Words By: Gerrod Harris
Release Date: March 3rd, 2015, via Sour Mash Records
It’s been a while since we’ve heard new music from the former Oasis song writer and guitarist, Noel Gallagher. His previous release, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, in 2011, let the idea truly sink in that their likely would not be an Oasis reunion anytime soon, but also introduced us to Gallagher’s post-Oasis career. Despite a lack of music from Gallagher, the world has heard plenty from him; he has become as known for his controversial statements, often directed at other musicians, as he has for being a prolific song writer of the 90’s and onward. Read on to see how his sophomore solo album, Chasing Yesterday is.
I really dug the opening track, “Riverman”. The minor chords played on the acoustic guitar with the accompanying crunchy electric guitar part with Gallagher’s soft vocals all recorded to sound very rough, adding a certain grit to the already dark textures. There are so many little things throughout the song which come in and out, adding a new dimension to the music, for example the bass run into the guitar solo, the small sax line heading from the solo into the verse, and the heavy, daunting tone of the chords played across the piano during the final verse, and the way the drums change as the song progresses. All of these small things, layered under the main themes of the vocals and guitars take a good song and make it great! Right off the bat, “Riverman” will have listeners hooked, waiting in excitement for the rest of the album. The album continues building softly with songs like “In The Heat Of The Moment” and “The Girl With X-Ray Eyes” but the amps really get turned up, along with the fuzz in the straight ahead rocker, “Lock All The Doors”. There aren’t many songs like that on Chasing Yesterday, which in no way is a bad thing, but when there is an up tempo rocker, it is very good. “The Mexican” is another example of this, where Gallagher has taken a traditional surf rock feel and equipped it with a modern, darker edge.
“The Ballad Of The Mighty I” closes the album with a softer rocker, but not quite as soft as most of the album; it’s not much of a ballad really. The song features Johnny Marr, of The Smiths, on guitar and backing vocals. I’m assuming Gallagher is a big fan of Marr, seeing as his work in The Smiths greatly influenced British 90’s alternative rock. The song itself is great, but Marr’s contribution adds a level of sophistication to it. Gallagher said about the collaboration, “I called him and asked if I could send him the rough mix. He said: ‘No, I don’t want to hear it. I’m just going to react to it on the day.’ He didn’t even want any pointers. Well, that was brave of him. He just arrived with two guitars and a bag of effects pedals. And I have to say, he’s unbelievable. He’s way up there, on another level to the rest of us. The result is a burst of energy that helped make “Mighty I” one of the best songs I’ve ever written.” With an impressive catalogue of music behind Gallagher’s name, it’s hard to determine if it’s one of his best, but it definitely is nothing short of excellence.
As much of a great change of pace “Lock All The Doors”, or “The Mexican” were, Gallagher’s true strength lies in his ability to transmit a certain mood through his slower tempo songs. They aren’t quite ballads in terms of speed, but they have this openness and melancholy vibe to them which is often associated with ballads. This is really heard in “The Dying Of The Light” and the following track, “The Right Stuff”, which is a particularly interesting song, with its higher vocals, grooving drums, ascending horn line, and tasteful guitar solo laying underneath the moving textures.
Chasing Yesterday is Gallagher’s tribute to generations of music past; with songs reminiscent of The Beatles’ latter career, George Harrison’s solo work, Rolling Stones’ ballads, and even the early career of Oasis. This album greatly surpasses its predecessor, and even latter Oasis records. As much as I would love an Oasis reunion, Gallagher’s quality of musicianship in both his playing and song writing has relieved my desire for more Oasis, and has turned that need towards Gallagher and his future projects. There wasn’t a bad song on the album! Even its weakest song, “You Know We Can’t Go Back” has it’s redeeming qualities and really is better than a lot of newer music which falls under the singer-songwriter meets rock genre. He has done a phenomenal job of creating giant soundscapes giving the album a very full sound. It’s clear a lot of thought has gone into both the recording and production of the album as despite its fullness, it also feels very open. Everything seems to serve a purpose; each element adds something to the already rich texture: the drums, the acoustic and electric guitars, the horns, the piano and vocals, everything fits together perfectly creating what acclaimed producer, Phil Spector, would call, a wall of sound. And what a great sound Chasing Yesterday is. Gallagher manages to work with such complexity between the contrasting openness and fullness, and yet he still manages to make his music feel catchy, simple, and fun. Noel Gallagher has achieved greatness with Chasing Yesterday, and album which can rightly stand tall beside such classics as Definitely Maybe and What’s The Story Morning Glory?.
Noel Gallagher And The High Flying Birds will be in Toronto at the Sony Center for the Performing Arts on the 3rd and 4th of May (tickets available here)
2: In The Heat Of The Moment
3: The Girl With X-Ray Eyes
4: Lock All The Doors
5: The Dying Of The Light
6: The Right Stuff
7: While The Song Remains The Same
8: The Mexican
9: You Know We Can’t Go Back
10: The Ballad Of The Mighty I (Featuring Johnny Marr)