Album reviews: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – This is the Place, and Sturgill Simpson – Sound & Fury

The former Oasis star’s new EP shows him diving deeper into a psychedelic realm, while Simpson’s fourth studio album drives away from country and right into rock’n’roll

The title track of the EP is named after the poem read by Tony Walsh in remembrance of the Manchester Arena bombing
The title track of the EP is named after the poem read by Tony Walsh in remembrance of the Manchester Arena bombing

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying BirdsThis is the Place (EP)

★★★★☆

In recent interviews, Noel Gallagher has mouthed off that it was his brother Liam who prevented him from writing anything other than, well, Oasis-style, traditional rock songs.

At 52, Noel is pushing further than ever before, tapping into his Hacienda-inspired Madchester dance roots. It’s thrilling.

Noel has long wanted to branch beyond the confines of his beloved guitar, and it was David Holmes who guided this escape of sorts with the Flying Birds’ 2017 Who Built the Moon? album (the producer was busy with TV series Killing Eve so Noel himself took the reins on this EP).

His last, June-released EP Black Star Dancing was a blast of cosmic rock. This is the Place shows him delving deeper into a realm where psychedelic instrumentation overrides the six string. The title track, named after the poem read by Tony Walsh in remembrance of the Manchester Arena bombing, opens the EP with fast-tempo, restlessly busy instrumentation. Add spacey synths, bongos, arpeggiating bells, piano, and undulating female backing vocals to the driving groove and catchy guitar lick and you get hyped-up psych-rock redolent of Nineties giants Primal Scream and Ian Brown.

“Evil Flower” layers cowbells and cosmic synths against rock-guitar bravado. The melodic “A Dream Is All I Need To Get By”, which Noel imagined as a Smiths B-side, is more tender, sweetened further by his gliding voice, harmonising vocals and twinkling percussion and castanets.

That the EP is a slight one – just three original new songs plus two remixes – is made up for by its energetic punch. Elisa Bray

Sturgill SimpsonSound & Fury

Sturgill Simpson

★★★★☆

Sturgill Simpson’s fourth record opens not with his voice – but with the crunch of gravel underfoot before the roar of a car engine over radio static. It’s the sound of an artist driving away from everything he’s done before.

Where 2016’s Grammy Award-winning A Sailor’s Guide to Earth was taut and refined – a concept album dedicated to Simpson’s wife and child – Sound & Fury relies on his ability to layer sound upon sound, to create the effect of a gathering storm. His vocals are broody and menacing on “Remember to Breathe”; on “Sing Along” he recalls the distorted scuzz and propulsive rhythms of The Black Keys’ latest record Let’s Rock!

Simpson recently said he wanted Sound & Fury to “hit like a Wu-Tang record”, so each intro is like a one-two punch loaded with brilliant hooks. Then there’s the rollicking “A Good Look” and “Last Man Standing” – it’s pure rock and roll: sleazy, slick and lots of fun. Sound & Fury marks another milestone for a remarkable artist. Roisin O’Connor

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments