Over three years since his double-platinum-selling debut solo album, Noel Gallagher’s follow-up Chasing Yesterday is finally out. It was actually completed last summer but the re-issue of Oasis albums and touring commitments delayed its release. But despite advance publicity suggesting that it was going to be an ‘out-there’ album with Gallagher letting loose, it doesn’t really break any new ground.
When he scrapped his collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous (the experimental electronic dance duo Garry Cobain and Brian Dougan better known as The Future Sound Of London) in 2012 he seemed to close the door on musical adventure. The few mind-blowing tracks that emerged from their sessions show a tantalisingly trippy glimpse of what might have been if Gallagher had really wanted for once to go outside his comfort zone.
It’s understandable that he wants to stress how he’s moved on from Oasis, and in Chasing Yesterday he continues to show a wider range as a songwriter, but innovation ain’t his thing. Apparently he regrets the nostalgic-sounding title he gave the album, yet it seems quite apt for the music that this time is not just heavily influenced by other artists’ work but cannibalises his own back catalogue. Nonetheless, he has always shown himself to be a master of well-crafted songs with strong melodies, and this album proves no exception with its mixture of arena anthems and more reflective tracks.
There’s a strong start with Riverman, which opens with acoustic guitar chords similar to Wonderwall before a soaring electric guitar solo is let fly, and then unexpectedly some jazzy sax drifts in at the bridge and the end. This mellow, slightly spaced out song about elusive love contains the distinctly Beatles-ish words, “There’s something in the way, she moves me to distraction”. The catchy lead single In The Heat Of The Moment has dirty riffs and a big chorus, with a “nah nah nah” refrain that will no doubt be chanted around festivals come the summer.
The Girl With X-Ray Eyes’s mellotron haze evokes early David Bowie with its air of psychedelic mystery. As an out-take from Oasis’s first album Definitely Maybe over 20 years ago, Lock All The Doors is a real blast from the past, with its all-out attack on blistering guitars and cocksure swagger just lacking Liam Gallagher’s ballsy delivery. The Dying Of The Light is one of those mid-tempo numbers that Noel churns out all too easily, with a gentler even elegiac tone as he regrets “behind lie the years that I mis-spent”.
The one genuine surprise on the album, the space jazz of The Right Stuff, makes it by some way its most interesting track. The reverb-drenched guitars, syncopated rhythms and meandering sax, complemented by chilled out vocals, float Gallagher off into the ether as never before. The Song Remains The Same returns to earth with a bump though in a wistful tune about the old Manchester Gallagher grew up in, “where the sun shines through the rain”.
The Mexican is a sleazy rocker reminiscent of the relentless drive of the Rolling Stones’ Bitch, with its thrusting guitars, stomping drums and cowbells, while in You Know We Can’t Go Back Noel is back in auto-pilot melancholic rock mode singing how “I lost my way”, seeming to rule out an Oasis reunion. Closing track Ballad Of The Mighty I sounds like the sequel to his …AKA What A Life!, with Johnny Marr contributing a characteristically silky guitar solo.
With his last album Gallagher seemed to be aiming at AOR respectability, whereas Chasing Yesterday is a rather more raunchy affair, with the guitars cranked up. The lyrics though remain the same disappointingly thin fare – surprisingly so, for someone who shows such a quick wit in spoken interviews. As long-time producer Dave Sardy was not available this time, Gallagher has done a very competent job of producing the album by himself, but his High Flying Birds glide effortlessly at mid-altitude rather than aiming for the heights.