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Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds: Chasing Yesterday

If you’re still mourning the disbandment of Oasis, you need to stop and pick up Noel Gallagher’s new album.

The former Oasis guitarist has made more than his fair share of noise, being nominated for more than ten British music awards, and winning a few of those, after his debut album.  Under the moniker of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, he’s created a music legacy that retains the smooth garage band style of Oasis, but with a continuing release of songs that are good in their own right.

In other words, this isn’t like Scott Stapp’s solo album.  These aren’t half-hearted rip-offs only riding on his previous band’s success.  The guitar riff of “Riverman” was stuck in my head for three days after listening to the album.  The opening vocal line of “In the Heat of the Moment” is equally catchy.  All things considered, there’s not a song on the album that earns less than a 3/5, and  most of the songs are 4-star songs.

That’s not the same as saying that they’re artistically untouchable.  Lest I be found guilty of exaggerating, the music is great, but the lyricism is average.  There’s nothing here to alienate folks, with a complete absence of profanity or pervading sexual themes, but there’s not much to impress in that realm either.  Topics range from the typical fear of losing a girl in “Riverman” to, well, that’s about it.  Aside from “The Dying of the Light,” which explores a sort of mid-life crisis, virtually every song on the record deals with love, lost or found, infamously the most trite of all music themes.

That doesn’t mean that “The Right Stuff,” along with many other tracks on the album, isn’t a really catchy song.  But the clever moments lyrically speaking are few and far between.  There is a rather compelling exploration in “The Mexican,” where Gallagher asks if obsession with love is the very thing keeping the subject of the song from obtaining it.  That’s an interesting concept, but Gallagher never seems to ask himself the same question, given that that’s the very theme that pervades the album as a whole.

So it’s not poetry.  But it still has a few things that far too few albums, particularly coming out this year, have.  First, it’s a very genuine kick-back to ’90s rock.  The whole thing manages to feel like a ’90s album, keeping with Gallagher’s background.  While that might be expected from him, it’s still noteworthy, because the number of artists doing that specifically is all but nil.  Secondly, the album is clean.  Aside from a possible reference to a one-night stand in “The Girl with X-Ray Eyes” (which could admittedly be a bit of a stretch), there are no sexual themes.  There’s not a swear word on the album.  It may not be the deepest record you’ve ever come across, nor the most clever.  But it’s excellent if you take it for what it is: a good and clean album that you can listen to repeatedly.

Grade: B-

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