Remix albums are like sequels: unless you have a very, very good one planned and ready to go, you really shouldn’t bother putting one out there. This strange breed of albums can, for the time being, be divvied into three groups. There are the ones that can be original album in the first place that caused a cast of DJs to slice and dice it up into a boring counterpart. Then there are remix releases that are a combination of the two. In the world of pop/rock, too many remix albums keep falling into the second category. It has happened so many times that we are fatalistic about the results — decent, but not as good as what inspired it. But it doesn’t have to be that way. We don’t have to surround ourselves with releases like Where the City Meets the Sky: Chasing Yesterday: The Remixes.
Now, to be clear, I very much like the second album by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. It certainly has more going for it in both variety and imagination than the singer-songwriter’s first solo endeavor. I’m not here to deliver low-blows to one of the music press’s favorite Britpop punching bags nor will I try to beat back the name of the High Flying Birds in favor of an Oasis reunion. But I will openly question whether this remix collection is really necessary. Where the City Meets the Sky is neither excellent nor poor. It, for the most part, just is. Cool, fleeting moments come and go and no one walks away with a black mark on their career. But wouldn’t you rather just listen to Chasing Yesterday instead?
Only half of the songs on Chasing Yesterday are remixed. Still, four of these songs appear twice and one of them shows up in three different versions. In three of these instances, the other version will just be an instrumental mix of the remix you just heard. The five songs in question are “Riverman”, “In the Heat of the Moment”, “The Girl With X-Ray Eyes”, “The Right Stuff”, and “Ballad of the Mighty I”. Did you think that “Lock All the Doors” totally rocked? Did “The Mexican” put a little spring in your step? Well, too bad, they’re not here. Mid-tempo numbers like “Riverman” and “The Girl With X-Ray Eyes” seem to fit the trip-hop remix atmosphere more easily. When it comes to the Beyond the Wizard’s Sleeve’s “Re-Animation” remix of “Ballad of Mighty I”, the tempo stays brisk while a noticeable amount of vinegar is drained from the original tune. About the most interesting thing to occur is a fade to near-silence about two-thirds into the track. It gradually fades back in with an interesting ambient texture that’s pretty far removed from the Guinness-thick guitars that drove “Supersonic” once upon a time. But after that, it’s back to business as usual. At least the “Riverman” remix gets to put the saxophone front and center at the beginning. That’s almost worth something.
Only a few tracks try to put you in the dance club mood and one of them is the Psychemagik twist to “The Right Stuff”. It’s a pleasant enough fit, but the benefit ends there. Andrew Weatherall’s take on “In the Heat of the Moment”, the album’s other clubby moment, nearly forsakes the original song for half its running time which. And at 7:52, it’s the album’s longest track. The other two versions of “The Right Stuff”, both courtesy of 3D, come in forms of “dreary” and “drearier”. By version two, the chorus “You and I got the right stuff” doesn’t seem to fit anymore.
Where the City Meets the Sky: Chasing Yesterday: The Remixes is a 70-minute, 11-track chance to hear five Noel Gallagher songs in a variety of ways that neither improve nor hurt the overall listening experience. If you enjoyed Chasing Yesterday, you don’t need this. If you disliked Chasing Yesterday, you won’t even want it in the first place. If you are an obsessive collector, then there’s really nothing I can do for you. Just enjoy the beats and try not to let the lack of substance drive you crazy.