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Album Review: Noel Gallagher - Chasing Yesterday

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds Chasing Yesterday 
Reviewed by Kelli Redding

Quick Review: Although Noel Gallagher’s Chasing Yesterday is not destined to make waves outside the sphere of those already converted into Oasis fandom, it is still a highly satisfying album for any listener who may enjoy post-Britpop alternative rock with a somewhat experimental flair.

Full Review: Champagne Supernova. Wonderwall. Don’t Look Back in Anger. And those are just a few to be named. It is obvious that ex-Oasis rocker Noel Gallagher writes songs meant to be sung along with thousands of others around you at sold-out arenas and stadiums worldwide. Noel’s turbulent relationship with younger brother - Oasis frontman Liam - is what characterized his former band’s whirlwind career of hit singles, excessive media coverage, and a love-hate adoration by millions of fans.

But all of that ended in 2009, when Noel walked out of the band after an argument with Liam and subsequently split Oasis for good. Without thinking too hard, you can almost picture the band still together as if it were yesterday. Liam’s post-Oasis band, Beady Eye, was a critical and commercial flop without Noel’s songwriting. With Noel’s first solo record, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, the songs were all top notch but lacked the rock ‘n’ roll edge and vocals of brother Liam.

But what can you expect to hear on Noel’s second solo album? The opening track, ‘Riverman,’ is a sprawling and wistful number with chords reminiscent of ‘Wonderwall.’ The sounds of a saxophone may come as a surprise but don’t sound out of place. In fact, they are already faint in your mind by the time the second song – and the album’s lead single – ‘In the Heat of the Moment’ kicks in. This is a song you already know, already love, and can’t wait to crank up the volume and sing along with on an aimless car drive while time speeds into summer.

Next is ‘The Girl With X-Ray Eyes,’ a mid-tempo ballad that narrates an ocean encounter with a mysterious girl, complete with strings that faintly echo ‘The Masterplan.’ There’s nothing new to be heard here though, and this is the decidedly low point of the album. ‘Lock All the Doors’ picks the energy back up though, a song that in itself is the completed version of an early Oasis demo (want to hear Liam sing it instead? Click here).

‘The Dying of the Light’ is undoubtedly the album’s best song, lyrically and musically, and showcases Noel’s ability to mature as a songwriter. “I was told that the streets were paved with gold / And there’d be no time for getting old when we were young,” sings a perhaps-jaded Noel in this soft track that resonates nostalgia and maybe even regret.

‘The Right Stuff’ is the album’s most experimental point, featuring an assortment of instruments and climbing duet vocals that spiral into a lush soundscape. ‘While the Song Remains the Same’ pays homage to Noel’s roots while simultaneously resolving to let go of the past. ‘The Mexican’ is a more lighthearted, Americana-style jam followed by ‘You Know We Can’t Go Back,’ a drum-pounding rocker reaffirming the belief that everything still turns out alright in the end. ‘The Ballad of the Mighty I’ features former-Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr and is a satisfying close to the album.

So what exactly does Chasing Yesterday strive to accomplish? With such a title we can only assume Noel has settled comfortably into the shadow of his former band’s success. However, the new album offers a more experimental set of styles and instrumentation that does not fall into the traditional, radio-ready pop form of Oasis. Instead, Noel is motivated to establish himself as neither a guitarist nor singer, but simply a songwriter independent of the notoriety of his previous band. Opposing any assumptions generated from the album’s title, Noel affirms this with the lyrics, “It’s a shame how memory fades to grey / We will not get lost in anger chasing yesterday.”

Will there be an Oasis reunion in the near future? With Beady Eye’s dissolution, ex-Oasis members’ immersion into other projects, and Noel’s current solo success, such a prediction is too foggy to clarify. Is Chasing Yesterday as good as an Oasis album? It depends what you hope to hear in it; with Oasis, the dynamic of both brothers is essential to the music for the magic to happen, so to speak, and the quality of either is not something that can be judged as an accurate comparison. So for now it’s best to just take what we can get and enjoy the ride. With Chasing Yesterday, Noel proves he is still capable of writing songs as good as those from any given point in his career, and no doubt has a witty comeback waiting for anyone ready to challenge him otherwise.

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