With a title like "Chasing Yesterday" you would think that Oasis mastermind Noel Gallagher would be trying to recapture the youthful blare of classic Oasis, but you would only be half-right.
The album finds Noel in top-notch songwriting form. Some of these melodies are so undeniable it would be a shame if the album doesn't take Noel to a place where he is finally recognized outside of his band.
With his two solo albums he has decided to market them under the band name "Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds," instead of taking full, unadulterated credit. However, listening to this set of songs hardly gives the impression of the High Flying Birds as a living, breathing "band." Instead, this sounds exactly what you would expect from a Noel Gallagher solo album. Tight songwriting, understated vocals, musicianship and psychedelic production work.
What is missing is Liam's brash, heathen-like personality bending up to sing into the mic with his hands behind his back. But later-day Oasis albums were also bogged down by Liam's basic and repetitive songwriting style. Noel seemed fine stepping back and letting his brother and other bandmates give songwriting a try, but part of it felt like a big brother pushing his little brother on the bike and letting the little brother glide for a bit before crashing into a bush. With Chasing Yesterday you get ten top-drawer Noel Gallagher compositions.
You know an album is strong when the first single is good but completely overshadowed by a handful of album tracks. "In The Heat Of The Moment" (Not the song by Asia) announced a new, hungry sounding Noel with its huge chorus and nearly funky backbeat. "The Dying Of The Light" finds Noel in a dreary mood, with it's world-weary lyrics, but its grunge-meets-Smiths vibe is totally radio-ready. The usually non-experimental Noel tries something completely new with "The Right Stuff" dueting with a chanteuse over a jammy jazz loop. The result is surprisingly sexy and an unexpected left-turn.
Gallagher has always been unafraid to wear his influences on his sleeve, sometimes even coming close to plagiarism and Chasing Yesterday continues this streak. "The Girl With X-Ray Eyes" pillages "Stairway To Heaven", making it the one misstep on the album. The song title "While The Song Remains The Same" also conjures images of Led Zeppelin but with its driving beat and super-catchy melody all can be forgiven. Opener "Riverman" also is a weird image for Noel, who has never portrayed himself as a back-to-nature type gent. Fear not: Noel hasn't gown a grizzly-man beard nor is he wearing a straw hat. It is simply a metaphor of getting back to the basics and the track revels in its psychedelic textures not unlike a jam band.
Noel has always ended his albums on a high note. This time it's "You Know We Can't Go Back" a pummeling, inspiring coming-of-age anthem. If this does not become a world-wide hit, somebody at the record label needs to get fired. It's got everything we loved with Oasis: affirmation, danger, rebellion and hope. Then album closer "Ballad Of The Mighty I" ends the set with a cameo by Noel's hero Johnny Marr and a winding, convoluted song structure that pays off in the end.
Most were unimpressed with Noel Gallagher's first outing with the High Flying Birds. It stuck a little too close to the script and left little to imagination. With Chasing Yesterday he ironically finds his own future. By mixing psychedelic experimentalism with his ear for classic songwriting, Noel could live forever like this and it even makes you wonder if he even needs his brother.
I give Chasing Yesterday by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds 4 and 1/2 Empty Lighthouses out of 5.
Review by A Derer
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