When I reviewed the debut Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album back in 2011, I got a bit carried away and made some hyperbolic comparisons between songs like ‘If I Had a Gun’ and Oasis classics like ‘Wonderwall’. But buried amongst all the fawning and excitement I also wrote that it was an album a little too entrenched in familiar territory.
Fast forward to 2015, and with the release of Noel Gallagher’s second solo record, I can flip those sentiments around. As a collection of individual songs, Chasing Yesterday might lack the expansive, sweeping anthems of its predecessor – but as an album, it steps outside the more obvious Beatles and Kinks influences for something more experimental and less derivative.
There’s no Christian Rap Metal or Hoomii Mongolian throat singing to be found here, but woven into the sonic landscape of Chasing Yesterday are bass clarinets, pianos, saxophones, female backing vocals and even hints of jazz (all this from the man who once declared that “music is just music, except for jazz… jazz is shite”). This broader set of sounds makes for Noel’s best work since Oasis’s Don’t Believe the Truth was released a decade ago.
Some of the more captivating tracks are album opener ‘Riverman’ and ‘The Right Stuff’. The former is “Pink Floyd meets fucking Santana in a weird funk atmosphere” (Noel’s own words – how could I ever eclipse that remarkable turn of phrase?), while the later features a soothing female voice accompanying Noel over the top of keyboards and interspaced with a bass clarinet solo. Bet you didn’t expect that on a Noel Gallagher solo album!
Other highlights include ‘The Ballad of the Mighty I’, an almost dancey-track with a cameo from Johnny Marr, and ‘Lock All the Doors’, a Definitely Maybe-esque balls-to-the-wall rocker which was first written in 1992 and would not have been out of place alongside the likes of ‘Columbia’ or ‘Bring it on Down’.
Now, I’ve done nothing but wax lyrical about how great this album is, so I suppose I better take off my Noel-tinted glasses and offer up some criticism. For me, Chasing Yesterday’s one blemish is ‘The Mexican’. It is by no means a bad song, but it is weighed down by some lazy lyrics (“They say that you need love / Just like a kid on crack”), and benchmarked against the rest of the album I feel it should have been omitted in favour of the superior B-Side ‘Do the Damage’.
That minor misstep aside, Chasing Yesterday is an outstanding album that together with Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds vindicates Noel’s solo career and the end of Oasis.