It can be hard for a musician made famous by one band or iteration, to kick on to a new band, or solo career. Noel Gallagher will probably never dominate the charts again like he did in the 90s as the lead songwriter and brains behind Oasis. That doesn’t mean there isn’t a place of his music in 2015. For me personally, it means I’m more interested in his output than I ever was in those world conquering, mulit-million selling days.
The hullabaloo around Oasis always over shadowed the music for me. I had no interest in hearing what these egomaniacs made. No one who talked such a big game could ever actually live up to their own hype. But now, Gallagher the mega star isn’t really a thing anymore. Instead, Noel Gallagher the musician has remained, teamed with his High Flying Birds for their latest long player, Chasing Yesterday.
Straight away, Riverman makes me wonder why Noel ever let little brother Liam Gallagher into Oasis. Was Liam’s nasal, whiney delivery part of what made them stand out in the 90s? Or did that band succeed despite it? Because musically, Riverman is the kind of jangly, almost aimless ramble that I would have hated if it was an Oasis song, but here, with the High Flying Birds, I have no problem getting into its groove (although, the sexy sax interlude straight out of a Lethal Weapon movie score is a little jarring). What’s the difference? The Gallagher brother on the mic, that’s what.
In the Heat of the Moment is a strange hodge podge of everything that’s ever been popular in Brit rock, and it all fits together surprisingly well. The opening seconds made me think I was in for Rolling Stones 60s blues, before the na-na-na intro and bridge felt like the Kaiser Chiefs at the mid 00s height. Then there’s some hints of rock with an electronic edge like so much turn of the millennium English rock. All with Gallagher’s straight as an arrow song writing at its core. This many things should not be able to live together in such harmony. But bugger me if Gallagher doesn’t pull it off.
It’s time to bring the vintage Noel Gallagher rock on Lock All the Doors. A straight 4/4 beat with drum fill just where you expect them, fat, diving bar chords, and a vocal simple enough for the biggest festival crowd to join in on. Sometimes, the simple things in life really do deliver the biggest payoff.
The middle section of Chasing Yesterday gets a little samey, falling victim to a little too much production that washed over everything to make it a little hard to differentiate The Dying of the Light, from The Right Stuff, from While the Song Remains the Same. They’re all perfectly fine songs, they could all just do with a little more variation in their arrangements, and studio tweaking to stand apart a little more.
And that variation in song writing, arrangement and studio tweaks comes in spades with The Mexican. This could almost be a Peter Gabriel song from the 80s. It’s combination of classic rock, with 80s production and big band horn section should sound dated and corny in 2015, but the High Flying Birds prove more than up to the challenge of dragging these sounds into the present day.
While the highlights of Chasing Yesterday are, for me, when Gallagher sticks to his traditional tropes, I’m still impressed by this old rocker’s openness to trying something new. From the unexpected horn sections that pop up throughout, to the more electronic aspects seamlessly woven into his traditional rock approach, to his willingness to several times pay tribute to an 80s sound not necessarily seen as part of the decades greatest achievements. Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and Chasing Yesterday is an eclectic mix of throwbacks that becomes something surprisingly fresh.