OUR music critics look at the latest releases
ALBUM OF THE WEEK
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: Chasing Yesterday
In the hotly contested Gallagher versus Gallagher battle for post-Oasis supremacy, it was Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds who took off. Liam’s Beady Eye were greeted with much the same underwhelmed loyalty as the later Oasis albums, while new Noel tracks such as AKA…What a Life, with its house-influenced rolling groove, demonstrated a desire to progress rather than cleave to familiar territory. In the end, the songwriting skills won out over the frontman charisma.
Five years and two albums later, Beady Eye are no more but big brother Noel is only now releasing a follow-up to the HFB’s self-titled debut, having been pleasurably distracted by increased demand to see his new outfit on tour and less pleasurably delayed by last autumn’s Oasis album re-issue programme. By his innately conservative musical standards, Noel takes a few more creative chances on Chasing Yesterday. He does, after all, look to Paul Weller and Johnny Marr as his mentor figures and, while neither are exactly blowing minds with a brave new music, they are at least keen to look beyond their laurels and legacy.
Marr contributes guest guitar to closing track Ballad of the Mighty I while Weller in pastoral mode is a big influence on the languid, lengthy Riverman, which opens with archetypal Oasis chords but, graced with Gallagher Sr’s softer tone, takes a more wistful turn before its bucolic reverie is interrupted by some keening psych folk riffola and burnished saxophone.
Yeah, you heard right – saxophone. Suck on that baby bro. Noel’s gone sort of jazz. Dig those dreamy horns and that sinewy bass on The Right Stuff, a track Gallagher is proud to label “space jazz” even if he’s got some way to go before he’s orbiting with Sun Ra.
These would-be sonic experiments are only two of a number of stoner songs which clock in at over five minutes, and broadly set the tone for the album.
Gallagher attempts to source his inner George Harrison on tastefully trippy love song The Girl With X-Ray Eyes – a straightforward allusion to being able to see through bulls**t behaviour.
These nicely textured highlights are undercut by the throwaway likes of The Mexican, plodding rheumy-eyed ballad The Dying of the Light and In The Heat of the Moment, a forced, uninspired Kasabian-style chant one suspects might have been included so that Gallagher doesn’t get accused of being a hippy.
Oasis completists may be intrigued by Lock All The Doors – a song which has been kicking about in one form or another since the band’s early days, when it might have had some impact. Its current iteration, like much of the remainder of the album, bowls along pacily enough, but without a hook to catch hold of.
Still, we’ll always have those spaced-out saxophones.
The The: Hyena: A Soundtrack by The The
The The main man Matt Johnson may not have been the most visible musician in recent years but he has been one of the most industrious, setting up publishing, radio and record label projects and composing extensively for film and TV. His latest work is this subtly sinister soundtrack to forthcoming feature Hyena, a verité take on London’s underworld directed by his brother Gerard Johnson and starring his cousin Peter Ferdinando (Starred Up, A Field In England). A menacing mood piece, its collection of ominous drones is presumably best encountered as the baleful backdrop to the film but the delicate but disturbing undulating piano on Harvest of Souls and glacial stalking synthesizers on Take Me Away From All This and Bait & Switch make satisfying listening in their own right.
A New Inter-national: Come to the Fabulon
Glasgow’s A New International, featuring ex-members of indie nearly-weres The Starlets, make a keen stab at living up to the international part of their name, gathering melodramatic musical references from all over Europe and beyond: soaring mariachi trumpet, twanging guitars, romantic strings and Hispanic flourishes – and that’s just the opening track. Their grand tour also takes in the souped-up folk troubadour style of the title track, the winsome, wafting Gallic croon of Marie Claire, pacey come-hither of I’m Your Kinda Guy and pavement café lament Our Time Was Like A Dream before the big gypsy finish Come the Revolution. FIONA SHEPHERD
Tchaikovsky Piano Concerto No 1/Prokofiev Piano Concerto No 2
Keen ears will pick up the subtle differences in this newly published edition of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No1, such as the arpeggiated chords at the opening, or the reinstatement of third movement material excised in today’s more commonly-used version. This is the world premiere recording of an edition based on the composer’s own conducting score, and the overall impression is of a brighter and tighter piece of music. To what extent that is down to pianist Krill Gerstein alone is debatable; suffice to say that his performance with the Deutsches Symphonie-Berlin, under James Gaffigan, is a triumph of clarity, brilliance and robust musicality. Gerstein exercises equal authority in conquering the challenges of Prokofiev’s Piano Concerto No 2, a little under-intense in places, but otherwise full of sardonic wit and personality. KEN WALTON
Jenna Reid: Live In Shetland
With three studio albums under her own name to her credit, plus work with Blazin’ Fiddles and RANT, Shetland fiddler Jenna Reid here passes with admirable panache the litmus test of a recorded live performance, on home ground, accompanied successively by three long-time associates, sister Bethany and Harris Playfair on pianos and guitarist Kevin Mackenzie.
Recorded in Lerwick’s Mareel Centre, it opens with a gentle air, Tom Anderson’s Auld Berrie, and goes out at exhilarating high speed with Scott Skinner’s The Hurricane.
In between, she lingers lovingly over Willie Hunter’s classic Leaving Lerwick Harbour and the slow strathspey The Dean Brig o’ Edinburgh with sensitivity and affection. Shifting up-tempo, The Whiskey Jigs and characterful Shetland tunes like Da Flugga (both with Bethany accompanying) or The Laxo Burn set, over Mackenzie’s snappy guitar, are given forceful delivery that is never at the expense of nuance, while Playfair’s piano rolls exuberantly along with tunes like the hornpipe Princess Beatrice, or in that closing storm. JIM GILCHRIST
Gilad Atzmon & The Orient House Ensemble: The Whistle Blower
The saxophonist and multi-instrumentalist has launched his own label for the release of his 14th album with Orient House, one for each year of the band’s existence. The music is a characteristic mix of familiar strategies from the London-based Israeli, taking in the biting Middle Eastern sonority of Gaza Mon Amour, Coltrane-inspired intensity on Let Us Pray and To Be Free, graceful balladry on Forever and The Romantic Church, and throwaway pop on the title track.
The leader is in fine form on saxophones and clarinet, and throws in accordion and guitar for good measure, while the excellent Frank Harrison on piano and bassist Yaron Stavi do their usual fine job in this context.
Chris Higginbottom filled the drum chair on this session, and brings a more conventional jazz feel than his long-standing predecessor, Asaf Sirkis. KENNY MATHIESON
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