Review Summary: Noel and his High Flying Birds show no signs of plateauing
There are very few musical relationships which are as volatile and well publicised as the one shared by Noel and Liam Gallagher. Their explosive arguments are really no different to those which occur between siblings worldwide; except of course, that their
squabbles are projected nationwide by gleeful British newspapers that rarely miss an opportunity to fan the flames of conflict. The frequency of their altercations in Oasis’ early days has in truth probably led to their rivalry being overstated, but the tabloids were, quite rightly, never going to miss out on a chance to compare Noel’s High Flying Birds with Liam’s Beady Eye. It was a match up which promised plenty, but predictably failed to deliver. Rather like a boxing match weigh in between a heavyweight and a lightweight, the billing was only ever a superficial one, as Noel has been responsible for penning practically every Oasis song you’ve ever heard. Unsurprisingly, he hasn’t looked back since. His debut exceeded expectation, and Chasing Yesterday
continues the trend by being a step up on its predecessor.
Noel always has been and always will be the product of his influences, which he’d be the first to admit. Borrow a chord progression from here; steal a melody from a 60’s B side there, he welcomes the fact that his music mirrors that of his record collection, and he even goes so far as to say that he doesn't claim to be a fan of original thought at all. It’s no surprise then to hear the album open with a riff which he’s basically stolen from himself. The first few strokes of ‘Riverman’ are unmistakable to anyone who has listened to the radio in the past 20 years, but instead of following the same chord progression he chooses to recycle the same chord instead, heavily accentuating the upstrokes in order to vary the melody. It’s a familiar opening which makes you feel as though you could sing along to the chorus having never heard it before, but there is a rare surprise in store before the song is over. The song features not one but two saxophone solos, and although they’re utilized in a way which is quintessential Gallagher, they still propel the song into welcome unknown territory resulting in an early album highlight.
The album’s least gratifying songs are probably the ones which Gallagher has earmarked as stadium anthems. Admittedly, you can imagine 60,000 boozy Brits bouncing up and down to both “In the Heat of the Moment” and “Lock All the Doors,” but the latter in particular comes off as feeling forced, as if its inclusion serves mostly to appease anticipated airtime and sold out arena tours. While it would be wrong to label the pair failures, they do fall short when compared to some of the gems surrounding them. “The Dying of the Light” is a solemn, subdued effort which benefits from light reverberation and a wonderfully infectious chorus. The song’s hook; “Man, it makes me wanna cry” makes you take the bait immediately, and it reels you in effortlessly. Highlight “The Right Stuff” is another song which benefits from brass, and the subtle horns combine with a prominent bass line and dual vocals in a laid back jam, which comes as close to being jazzy as you expect Noel Gallagher will ever come.
If you've been a fan of all things Noel Gallagher in the past, then Chasing Yesterday
is going to do little to change your opinion. Though he does exploit the freedom that being in his own project affords him, the nuances do little to rock the boat and his signature sound remains very much intact. Gallagher’s blueprint has always been set on looking back in time and making it relevant for a modern day audience, rather than blowing up creative boundaries. He did it magnificently with Oasis back in the early 90’s, and he’s continuing to do it now in 2015. Chasing Yesterday
is crammed full of natural sounding songs by a man who has only ever known one way of making music, and long may it continue.