Sound — 9
"Chasing Yesterday" was self-produced, shining light on Noel Gallagher's studio mastery like never before. Laid back Joy Rose duet "The Right Stuff" is a perfect retort to those who accuse Noel of being a one trick pony; its lounging instrumental, almost nodding to trip-hop, is rendered with audacious guitar and sax lead jams, as is much of the album. The liberal inclusion of guitar solos is perhaps the most marked difference between "Chasing Yesterday" and his last record, often impressing and even shocking the listener with the tone and composure of these excursions. Nobody would bet on the ex-Oasis axeman recording the guitar album of the year; whilst producing tasteful leads in the past, Noel is hardly renowned for his chops. Yet there are real gunslinger moments here, and not just from super-sub Johnny Marr. Check out the solos on "Riverman," "The Girl With X-Ray Eyes" and "The Song Remains the Same" and see if you agree.
"The Girl With X-Ray Eyes" is the album's most psychedelic track, with surrealist lyrics, an eerily effected guitar solo and Pink Floyd-esque atmosphere. Noel recycles the minor chord progression from "The Masterplan" but resists departing into a sunny, football stadium chorus, creating a mood more comparable to Liam's "Born on a Different Cloud." While "The Song Remains the Same" uses orchestral accents that would've been unthinkable on an Oasis record, and "The Ballad Of the Mighty I" is a retro-walking dreamscape that stands apart from Gallagher's usual stylings.
Lyrics — 7
The most true-blue Gallagher track on the album is "The Dying of the Light," which hard-line fans will recognize as the leaked demo "It Makes Me Wanna Cry." "The Dying of the Light" is the latest in the "Talk Tonight" production line of ballads that would be career highlights for other bands but are routine for Gallagher, with emotive lines like "got tired of watching all the flowers turn to stone" and "gonna try my best to get there but I can't afford the bus fare." "The Ballad of The Mighty I" deals with God (a staple subject of Noel's work) from the view of a speaker who seems thirsty for transcendence; the piercing cries of "I'll find you" are surely what the pop annals will remember this record for, although it is hardly the most conservative of choruses. In assessing the album's lyrics, I have to ask myself how much we have the right to expect of Noel Gallagher at this point. There is a feeling that his lyrics have become more about clever couplets and Dali - an imagery than a cohesive frame (perhaps he was always like that). Other than "The Dying of the Light" I don't hear an Oasis blockbuster chorus anywhere.
Overall Impression — 8
"Chasing Yesterday" is not without lacklustre; "Lock All the Doors" stomps around with a Foos-like conventionality, single "Heat of the Moment" jumbles hotchpotch hooks that don't quite deliver and "You Know We Can't Go Back" could come from any generic indie band. However, this album overall announces - dare I say it - an expansion in style for the 47-year-old songbird. The slickness and maturity of the debut High Flying Birds album has been maintained, but thankfully there is a greater grounding in guitar this time around. Whilst many people would prefer Noel to attempt a more rock n roll record, I think he made the right decision in embracing his veteran artist's "license to become mellow" phase, and this record certainly tips the balance from the safety-paneled pop of his last album into more adventurous, "adult-contemporary" territory.