The thing about Noel Gallagher is that his songwriting sounds timeless. As one of the people responsible for crafting Britpop, his songs consistently sound as though they’ve always been around, and we’re just rediscovering them when each album releases. As such, his newest effort, Chasing Yesterday, sounds like classic Noel, whether that is for better or worse.
Gallagher’s original solo album, the self-titled Noel Gallagher and His High Flying Birds, sounded outside of most everything in the discography of his past band, a little outfit known as Oasis. His signature guitar sound was mostly ousted in favor of softer acoustic-centered pop and an intricate mixture of violins and other odd instruments. Chasing Yesterday aptly marks a return to form with heavy guitar and an Oasis-style swagger. The softer songs are there, but they’re few and far between.
This doesn’t sound like the second in a line of solo albums as much as it does a series of songs that could’ve been pulled from any point in Oasis’ career. While it’s enough to sound like we’ve heard it before, the good news is that it reaffirms how good of a writer Gallagher is.
Chasing Yesterday fixes the problem that I had with High Flying Birds; it was too soft for someone considered to be one of the world’s biggest rock stars. There is an energy here that has been sorely missed since the breakup of Oasis. It’s reassuring to hear him sound comfortable not having to distinguish himself away from his old band as he did on High Flying Birds, and reinforces how much he actually wrote for Oasis. Also, the deluxe version’s extra tracks feel like an absolute must have. How some of them were cut from the actual portion of the album, I’ll never understand.
If you’ve ever heard an Oasis or Noel Gallagher song before, you know what to expect; poppy guitars rattling intimately over a pulsing bass and crackling drums. There is a little something for everyone with a diverse style of music, whether it be relaxed blues (“Riverman”), a semi-electronic song backed by fuzzy guitars (“In the Heat of the Moment”), the softer pop songs that tamper with stringed instruments and keyboards (“The Girl With X-Ray Eyes”) or genuine rock songs (“Lock All the Doors”). Each instrument is given its moment to rise to the occasion and take command.
I think it’s easy to say that Chasing Yesterday refers to and focuses on the music, as the lyrics can be fairly random. The songs are catchy and designed to easily be sung along to, but there is an inconsistency with them that doesn’t sound connected. “The Girl With X-Ray Eyes” has Noel singing, ‘So she took me by the hand, we followed clues left in the sand / As she swallowed space and time we gathered pearls and swine / She shot me to the sun like a bullet from a gun”. In the context of the song, it sounds wonderful but isolated it just feels random.
If there is a theme lyrically to Chasing Yesterday, it’s the idea of trying to live up to the legendary songwriter that his fans expect him to be. “You Know We Can’t Go Back” sounds like a near sequel to the Oasis song “Fade Away”, both musically and thematically. Where the latter was a song about losing the dreams that you grew up wanting, “We Can’t Go back” has Noel singing, “Gone are the days and the dreams we screamed out loud / With my heart in my mouth / I couldn’t tell you what just hit me”.
Gallagher also touches on the subject of trying to recapture the glory of his most famous songs, most of which are 20 years old at this point, despite the numerous albums released since then. In “The Dying Light”, Gallagher sings, “I keep on running but I can’t get to the mountain / Behind me lie the years that I’ve misspent / And I’ve been sinking like a flower in the fountain” before breaking into a chorus of, “And I was told that the streets were paved with gold there’d be no time / For getting old when we were young”. The lyrics carry an even heavier weight over waves of a crisp bass line and the clamor of drumming that sounds like the harsh patter of rain drops.
It’s hard for me not to recommend Chasing Yesterday to anyone. It reinforces the greatest aspects of what makes Noel Gallagher such a strong songwriter and adds a necessary energy to his solo effort. The problem is, it’s nothing we haven’t heard before and makes me miss quieter somber sound of the original High Flying Birds. That said, the album is exactly what I want when Noel Gallagher releases an album and adds to a career of incredible work.
by Kyle Schultz
Kyle Schultz is the Senior Editor at It’s All Dead and has worked as a gaming journalist at Structure Gaming. He lives in Chicago and has loved Noel Gallagher for as long as he can remember. In fact, he knew about Noel Gallagher and his music before Paul McCartney and John Lennon and their Beatles music. What are the chances?