BY DAVID BENNETT
To be objective when reviewing the work of Noel Gallagher as a solo artist is perhaps one of modern pop music’s most trying tasks. Firstly, one must disconnect from an oeuvre of songs which defined what was probably the last generation of British music to have any meaning at all – the so-called ‘Brit pop’ era. Secondly, as smooth and often angelic as Noel’s voice is, it’s difficult to listen to his song-writing produce and not pine after the rasping, Lydon-esque beauty of Liam Gallagher’s voice. And thirdly, I miss Oasis.
‘Chasing Yesterday’ is the second album from Gallagher’s solo journey, and the title speaks volumes. From a lyrical point of view, Noel has always been somewhat philosophical – “we see things they will never see”, for example – but now, at the age of 47, his philosophising seems to have taken on a more profound quality. Like Johnny Cash singing ‘Hurt’, many of Gallagher’s songs on this album seem genuinely reflective and nostalgic, bringing the album’s title, ‘Chasing Yesterday’, to be much more than a catchy oxymoron. This album is not his best collection of work by a long shot, but there is some good material in there.
‘Lock all the Doors’ has been received with a lot of critical acclaim; ‘While the Song Remains the Same’ begins with a synth-laden, trip hop-esque build, which climbs into a pit of rolling rock with elements of psychedelia; ‘The Mexican’ is a catchy little ditty; and ‘Riverman’ has been described by Gallagher himself, in his ever-humble way, as being ‘fucking brilliant’ – and whose to argue? The NME described ‘The Dying of the Light’ as a “determinedly epic arena ballad of the sort that he could write in his sleep” – which may be true, and if it is, perhaps he should have written the entire album in slumber. Because, even though this is a pretty solid album, better than most current bands could even fathom creating, this is Noel Gallagher we are talking about, and the whole things just sounds a little like a legend has thrown together a bunch of unheard tracks so as to get back on tour and get the money rolling in again - which is a legends prerogative, but also a fan’s disappointment.
To place this album in the context of the life and times of Noel Gallagher, it is not too significant, but in an interview for the ShortList, the man himself summed up everything you need to know: “If I was to never write another song, I could list ‘Rock and Roll Star’, ‘Live Forever’, ‘Slide Away’, ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, ‘Champagne Supernova’, and…” that list would go on for far too long for me to cite its entirety. The conclusion of that particular segment of interview, Gallagher said “I wouldn’t be bothered if I never wrote a good song.” But I don’t think I believe him, because the title of this latest album is more telling than an initial glance may reveal.
Yesterday cannot be caught – 6.5 out of 10!