Noel Gallagher, chasing yesterday?

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‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ – an unforgettable title (to everyone but my mum who still says ‘Liam Gallagher’s Angry Birds’), which is both the solo moniker for the ex-Oasis-songwriter and the name of his number one album from 2011, which went platinum. I went to Facebook HQ in London to listen to him officially announce the follow-up, something I’ve been highly anticipating since the promised 18-track album in 2012 never happened.

The new record is the first one Noel has ever produced by himself, and it’s called Chasing Yesterday. Not what I’d have gone for, I have to say. Especially considering, despite his success as a solo artist, it is proving impossible for him to leave the shadow cast by Oasis: The first question of the event was from a fan, asking whether the new tracks are going to appear in “the” Oasis reunion set. Noel was incredulous of this assumption, but why choose an album title that heavily implies a longing for the (Morning) glory days?

The cover for Chasing Yesterday
The cover for Chasing Yesterday

“Effectively it doesn’t have a title – I couldn’t really think of one,” Noel said. “I literally came up with it last week – it’s a line from one of the songs. If I could change it now I would.” I hope his lack of confidence in the name is not a reflection of the music on the album. Obviously a title’s not the be-all-and-end-all, but I can’t help think Oasis’s intriguing title ‘Don’t Believe the Truth’ was the product of a collection of songs which made a statement.

Noel disagreed: “It’s all about the tunes at the end of the day,” and he went on to give us a sample of one of them – the first single, ‘In the Heat of the Moment’. I wanted to love it, but it didn’t come anywhere close to the expectations the previous album had given me. It has grown on me, but I still don’t think it’s a powerful enough first single – the “na na na na na”s that are reminiscent of a nursery playground grate on me almost as much as Noel’s analysis of the song did: “Is it great? Course it is. What does it mean? It doesn’t mean anything.” Ouch…

Now I’m not saying that a song is only good if the lyrics tell a story, or make an explicit statement, or even have a subtext. A large portion of Noel’s songs don’t do those things, especially the more famous ones (good luck describing the message behind ‘Champagne Supernova’). But “it doesn’t mean anything” is something different altogether. If you read my retrospective of Definitely Maybe, you’ll know that I believe the “nonsensical” lyrics corroborate each other to leave a certain impression depending on the song. For Noel to say that a song “doesn’t mean anything” is selling himself short in my opinion – the lyrics were chosen for a reason, to convey a certain mood at least.

Noel actually went on later to express exactly that: “When writing a song, the melody evokes some kind of mood and I just follow that really for the words. Generally speaking, the quicker songs come to me, the more memorable they are.”

Despite this last point, there is a song on the new album, ‘Lock All the Doors’, which has taken him 23 years to finish. There is an Oasis demo of the song from 1993 online, and Noel sang some of it on the Chemical Brothers’ 1996 single ‘Setting Sun’, but has only recently found a verse that ties in with the “fucking brilliant” chorus. We’ll have to wait until March to see if it’s been worth the wait.

He described the rest of Chasing Yesterday as “eclectic”. There are some songs that are rock and roll. Some that are psychedelic. The phrase “space-jazz” was used at one point. There will be sax solos, wine glasses, and I even asked him if the electric kettle will be making a reappearance from the last album, which he said it would. I still don’t know whether or not that’s a joke.

We asked Noel whether it’s hard to keep new music a secret in the age of social media. Although he said he’d managed to keep the details of Chasing Yesterday under wraps, he did express that it’s something he has to be constantly aware of. “Fans know everything that’s going on. They’re constantly tweeting shite all the time. It’s just boring. When I was growing up listening to music you didn’t know what the Smiths were up to from year to the next and you didn’t wanna know. For all the great things the internet has given us, it has destroyed the mystery of music.”

After U2 have recently “given” away their new album to iTunes users, I was interested to know whether Noel would ever consider doing something similar. In short: no. “My records cost too much fucking money to be giving them away for free. People that do that tend to hide behind the ambiguity of ‘well it may have been downloaded by this many people’. I prefer my bands to make a record, fucking put it on the counter, stick their chest out and stand behind it. That’s the way I work, it’s the way I always will work and if anything, I’m gonna put the prices up on my records, never mind give them away for free.”

Noel was asked via Facebook what his proudest moment was. Although at first he mentioned the moment when Oasis secured their record deal (and they celebrated with “shit loads of fucking drugs, limousines and crazy women”), he soon realised what he’s most proud of looking back: “Me and Liam, dragging that thing, whatever it was, to Knebworth in such a short space of time. Oasis has carried on and is still going strong, somewhere.”

Simon asked Noel to sign a classic Oasis album.
Simon asked Noel to sign a classic Oasis album.

But will it be going strong on a stage at some point? Not in the near future it seems – the announcement of Noel’s solo tour has quashed rumours of an Oasis reunion to celebrate the 20th anniversary of (What’s the Story?) Morning Glory. But relationships seem to be on the up at least – when asked about whether he was enjoying Beady Eye (Liam ’s band)’s output, he said he was and that he had recently gotten “completely shit-faced” with some of them. He did not say if this included his brother.

Is Noel chasing yesterday? I’m not sure. It says a lot that after a High Flying Birds press conference it was Morning Glory that I asked him to sign – it’s near-impossible for him to ever top what he did with that band. He’s still well-received however, and says he thinks people will like his new solo album. But then in true Gallagher fashion: “As long as you buy it, you can fucking hate it for all I care.” If the materialism in this statement is even partly true, which I’m sure it is, then it’s more than likely he’s sat and worked out what an Oasis reunion tour would do to his bank account. Maybe plans are starting to form, if only in the back of his head while he sings songs that “don’t mean anything.” But Sally can wait to find out – let’s see how the new album fairs first.

Simon James

Any excuse to write about Oasis really.

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