WHILE IT MAY appear to arrive under a typically vague or clanging banner in the tradition of Dig Out Your Soul or Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants, Chasing Yesterday is the most fittingly titled album to bear Noel Gallagher’s name. The 47-year-old is in reflective lyrical mode, revealing his view from middle age, trying to find peace with the past, or (textbook mid-life crisis material) searching for a spectral, unattainable female.
No one comes to Noel Gallagher looking for sonic invention or masterful lyrics, but here he pushes himself in both areas. Notably, it’s his first entirely self-produced album, having aborted the reportedly wigged-out adventurism of his lost collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous. Having put himself in the hands of outside creative forces, he has, tellingly, wrested back control. But AA’s experimental high-jinks have left an impression, even if the results appear wholly on his own terms. There’s a distinct air of the ’90s mix tape here, from the rolling grooves of David Holmes to The Verve: the kind of music being made elsewhere while Oasis were getting high.
Opener Riverman arrives with Wonderwall-ish acoustic guitar before floating off somewhere else entirely more Urban Hymns than Be Here Now, with the first appearance of the ghost of a girl “who electrified the storm” and returns to haunt Gallagher in the none-more-Oasis headlong rush of Lock All The Doors. Elsewhere, the heroine of The Girl With X-Ray Eyes is wife Sara, who via flash-back saves our shaky, perma-wasted singer by swallowing “space and time” in a homage to Ziggy-era Bowie, replete with spooked mellotron and instantly indelible enormo-chorus.
The pop cultural references don’t end there, of course, with more knowing lyrical cribs than ever – Harrison’s Something in Riverman, David Essex’s Rock On in Lock All The Doors, Led Zeppelin in the nostalgic hankering after the Manchester of his youth in While The Song Remains The Same. The excellent, mid-paced balladeering of the Dylan Thomas-doffing The Dying Of The Light tackles ageing directly, with lines which are surprisingly evocative (“I’ve been sinking like a flower in the fountain”), or which speak directly to the everyman (“Woke up sleeping on a train that was bound for nowhere”).
“There’s a distinct air of the ’90s mix tape here... the kind of music being made elsewhere while Oasis were getting high”
For all of this, there are still moments when you wonder if Gallagher’s lyrics might benefit from a collaborator to strip out the “chase the sun” and “bullet from a gun” clunkers. At some points, we’re still slowly walking down the hall faster than a cannonball. And as for Noel’s much-talked-about “space jazz” detour in The Right Stuff, reassuringly perhaps, it’s more UNKLE than Sun Ra.
Ultimately, Chasing Yesterday is an assured second step on Noel Gallagher’s solo path – more sure-footed lyrically, while bearing a very becoming new-found musical spaciness. The song, it seems, doesn’t remain entirely the same.
Watch the video for Gallagher's Ballad Of The Mighty I, plus listen to Chasing Yesterday in full below.