As You Were
(Warner Bros. ***)
Noel Gallagher & the High Flying Birds
Who Built the Moon?
(Sour Mash ** ½)
One day, there will be an Oasis reunion. Those battling Gallaghers — Noel recently labeled Liam "a common pigeon"; Liam called Noel "my former brother" — can't go on fighting forever, can they?
In the meantime, there's good news for fans of the Mancunian siblings. Both bros have new albums, and are each touring the U.S.
The didn't-see-it-coming surprise is As You Were, the solo debut by 45-year-old Liam, which easily surpasses his post-Oasis work with his band Beady Eye. Working with everywhere-at-once producer Greg Kurstin, who's helmed albums this year by Halsey, Foo Fighters and Beck, Gallagher plays to his sneering Beatles and T-Rex strengths. The guitar riffage on rockers like "Wall of Glass" is cutting and clean, and suitably soaring numbers like "For What it's Worth" recall Oasis' 1990s heyday while adding a level of believe-it-or-not maturity.
Who Built the Moon? is more varied, whipping up a psychedelic Wall of Sound on "Be Careful What You Wish For" and "She Taught Me How to Fly" and the roaring horn-fired "Holy Mountain," which features Paul Weller on organ. (Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr guests on "If Love is the Law.)" It's a given that Noel, 50, has more musical moves than Liam, as the songwriting and lead guitar player in Oasis, and he's prone to such ploys as the spoken word (in French) interlude in "It's a Beautiful World," which his brother would undoubtedly dismiss as pretentious twaddle. But while Who Built The Moon? boasts rewarding guitar army production and puts Noel's melodic gifts on display, it doesn't score as many direct hits as As You Were. This round goes to the little brother. — Dan DeLuca
(Kill Rock Stars ***½)
Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the wildly influential danz-punk ensemble the B-52s, vocalist Cindy Wilson has watched fellow cofounders Kate Pierson and Fred Schneider touch upon solo music outside the B52s' quirky frenetic pop and surrealistic lyricism without a peep. Shame that. Alone or with Pierson — one of pop's greatest harmonists — Wilson's tenor moves from coolly nuanced and warbly to a scratchy bellow (e.g. "Private Idaho," "Give Me Back My Man") for a truly unique signature sound. Only recently has Wilson dipped a toe into solo waters, first with 2017 EPs Sunrise and Supernatural, and now, a spooky, but cheerful, electro-pop album, Change.
Ripe with tinges of motorik Krautrock, French yé-yé and heated electro-clash, Wilson and cowriter Suny Lyons create un-Dada-ist, non-B-52s fare: the heartfelt "Memory," the trip hoppy "Change," the slow, sentimental likes of "Things I'd Like to Say" and "Sunrise," the subtly disco-ish "On the Inside" — all with southern belle insinuating her signature croon into the mix as another instrument. Moving away from the kink of the B-52s doesn't mean that Wilson eschews that new wave wonk entirely. While the bop and bounce of "Mystic" would fit handsomely within the B52s' oeuvre, "Brother" — a warm reference to cofounder-composer Ricky Wilson who died from the effects of AIDS in 1985 — shares the frenetic kitsch of her origin story, while moving her own soulful, nu-electronica forward. — A.D. Amorosi
I Knew You When
Bob Seger has some fallen peers on his mind. I Knew You When is dedicated to Glenn Frey, who is also the subject of "Glenn Song": "You were young, you were bold / And you loved your rock and soul." (Never associated Frey or the Eagles with soul of any kind, but that's another story.) The song "Blue Ridge" is likewise dedicated to Little Feat's Richie Hayward, who drummed on the track and others on the album. Seger also delivers songs by Lou Reed ("Busload of Faith") and Leonard Cohen ("Democracy"), pointed choices obviously meant to serve as commentary on the times.