Written 24th February 2015
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Chasing Yesterday
The Band: Noel Gallagher (lead vocals/guitar), Tim Smith (guitar), Russell Pritchard (bass), Mike Rowe (keyboards), Jeremy Stacey (drums)
Early March sees the return of the Chief, Noel Gallagher, with his band Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and their second album ‘Chasing Yesterday’ with this week seeing the new album being streamed on iTunes via his website:
The band’s self-titled debut album was well received seeing Noel on good form and releasing a number of singles that again became popular sing-a-long anthems for fans ranging from the cheeky, brass band-stand sounding ‘Death of You and Me’ to the soft and tender but epic sounding opener ‘Everybody’s on the Run’ and a fine Noel acoustic number with ‘If I Had a Gun’. The middle of the album featured a nice run of tracks, the heavenly divine ‘(I wanna live a dream in my) record machine’ before being followed by brilliant single ‘Aka… What a Life’ an upbeat number with a cool dance vibe about it and a progressive move away from the guitar-rock sound of Oasis. ‘Soldier Boys and Jesus Freaks’ showed Noel doff his cap to The Kinks with a very ‘60’s guitar riff running through it while ‘Aka... Broken Arrow’ saw a semi-acoustic Noel at his finest. I was lucky enough to get an early preview of a few new tracks when I managed to catch the band play a tiny warm-up gig at The Dome, Tufnell Park earlier this month and the early signs of the new material were promising. So with the success of the debut album how does ‘Chasing Yesterday’ shape up for Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds?
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. Ballad of the Mighty I
With a short excerpt of Noel in the studio (a theme to be found throughout the record) ‘Chasing Yesterday’ opens with the soft, acoustic ‘Riverman’ a calm, gentle opener for the album, stripped-down with soft guitar from Noel and gentle backing bass and keys from Russell and Mike respectively. Halfway through the track we have a nice guitar solo being accompanied by, in possibly a first for a Noel Gallagher record, a saxophone and this opener reminds me of the type of sound of Paul Weller’s ‘Wild Wood’. ‘In the Heat of the Moment’ was the first single and the first preview we got of the new album and is a solid Noel solo track with a nice groove throughout it featuring a big chorus “The more that you want it/The more that you need it/I know that you’ll be by my side/In the heat of the moment/When the thunder and lightning come/I know that you’ll be by my side” backed with a series of “Nah-nah-nah-nah’s”. You will no doubt have heard this track by now and know what we’re all about here. After another short excerpt from the studio ‘The Girl with X-Ray Eyes’ opens with a reassuringly, familiar acoustic rhythm from Noel and lyrics “Tried to hang on to myself/Don’t believe in no one else/Now I’m shaking like a leaf/As I fall into the street/But the girl with x-ray eyes/She can see through my disguise” and as the track progresses Tim offers some more slightly psychedelic backing guitars to Noel’s acoustic guitar which at times remind me in sound a little of Oasis b-side ‘The Masterplan’.
‘Lock all the Doors’ sees a very raw and full-on Noel rock track. “She wore a star-shaped tambourine/Prettiest girl I’d ever seen/Standing lost and lonely on the shore/I tried to catch her every night/Dancing on the road in her candlelight/But I can’t seem to reach her anymore”. This is great number with a really infectious melody to it, to an extent like ‘Up in the Sky’ but more in the vein of Oasis’ ‘Morning Glory’ and it’s good to see a Noel write a rocking number like this that shows more than a nod to the ‘Definitely Maybe’ days and this will certainly become a live favourite. Midway through the album ‘The Dying of the Light’ sets a more sedate tone, a lovely, soulful ballad with soft vocals from Noel complimented by Mike Rowe’s gentle keys, an acoustic partnership that has worked well over the years, and we find Noel in reflective mood here “And I was told/The streets were paved with gold/And there’d be no time for getting old when we were young/It’s alright/If you dance with me tonight/We’ll fight the dying of the light and catch the sun.” Continuing with an acoustic vibe ‘The Right Stuff’ initially sees the band gently jamming away at its opening, a very trippy yet chilled track, with the saxophone making its second appearance on the album here and openly flirting with light jazz, while the latter of the track features a trademark Gallagher guitar solo intertwined with some more jazz saxophone; a psychedelic number midway through the record. Moving to a much more upbeat tempo and rhythm ‘While the song remains the same’ is a jolly number with pulsing synths and bass and teasing slide-guitar notes throughout “Found me a place/Where the sun shines through the rain/And there is pleasure in the pain/And the song remains the same/And it goes on and on and on”.
With a heavy guitar-riff and wooden percussion forming the basis for it ‘The Mexican’ sees some driving no-nonsense rock perfectly formed for accompanying a road-trip “Thought I was talking about a new religion/Raining on the outside, lost in the fog/I was only dreaming of a revolution/Waiting for the right time, watching the clock”, while penultimate track ‘You know we can’t go back’ swaggers along confidently with an upbeat rhythm and groove and a rocky edge about it with Noel powering over the chorus “It’s alriiii-ght/But you know that we can’t go back”. The track blends into the other previous single of the album ‘Ballad of the Mighty I’, which has a real heart and a catchy dance groove to it and lyrics, where I believe, Noel continues to question his path with God “Followed you down to the end of the road/To wait outside your window/In the heat of the rain I would call your name/But you just past me by” a similar theme which can be found on Oasis b-side ‘Listen Up’ and 'Falling Down' from Oasis' last album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’, showing there’s a deepness to Noel’s lyrics more than first meets the eye, and for me this closing track has a similar vibe about it as ‘Aka… What a Life’ from the debut album.
‘Chasing Yesterday’ is another fine record from Noel, with a comforting, recognised feel about it. Let’s make no bones about it, as a songwriter Noel has his style that we’re all familiar with and this has of course worked successfully well over the years and rightly sees him as a songwriter of a generation. I feel there a number of tracks here showing Noel’s song writing at a matured, mellowed age with ‘Riverman’, an excellent opener, and ‘The Dying of the Light’ being two examples of the quality of this here. ‘Lock all the doors’ and ‘The Mexican’ have a real full-on rock edge about them and are good songs in their own right, and I’m pleased that Noel has shown some more of his earlier roots with these two rocking numbers. Overall this is a mellow, chilled album perfect for early morning easy-listening or backing for a long car drive and I’m going to give this one 8 Riverman’s out of 10 as this is a nice follow-on from the debut album which shows some progression while maintaining a comforting air of familiarity about it and a record that I think Noel fans will really get a lot out of and enjoy.
Lock all the Doors
Track 2 – ‘In the Heat of the Moment’
Track 10 – ‘Ballad of the Mighty I’
- Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - setlist from The Dome 2nd Feb 2015