Project Description

NOEL GALLAGHER’S HIGH FLYING BIRDS

‘Who Built The Moon’

(Album Review)

Reviewer: Nick Dunn

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For all of Noel Gallagher’s controversies, one thing remains absolute in its clarity; the former Oasis songwriter turned front man writes a rock hook like no other.

For as long as his estranged brother has called for an Oasis reunion, Noel has strayed further and further away from the blistering sound that defined the nineties titans, trading in roaring Marshall stacks for horn sections and heavily effected riffs. Hotly anticipated third studio outing ‘Who Built The Moon’ sees his High Flying Birds ramp up the psychedelia and in turn dial the volume to eleven as Gallagher returns to his wall of sound roots.

Album opener ‘Fort Knox’ leaps headfirst into this newfound sonic identity. Strings and sustain soon give way to thumping bass and a driving beat. The tune is lyrically straightforward, with the repetition of vaguely urgent platitudes forming the entirety of the lead vocal. One might criticize Gallagher on this point if not for Y-See’s soaring backing vocal providing much needed emotional impetus.

Second-in-line ‘Holy Mountain’ is notable foremost for its big band-like aesthetic, a creative decision that probably shouldn’t work, but inexplicably does. It may be near impossible to picture Noel Gallagher on stage fronting an assortment of trumpeters and saxophonists, but this ear worm of a tune begs to differ.

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The understated ‘Keep On Reaching’ strips away the endless layers of sound of its predecessors, whilst succeeding in retaining their relentless drive. Unlike ‘Fort Knox’ however,  it suffers for the vagueness of its lyrics, seemingly personal by nature but too unclear to be universal.

It is on ‘It’s A Beautiful World’ that Gallagher most obviously showcases the influence of close friends and stadium rock giants U2. Drawing from the experimental trance-influenced ‘Zooropa,’ (1993) ‘It’s A Beautiful World’ allows the listener a moment to breathe after the albums rapturous beginning. Underscored by a minimalist guitar riff, Gallagher utilizes effected vocals and bar chimes to lend an ethereal air to a sincere lyric.

‘The One I love’ sees Gallagher successfully re-capture the infectious melody crafting that launched songs such as ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’ to the top of the charts. Unabashedly celebratory, Gallagher’s vocals rise above a cacophony of both moderately effected guitars and immoderately effected guitars. An endearing lyric lends a deft finishing touch to his most sentimental piece yet.

Just in case you were left in slightly too good of a mood by the preceding five odes to joy, Gallagher turns the tables on ‘Be Careful What You Wish For,’ a rare display of vulnerability from a notoriously prickly character. The listener is greeted by an acoustic guitar riff that feels both subdued and urgent, kick-starting a simmering atmosphere that lingers on throughout the entirety of the song. “…never take a handshake/ from the prophets and their lies…” Gallagher laments. It’s angry—very angry—but it is very easy to sing along to.

One ponderous verse into ‘Black And White Sunshine’ and it seems that the High Flying Birds haven’t finished coming down just quite yet. Prepare to be surprised as Gallagher rallies in the chorus, belting out “…all the way now/what a day now!” very much like he truly means it. Perhaps the most musically conventional track on the album, ‘Black And White Sunshine’ will prove popular among his less psychedelically inclined fans.

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Following on from a brief musical interlude, ‘If Love Is The Law’ stands out as a semi-acoustic number on a rock n’roll tour de force. On first impression, the folk-tinged tune is a pleasant listen, gently uplifting and charming. However, upon further inspection, the lyrics betray a bitter narrator: “… if love is the law/then this is a crime” Gallagher croons. Heartbreak has never sounded so peaceful.

And so we arrive at ‘The Man Who Built The Moon,’ a towering track in which the psychedelic sounds are finally matched by the surrealist lyrics. Containing references to knackered horses, black stone hearts, spiders and flies, Gallagher weaves a tapestry of a man uncomfortable with his existence. Whether introspection or pure fantasy, it remains compelling none the less.

The album is rounded out by an instrumental end credit and bonus live track ‘Dead In The Water,’ an atmospheric acoustic number that reflects somberly on love gone astray.

‘Who Built The Moon’ is an evocative and compelling anthology of various musical influences. Insistently uplifting at times and reflective at others, the unerringly earnest Noel Gallagher and The High Flying Birds have well and truly hit the mark.

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