(A Review of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ ‘Who Built The Moon?’)
Personal-a-Teasers (you know who you are!) will already have read our review of Liam Gallagher’s As You Were album. That record was bestowed upon me, last Christmas, resulting in a certain trepidation. I was relieved to find that Liam has lost none of his vocal abilities and that despite the record being a rather ‘routine’ effort per se, it certainly reaffirms The Younger Gallagher’s place in the Pantheon of Vocal Rock Gods.
It also ‘reignited’ his flailing career. (Remember Beady Eye? Not to worry, if you don’t!).
For me, personally, ‘As You Were’ did something else.
It piqued my curiosity.
It piqued my curiosity to explore the new Noel Gallagher and his High Flying Birds record, ‘Who Built The Moon?’ Rumours had it, it was more of a ‘conceptual offering’. Interesting.
By a twist of fate, it so happened that Noel, released his latest collection around the same time as his younger sibling, just prior to Christmas. I’m not one for chart-watching but vague recollection from the recesses of my memory tells me that Liam certainly won this battle!
And, what of, ‘Who Built The Moon?’
Not so fast.
First, some background. Having survived the Oasis Implosion, Noel established his solo career (with his High Flying Ensemble) and released two warmly (not critically) received records: the Self-titled ‘Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ (2011) and ‘Chasing Yesterday’ (2015), respectively. Plans were firmly in place for a 2017 release of Gallagher’s third solo release, so much so that demos had already been recorded and were ‘primed’.
The only remaining element required, for this forthcoming record, was a producer. Someone to put manners on the rough edges. Along came David Holmes; the Belfast-born electronic musician (DJ) and composer. His repertoire includes the Ocean Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen movie soundtracks (amongst many others). Artists he has worked with include Orbital, U2, Primal Scream, ‘The Manics’ and Ice Cube. When Noel offered his collection of demos, Holmes politely refused. Instead, he beckoned Gallagher to join him at his Belfast studio with nothing but his creativity, his time and his guitar.
Ballsy is as Ballsy does.
And that’s just what this record is.
The album artwork (by Gareth Halliday) depicts a barren ‘lunar-esque’ landscape, with a lady standing forlornly on the left-hand side, looking over the vast expanse stretching out across the distance. The green columbic sky is interspersed with a flock of (low-flying) birds. Unfamiliarity.
A New World.
With New Horizons.
The record starts with the impeding horns of the opening track Fort Knox. Then in comes the beat. The breakbeat. Then some uplifting melodic ‘hey, hey, hey’s’… This surely couldn’t be a Noel Gallagher record? And then we hear the man himself; ‘I keep holding on…’ ‘You gotta get yourself together’ is the message throughout this Primal Scream-like cacophony.
Holy Mountain shoves the dance-club ecstasy induced opener aside and gets the hips ‘pushing and shoving’ like a uber-bohemian Austin Powers Soundtrack… ’yeah, baby!’ A wonderous Dee-lite!
Keep on Reaching is a Stevie Wonder honey-trap, catchy and sticky, refusing to free your fingers from tapping the car’s steering wheel. Like an unchewed Fruit Pastille, not to tap into this track is impossible!
Captain Gallagher then takes us back to the Cosmos for It’s a Beautiful World. At the gestation of this article, missiles were raining down upon Syria. The irony was unavoidable. The French-speaking announcer during this Bowie-like departure advises us not to worry, ‘it’s only the end of the world’.
I wonder if the folks in Syria adhered?
She Taught Me How to Fly is inescapably early nineties New Order. Sure, it’s only fitting that one Mancunian Super-rocker, should tip his hat to the pioneers of Mancunian electronic-dance, Messer’s Sumner and Hook.
Dipping further into his Pandora’s Box of his influencers, George Harrison can be found almost whispering on Be Careful What You Wish For. This track is undeniably funky and drifts nicely, Morcheeba-esque.
The record keeps meandering on the psychedelic side of the Lunar Horizon with Black and White Sunshine. This song has The ‘Stones, The Animals, Procom Harem, The Kinks all wrapped around its chords.
The Interlude ‘Wednesday Part 1’ takes us back to drifting along the Morcheeba slip-stream. ‘Enjoy The Ride’
If Love Is The Law is fantastic in every way. The production. The music. The lyrics. The message. It’s the closest we get to an Oasis track we get. It oozes the class (though not anthemic grandness) of ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ and ‘The Importance of Being Idle’. Similar but gloriously different.
However, Gallagher (and Holmes) have saved the best for ‘almost’ last.
‘The Man Who Built The Moon’ is akin to an 18-cert James Bond orchestral soundtrack with a snarling Clint Eastwood lead, spitting venomous tobacco-soaked-spew onto a desolate Sergio Leone terrain. Gallagher is at his snarling best here. There’s an impending apocalyptic doom throughout the song. ‘We should never have left town in the first place’…
The closing credits of Wednesday (Part 2) are a little unnecessary, perhaps even indulgent. The bonus track Dead In The Water (Live) brings a melancholic, thoughtful close to this journey.
Gallagher has declared in almost every interview about this record, that he is immensely proud of this work. Like the way you feel when being taken out your comfort-zone, succeeding beyond expectations. Surprising oneself. With flying colours, too. And he has every right to be proud. This new departure is a fillet for all who thought Noel Gallagher’s career had reached a plateau.
Closing Credits: Sunday am
(sorry, couldn’t resist!)
So, which Gallagher’s record is better?
There’s no doubt that both records have re-ignited the Gallagher brother’s respective careers. However, whilst ‘As You Were’ (thankfully) does exactly ‘what it says on the tin’, ‘Who Built The Moon?’ Is an explorative risk-leaden journey into the (somewhat, not complete) unknown for Noel Gallagher and… it works!
For this reason, ‘Who Built The Moon?’ gets the decision.
Up next… get ready, folks… it’s coming!