Before you’ve even heard this album, you no doubt have a strong opinion on the music and other aspects of Noel Gallagher. Perhaps you’re an Oasis fan that’s stuck with him all the way and are hungry for another record from one of the greatest songwriters of his generation. Maybe you listened to Oasis in the 90s and haven’t really checked in since and are a little curious. And even still you might associate him with all the fiery quotes slagging off other musicians, including his brother and because of this attitude and Liam’s nasally sneer you’ve never been able to give the music a fair chance. Does which one you fall into determine whether this album is worth your time?
While Oasis never hit the staggering heights of their mid-90s output again, each album had fantastic songs and their final album, ‘Dig Out Your Soul,’ was their best album since ‘Morning Glory.’ Even more impossible than that, once the band split and Noel went solo, he managed to come closer to his peak than he ever has. 2011’s ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ found the artist reinvigorated, releasing an album packed with catchy, anthemic and also heartfelt songs that felt all his own. Not a single track did you for one second think, “this song might have been better sung by Liam.” If you never gave that album a chance, go do so now because it’s incredible. Then come back here when you’re ready to find out how he follows up such an incredible feat.
The answer is he stretches himself into new directions musically, as well as retreading old, familiar ground. With the exception of a couple of barnburners, this is the most laid back album the man has ever released. Don’t think easy listening, but instead think Pink Floyd ala “Shine On You Crazy Diamond,” heavy with moody atmosphere. Opening track “Riverman,” even has a bluesy saxophone solo that captures that mood exactly as the longest song on the record eases you into the experience. Lead single “In the Heat of the Moment” follows with an energetic and catchy bounce, including a chorus of “na-na-na-nas” that would make even The Beatles proud with its fun and catchiness.
It’s already been pointed out in the press, but “The Girl with the X-Ray Eyes,” has the distinct vibe of Bowie’s “Moonage Daydream.” But here’s the thing—that’s okay. Some artists can be accused of copping another artist’s sound and it leads to dismissal, but with Noel, it’s a strength. He takes this familiar sound and makes it his own. It’s reminiscent enough to make you recognize the nod, but distinct enough that it could only be his song. After all, “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” has undeniable shades of “Hey Jude,” but it’s still one of the best songs of the 90s.
“Lock All the Doors,” is one of the few other rockers on this record and to be honest, it’s the first time in his solo career that you hear the song and can’t help but think, “this is a song that Liam would be perfect for, sneer and all.” Great song, but you can’t help but wonder what might have been. The first half of the album caps off with “The Dying of the Light,” another ballad. While it echoes some familiar lyrical topics it’s still one of the best ballads of his career. It’s hard to not get chills with this musing on growing older.
This is where the album locks into its slow to midtempo groove, as the second half (side two if you’re listening on vinyl) creeps back to life with “The Right Stuff,” another of the best, more interesting songs on this album. It features one of the best guitar solos, horns, and duet vocals from Joy Rose, who adds a beautiful, high-octave contrast to Gallagher’s mid-range voice. “While the Song Remains the Same” is a perfectly serviceable track—pleasant sounding even, but just doesn’t stand out. “The Mexican” is the final bit of levity on the album and contains the lyric, “you said you need love like a kid on crack,” which elicits a chuckle, if not an embarrassed expression when listening.
Ironically, the song “You Know We Can’t Go Back,” is a little too similar to Oasis’ “I Hope I Think I Know,” from ‘Be Here Now’ and also makes one wonder what Liam would sound like on it. Despite this stumble, the regular version of the album closes out in grand style with “The Ballad of the Mighty I.” The song features guitar work from the legendary Johnny Marr of The Smiths, and is another album highlight. The song has such a toe-tapping, triumphant rhythm that it’s hard not to be energized and reaching for the tone arm to play it again. As strings swell behind him, it’s hard not to imagine it behind a fast-paced movie montage.
It’s absolutely worth picking up the deluxe edition of the album, which contains an additional 4 songs, three of which are worthy additions to your collection. “Do The Damage” is a kinetic ball of energy that almost made it onto the main album and is the best of the bunch. “Revolution Song” has been floating around since the early 2000s as a demo and this studio version does the unreleased gem true justice. “Freaky Teeth” both musically and lyrically has a distinctly psychedelic Beatles vibe with an air-guitar worthy riff that will likely be stuck in your head for days. The final tracks is a remix, which isn’t really necessary and could have been left off and no one would likely complain.
Let’s return to the three different cases from the beginning. An argument could be made for why all three situations should lead to listening to ‘Chasing Yesterday.’ If you’re a lifelong fan, then this is another great piece of work to enjoy. If you’re a former Oasis fan, you should explore Noel’s solo albums because both will remind you why you even listened to Oasis in the first place with these undeniable melodies. The third is trickier. It’s still worth exploring if Liam’s voice was a primary turn-off, because while the music has similarities to classic Oasis, “Chasing Yesterday” does not do as the title implies. This is the sound of Noel Gallagher content as a solo artist, mining familiar territory with results ranging from good to great, while continuing to expand his musical repertoire into tomorrow.
Written by Jarad Matula
OurVinyl | Associate Editor