Somewhere around the release of Be Here Now and the B-sides compilation The Masterplan, I had wondered if Oasis might have benefited from lead singer Liam Gallagher’s departure (he was prone to threatening to quit bi-weekly around this time, so it was wholly conceivable). It wasn’t until after Oasis called it quits in 2009 did we have an opportunity to hear what a Liam-less Oasis would sound like. Based on 2011’s Noel Gallagher’s first solo record as Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, it felt little incomplete. That debut was unexceptional, save for a pair of fine singles in “AKA… What a Life!” and “Everybody’s on the Run.”
Arriving almost four years later, Gallagher’s sophomore effort, Chasing Yesterday, feels complete. The album opens with “Riverman” which distinctly recalls his previous band’s most far-reaching hit, “Wonderwall”—yet it’s also where the stylistic callbacks end. “Riverman” may glide along with a similar riff, but Chasing Yesterday has less in common with Oasis than you might expect. Gallagher’s musical interests have expanded, just listen to the track’s simmering guitar solo and that sax-fueled outro. By the end of “Riverman” Gallagher has outgrown his former band.
Chasing Yesterday is catchy and diverting; far stronger than its predecessor. Craft is at the forefront and the production is more intricate—listen to those bells on lead single “In the Heat of the Moment” or the jazzy, soft rock of “The Right Stuff”—but never burdensome. Here Gallagher trades in a kind of cool confidence of New Dad Rock, recalling the smooth perfection of Fleetwood Mac’s mid-70s heyday. The Clapton-like flourishes on the swaggering “The Mexican” and the soaring second single “The Ballad of the Mighty I” (featuring former Smiths guitarist Johnny Marr) show how Gallagher has evolved and refined his skills as a songwriter and producer.
By the end of the album, its title is almost slyly ironic given Gallagher’s lack of interest in playing the same game as Oasis did 20 years ago, though there is a degree of familiarity—Gallagher’s a specific songwriter with a limited range. With Chasing Yesterday, he’s has settled into a stately position as rock survivor, much like Paul Weller, one of his idols. This isn’t a watershed release, and I don’t know that Gallagher is even interested in world domination still. But Chasing Yesterday is a solid album that shows Gallagher still has a long career ahead of him.