Chasing Yesterday by Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds
Noel Gallagher knows what it is like to be on top of the world.
“The Chief” or “The Godlike Genius”, as he is fondly called by the Oasis faithful, is one of the pinnacles of British rock ‘n’ roll. After founding the band Oasis, together he and his brother Liam took over his native island like a storm. It wasn’t uncommon to hear the group being referred to as the next Beatles. In fact, at their peak in the late 90’s, the band was overwhelming voted the biggest band in history over the likes of The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, and Led Zeppelin by many tabloids. To this day, Oasis still retains the title of fastest selling album (Be Here Now, 1997) in British history. Their most popular song, “Wonderwall”, still makes an occasional radio appearance today.
Now that nearly twenty years have come and gone since the golden age of Britpop, Gallagher is no longer the hero of rock that he once was.
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The 2000’s proved to be a dark age for Oasis, which saw the band halfheartedly put out mediocre albums and experience declining popularity. The group disbanded for good in 2009 after a dispute over flying fruit. Nowadays, it’s not uncommon to see Gallagher spending his time sitting back watching Manchester City soccer games on television, admiring his collection of trainers, or taking shots at today’s biggest music stars such as Taylor Swift, Kanye West, and Alex Turner. According to Gallagher, he’d “rather drink petrol straight from the nozzle at a garage” than listen to any interview featuring Turner. Based on these instances alone, one would assume he is bitter about his current situation. Surely he must have a nostalgic longing for the good old days when Oasis was still the king of music.
But free from the strings that attached him in Oasis, the middle aged rocker seems to have found new life. According to critics, Gallagher’s 2011 debut solo album was his best work since the turn of the century. Because of this, and despite the name of his new album, “Chasing Yesterday”, he isn’t looking back to the fame nor the sound of his past. He’s been there, done that. Now Gallagher considers himself to be an explorer, journeying through the fresh and modern terrain of alternative music.Throughout the album, he finds himself combining instruments and vibrant sounds in ways that were once impossible with Oasis. The album proves to be enchanting, and truly a breath of fresh air for the Manchester native.
“Chasing Yesterday” begins with one of its most complete tracks, “Riverman”. The relaxed, dreamy flow of the song indeed prompts the listener to think of a rolling river. “All of the love that was left behind is gone…like a memory that fades, she disappears again,” sings Gallagher. It is at this moment where the true significance of the album’s title it is first revealed. Gallagher is not chasing fame and fortune. He seeks youth and lost love.
Gallagher finds his most emotional moment on “The Dying Of The Light”, which in turn brings out the best in him. The song seems destined to go down as one of Gallagher’s classic songs, mirroring the gentle cries of love from “If I Had A Gun” before it. “Behind me lie the years that I misspent…I was told that the streets were paved with gold and there would be no time for getting old when we were young,” he sings, looking back on his youth. Gallagher has always been a lyrical genius, and he continues to find his writing rhythm on this track. “We’ll fight the dying of the light and catch the sun,” may be as fine a lyric as he has ever penned.
The album also features many other elaborate gems that stretch the boundaries of Gallagher’s musical imagination. “The Ballad of The Mighty I”, for example, seems to glide with a continuous wave of energetic pulses. It is on this song where fellow rock legend Johnny Marr, formerly of The Smiths, makes his appearance. Marr blankets his sound behind Gallagher’s vast collection of instrumentals, but plays a crucial role in the rhythm of the song. “The Right Stuff” may be the most uncharacteristic song in Gallagher’s career. He takes great pride in the fact that he managed to incorporate “space jazz” on the track, along with the occasional injection of electric guitar shocks. What is most unusual about the song is that Gallagher duets with a female singer, which he had never attempted before. “You and I got the right the right stuff,” they whisper. After becoming lost in the song’s tender melody, it’s hard to argue with them.
Despite his new direction, Gallagher hasn’t completely forgotten about his days with Oasis. Many of the songs on the album, including “Lock All The Doors” and “Revolution Song”, have roots tracing back to the 90’s. “Lock All The Doors”, once a demo for Oasis, was abandoned because of Gallagher’s inability to find a complement to the chorus. Now that it has resurfaced, the sounds of “Definitely Maybe” within it remain apparent. In fact, it’s buzzing guitar and energy seem to be the perfect fit for the vocals of Gallagher’s younger brother, Liam. It shows just how much Liam, the former frontman and primary singer for Oasis, continues to loom over Noel.
In “Chasing Yesterday”, Gallagher has rediscovered his creative spirit. The production, done by Gallagher himself, is impressive. The new, smooth, alternative direction that he has chosen to pursue has led him to a new tomorrow, and a true career revival. As of Monday, the album became the fastest selling album of 2015 and rose to number one in the UK charts. There has been little love lost for Gallagher in his home country. It’s true that the times when he held absolute power over the entire British music scene are long gone, but maybe that’s just fine with him. Perhaps Gallagher says it best when he sings, “it’s alright, you know we can’t go back.”