Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Who Built The Moon?
Third rate reviewers often harp on about an artist’s new album being passable but not demonstrating creative evolution or stepping out of a musical comfort zone. For years the main rags’ writers scoffed at guitar bands who turned out consistent material, classing them as “uninspired” or “not taking risks” (it was never hip hoppers or dance acts – they could do whatever they wanted). It was as if critical consensus deemed the creation of credible music was dependent upon doing something once and moving on. A certain Noel Gallagher, at the helm of Britain’s biggest band since the Beatles, would often find himself in the firing line for making music people bought in the millions, but whose output didn’t “move on”. Well, those killjoy journalists have got their wish!
Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ third album is a trippy fucker of a record – distinct from his last two. Recorded with cinematic producer David Holmes in Belfast intermittently over 4 years (it was started at the same time as Chasing Yesterday) Who Built The Moon? is the sound of man in his 2nd creative renaissance. As Noel himself predicted, from the time first single Holy Mountain was released his huge fanbase was divided.
Holy Mountain was a revelation in song-craft, personifying the joy felt with young love. The Phil Spector-ish production was unusual, the horns and whistles too. “Dance, dance if you do that dance/ I’m gonna let you join my one man band,” sang the Chief, presumably to his adored wife Sara MacDonald who has “a look you don’t find in no book”.
Opener, Fort Knox, is a towering Chemical Brothers wig-out with banshee vocals and an ancient feeling of futile calamity approaching. It’s A Beautiful World has a synthetic backdrop with a breakbeat all while being interceded with a post punk riff and a soaring chorus. She Taught Me How To Fly is a new wave strutter that makes you think of Blondie, however it’s its own beast and comes across effortless.
Be Careful What You Wish For is a plodding low point but when listened to in the context of the album is a nice breather before we’re back on the dance floor. What comes next is the album’s best track after the lead single: Black and Silver Sunshine. It’s a jangle pop masterstroke with a euphoric chorus and great arrangement. Bass player Jason Faulkner, a studio-only member of the High Flying Birds, shines here (his playing on the whole album is brilliant).
Come to think of it, it’s strange most of the album’s music wasn’t recorded by High Flying Birds live members (the current lineup featuring Gem from Oasis and Chris Sharrock – one the greatest drummers from the last 20 years with stints in The La’s, Lightening Seeds, Robbie Williams, Oasis and Beady Eye). Noel’s even made a point of mentioning there’s now 3 women in his live set up including a “French chick” who plays the scissors and delivers spoken-word eulogies. Longtime mates Paul Weller and Johnny Marr are also on the record.
The tail end of the album contains a few cinematic interludes featuring fantastic instrumentation – all in the lead up to the downright strangest song Noel’s ever recorded: The Man Who Built The Moon. This track is bonkers – quite literally Count Dracula in the Wild West. It’s all minor key dread: a grandiose tale of cat and mouse, spider and fly. At first it’s absurd but after a few listens, trust me, it hits the spot. Final track, Dead in the Water is the kind of song that would launch a new artist to international acclaim. It was thrown onto the album last minute and is wistful plea from a brow-beaten soul who can’t afford to fix his relationship.
Who Built The Moon? is the expression of a new creative pasture for one of England’s most cherished songwriters. Is it better than Liam’s? Well, Depends if you want to fuck or fight! Liam’s album is mega but at times sounds like a man shouting at the mirror. Noel’s is a music lover’s record – it’s damn pretentious – but I guess you’re entitled to that after 10 #1 albums. As he says right at the end of the album: “that’ll do, won’t it…” – and you can bet you’re life he’s not asking your opinion.