Album Review: Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday

Liam text me the other night asking when my duet with Robbie Williams was out” That’s what Noel Gallagher said recently as he recounted the last contact he had with his (estranged) brother Liam. Since Oasis split back in 2009, contact of any sort between the two has seldom occurred, with Noel by far the more successful of the brothers during solo escapades. Back in 2011, Noel released his debut solo album High Flying Birds to critical acclaim, following it up this year with the hotly anticipated Chasing Yesterday

Chasing Yesterday opens with Riverman’s acoustic strums and mellow piano chords, making way for Noel’s recognizable voice as he sings, “there’s something in the way she moves me to distraction”. It’s a very subdued album opener, sprawling across nearly six minutes of Noel-by-numbers catchy vocals and a simple, progressing instrumental combination which is underpinned by brass in the chorus. In the Heat of the Moment goes straight into the catchier side of things, with Noel’s “na na na” refrain preceding a verse which is accompanied by occasional church bells, castanets and a massive chorus fit for any festival in the world. Noel’s got some big headlining sets lined up this summer, and In the Heat of the Moment will certainly shape up to be a set highlight. The Girl With the X-Ray Eyes kick off at a slower pace as acoustic guitars and strings combine for a lighters-in-the-air anthem. “Don’t believe in no one else” sings Gallagher, before a stadium-sized chorus sets Gallagher’s return firmly in stone. A wah-wah-infused guitar interlude bridges the gap between the two halves of the song, the latter reaching far more epic proportions than the former. One thing which you can conclude about Gallagher’s music, as he has also pointed out himself, is that it’s music to which you can punch the air and cry to. The rockier Lock All the Doors comes at you with spiralling guitars and distorted bass as Gallagher lets himself loose from the mid-paced ballads for the first time on Chasing Yesterday. It’s a killer track, maintaining a sped-up pace for the most part as another life-sized chorus enters the frame. Massive choruses is what Gallagher does best, and there’s no denying that whatsoever.

The Dying of the Light opens with some slower acoustic strums and demure piano chords, with the piano going on to take the lead in a catchy-yet-depressing melody. “I keep on running but I can’t get to the mountain” sings Gallagher, before adding “I’ve been singing like a flower in the fountain” during the first verse. Noel is a fantastic lyricist, with The Dying of the Light potentially being one of the best on the album regarding lyrics. Effects-laden guitars calmly spiral in and out of control post-chorus, before the song picks up intensity just over the halfway point with a sharp solo and big chorus. The Right Stuff keeps the pace steady, with heavy doses of brass and occasional strings being introduced in and amongst the wavy guitar jabs and refrain of “you and I got the right stuff”. An avant-garde bass clarinet solo plays the song out, showing a different side to Noel’s music which we’ve not heard much of before. While the Song Remains the Same takes a while to kick in, but when it does we can instantly hear the classic Noel Gallagher sound coming through in its catchy verse and memorable chorus. “Find me a place where the sun shines through the rain” he optimistically sings ahead of a short guitar solo which is accompanied by flecks of brass and background noises. The rockier, straightforward sounds of The Mexican see Noel sing, “you say you need love just like a kid on crack” as an unknown female voice accompanies him in the background for the majority of the track. This adds some more texture and depth to the track, before brass instruments take on the melody. Penultimate album track You Know We Can’t Go Back begins with an ambient guitar, before Noel counts the song down and it turns into a fast-paced rocker. It carries an extremely huge sense of optimism with it as it travels at 100mph, with Noel requesting “take me to my lover’s arms; I won’t fall asleep this time”. It’s the most optimistic we’ve heard Noel in a long time, with the chorus kicking it up a notch. Expect this song to be one of the songs of the summer, because if there’s one thing that it’s made for, it’s festival main stages. “Yeah it’s
alright to know we can’t go back
” might just be a reference to the Oasis days, possibly being a stab at people who want the influential group to reform. The track segues into album closer Ballad of the Mighty I, one of the best songs Noel has ever released. A disco-groove in the bassline helps the track progress throughout, with Smiths’ legend Johnny Marr making an appearance at the end to play the song out with a Chic-esque guitar line. Ballad of the Mighty I ticks all the boxes: it’s catchy, it’s upbeat, it’s epic. It’s basically everything we expect from Gallagher as the track subsequently brings the album to an end.

If there’s one thing that Chasing Yesterday has taught us, it’s that Noel has no need (nor intention) to chase yesterday. His Oasis days are firmly behind him, with the future being the only thing we need to look forward to.