement, John Sterry. On Broken Talk and England's in My Bones, The Kills' Alison Mosshart adds her potent blues twang while German actor Herbert Grönemeyer moans his way through the sombre The Dying Rays. But while all the names and voices have changed, so has the music. Gill's scratchy guitar riffs still rear their angular heads, but the punkish urgency has been swapped for a more industrial landscape.
It's a far cry from the group's 1979 classic Entertainment! but you can't blame Gill for moving on and it's hardly surprising that it feels like a completely different Gang.