Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Chasing Yesterday

by Jamie White

Noel Gallagher and Oasis will always be intrinsically linked. Yet in his latest offering, Chasing Yesterday, Gallagher and his High Flying Birds continue to develop their own unique sound. This album ranges from the buoyant, guitar-driven rock that Gallagher is famous for, to a spaced-out jazz track, to a few softer ballads. It is a very solid album, without a doubt. But on first listening, a few of the songs seem to lack a certain spark.

The album opens with Riverman - of which the first few acoustic chords immediately remind me of Wonderwall… However, as the song unwinds it becomes clear it is a very different sound. A simple chord riff accompanies Gallagher’s apparent quest for a woman and the chorus portrays a real sense of emotion and longing. The biggest surprise comes in the second half of the song, as a strong guitar solo leads to an almost Pink Floyd, Shine On You Crazy Diamond feel, with shimmering guitar chords and an atmospheric saxophone. A pleasant surprise, it has to be said.

The second song, In The Heat Of The Moment, opens with a nice touch of studio background effects before launching into a series of “Na na na”s that are either cheesy or catchy, depending on your point of view. Those lyrics aside, this is a very strong track. A driving drum beat accompanies powerful bass and an almost blues-y guitar riff during the verses. It is the kind of song that will have your foot tapping and an audience singing along in no time. A guitar-driven chorus is paired with church bells which creates a strangely cool sound - until the “Na na na” lyrics return.

The Girl With The X-Ray Eyes returns the album to a gentler sound, although it is not what one would expect from a softer song. A chord sequence that doesn’t end as you would think joins an echo-y keyboard sound to create an eerie atmosphere. Lock All The Doors hears the comeback of the guitar-driven, feel good atmosphere of In The Heat Of The Moment. Again, a simple chord progression is made to come alive through energetic drums and buoyant guitar; your foot will be tapping away as Noel again vocalises his search for a lady.

Unfortunately, The Dying Of The Light does not follow the same trend. A soft acoustic opening leads to a song that drifts past you, with nothing in particular sticking out. It is a perfectly nice song, but as can be argued for a few songs on the album, it is nothing special. This is the sort of song that Noel Gallagher could write in an hour. It is fitting then, that a more dreary song is followed by the most ‘out-there’ track on the album - The Right Stuff. Opening with a droned acoustic chord and bass, this song starts out as normal before transforming into a spaced-out jazz style sequence. The opening lyrics “Out of the blue” have this literal effect, starting suddently after a repetitive sequence. A track laden with sound contains brass, strings, keys, and effects, guitar, bass, piano, and vocals that seems to compromise of three of four voices. It all creates a strange effect. The track builds in power towards a solo-filled conclusion that would not be out of place on a blues album, containing both electric guitar and a saxophone. A song most definitely differentiating Gallagher from his Oasis days.

While The Song Remains The Same comes up next - again opening with an acoustic guitar. Once more, Gallagher manages to create a lot of sound whilst using gentler sounding instruments. Titular track, Chasing Yesterday, is again a solid track. Nice to listen to, but nothing to catch one’s attention, although an atmospheric guitar solo ensures the final section picks up a bit. This is followed by The Mexican, which once more fails to do much to excite. A simple chord riff once more opens the song, but it fails to do much else. This song (again) picks up towards the end with a guitar solo, which perhaps says something about the slightly repetitive nature of Gallagher’s lyrics on this album.

The return of a driving drumbeat is welcomed in You Know We Can’t Go Back, a song which contrasts nicely with the positivity and attack of the chorus, and the calm in-between the verse and chorus. Echo-y piano sounds lead to the start of the best song of the album: Ballad Of The Mighty I. A bouncing and energetic drum and bass open the song, before a driven guitar enters the verse. It flows in a similar style to A.K.A What A Life from Gallagher’s previous album. A chorus in which each line is repeated and overlapping works extremely well, ensuring that the liveliness of the opening is not lost. It is hard to not be infected by the positivity of this song and invariably your foot ends up tapping away once more. An echo-laden guitar riff and a long string note ends the song and also the album. The video for this song is also worth a watch: Noel Gallagher parodies his own notorious hatred for music videos.

Overall, it is hard to find anything too wrong with this album. As to be expected with Noel Gallagher, it is extremely tightly put together and contains a few nice touches, such as the occasional background noise from the studio, or the way two songs run into each other through a lingering string note or a delayed sound. A formula of simple chords works well on some songs and less so on others, leading to my slight disappointment of a couple of the tracks. However, as a continuation in the development of his own brand and as far as rock albums go, this is a very solid album with one or two hidden gems.