The first and only moment of disbelief that you get listening to Chasing Yesterday arrives less than five seconds after you put the record on. It takes some serious brass neck to start your second solo album with the exactly the same rhythm and chords as your old band’s biggest hit, but that’s exactly what opening track “Riverman” does before it breaks into its chorus and dreamy saxophone breakdown. It’s a precedent that sums up the album – some new musical adventures piled with classic Noel-isms. With all those expecting something radically different from Noel’s usual pre-album pep talk of influences (this time it was ‘space-jazz’ and Queens of the Stone Age), they’re probably going to be disappointed.
Much like his solo début, Chasing Yesterday plays it pretty safe musically, but that’s hardly a bad thing. Lead single “In the Heat of the Moment” is a pounding hymn to everyday existential crises that might have been merely average if it hadn’t been accompanied by some spine tingling bells and Noel’s gutsiest vocal performance to date. Elsewhere, “The Dying of the Light” stands out as potentially the finest and most poignant ballad Noel’s ever written (despite being saddled with the album’s worst lyric, “I tried to get there/But I can’t afford the bus fare”), and “Ballad of the Mighty I” lays out an epic string section over a moody shuffle, accompanied by none other than Johnny Marr on lead guitar.
What lets Chasing Yesterday down though, is its over-reliance on unmemorable mid-tempo rockers. “Lock All The Doors”, “The Mexican”, and “You Know We Can’t Go Back” are entertaining, but ultimately disposable, and you can’t help but feel at some points Liam Gallagher’s snarl would have added a jolt of life that these average tunes urgently need.
Ultimately, Chasing Yesterday is more of an enjoyable placeholder for The Chief, asserting his position as one of the UK’s great tunesmiths, but strangely reluctant to try new things. Perhaps next time.