Monday, March 16, 2015

Kevin C's review of Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Chasing Yesterday


“We let love get lost in anger chasing yesterday.”  So sings the scribe (but not always the voice) behind some of Oasis’ biggest hits during their 1990’s heyday.  Speaking of the phrase itself, Gallagher clearly has no problem “chasing yesterday” from minute 1.  Opener “Riverman” rides an identical groove as “Wonderwall.”  Some might call this lazy, but it manages to transcend the carbon copy label some might apply to it.  Liam brought his sneer and bravado to “Wonderwall.”  On “Riverman,” Noel’s measured, more relaxed tone turns the tune into something fresh while still retaining familiarity.


Noel stated in NME that being in Oasis was “all about the struggle and the chaos.”  Chasing Yesterday is an album mostly free of chaos, even if it starts to ramp up rather quickly with second track and first single “In the heat of the moment.”  This is a track distinctively featuring Noel circa 2015.  Gone are the dense, over-packed arrangements of Be Here Now era Oasis.  In their place is a tight, muscular groove that gets the job done and gets out of the room.  The early half of Chasing Yesterday is all yin/yang, ducking and weaving between relaxed larks like “The girl with x-ray eyes” before coming out with guns blazing again.  “Lock all the doors” was written before Oasis formed, and it shows.  It sounds like something that could have ended up on Definitely Maybe, but didn’t quite get there at the time.  Some of Noel’s limitations show here.  He has the vocal chops to pull off the fast, hard-scrabble rockers, but he never quite sounds at home singing them.  His is a voice built for quiet reflection, which he seems keen to remind listeners of with another truly “Noel circa 2015” track “The dying of the light.”  Tracks like this one succeed by being rooted in the here and now.  This is not the “high as a kite” version of Noel talked up here.  This is the music firmly rooted in an older, wiser, and more reflective ethos that simply was not as prominent early in his career.  


About the only thing that has carried over from that time is the length - 4 of the songs on this album cross the 5 minute mark, but none overstay their welcome.  One track, “While the song remains the same” even has an intro that begs to be adapted as a walk-on-stage number to start shows, with the ethereal build leading into a rousing mid-tempo stomper.  Here Noel shows how while he is still clearly a fan of “busy” tracks, he has learned a great deal since the early days of his career on how to manage that feeling and filter songs down.  Now, they feature a well-balanced mixture, never overwhelming or stuffed with too many instruments just because the artist felt like putting them in there.


Taking this album as a whole, it comes down to a mostly even mix of Noel doing what he does best, and some fleeting glimpses of stepping outside his comfort zone.  Album closer “Ballad of the mighty I” rides a skittering, chaotic groove that is more outside the comfort zone than anything else on this album.  Johnny Marr’s guitar work on this track feeds that chaos like a gas can tossed on a bonfire, and the end result is something light years ahead of most of this album’s output.  Bottom line - Noel Gallagher shows off the talent with Chasing Yesterday, but leaves the listener wanting more of the forward-leaning moments that peak out from behind the curtain over the album’s run time.

Final score: 8/10


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