Release Date: Nov 24, 2017
Record label: Caroline
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
It's hard to blame Noel Gallagher for opting for stability over adventure once he disbanded Oasis. After spending nearly 20 years battling his brother Liam, he needed to take things easy, and if his solo records -- Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds (2011) and Chasing Yesterday (2015) -- were a little too calm, consider it a consequence of navigating himself out of chaos. Despite achieving solo success, Gallagher seemed to have a nagging voice in the back of his head that he'd ceded the psychedelic ground he claimed at the height of Brit-pop.
Eight years after Oasis split up, the Gallagher brothers finally seem to have moved on as musicians. Having turned 50 this year, Noel Gallagher has released his third and most adventurous solo album Who Built The Moon? the month after younger brother Liam Gallagher's surprisingly successful solo debut As You Were. But whereas Liam is still looking to the past for musical inspiration, albeit with new verve after teaming up with other pop songwriters, Noel is now looking to go in a different direction.
What a difference two decades make. In the 90s we nailed our colours to Blur or Oasis; now we're forced to choose between Oasis Oasis and Blur Oasis. Team Liam prefer things as they were - one massive, lairy love-in. Team Noel, meanwhile, are embracing a more experimental mindset and thereby, by some immense twist of cosmic irony, finally starting to live up to all those frigging Beatles comparisons at last.
T he third record from Noel Gallagher's solo outfit is, according to the ex-Oasis man, merely him in "more colourful clothes". Brightness is certainly the first thing that strikes you about Who Built the Moon, an album that cloaks Gallagher's hardy guitar-pop in glowing Smithsian riffs, tin whistle samples from novelty 60s tunes and a heady fug of riotous glam rock. Particular highlights include the gloriously Slade-esque Holy Mountain and the singalong-friendly Black and White Sunshine, which resembles Oasis basking on a sun lounger.
"Which of these things is not like the others?" The common pre-school question is easily answered in the context of Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' output; it's his new third release. Whether that's positive or negative depends on how much of Gallagher's Oasis sound you're after. The songwriter/guitarist and occasional vocalist of the brash and prodigiously popular UK pop rock outfit that called it quits in 2009 has recorded two previous "solo" ventures under the High Flying Birds moniker.
Noel aims for the moon, has trouble getting off the ground. After a huge guitar wail announcing exactly how faithful its worship of psychedelic rock will be, Who Built the Moon" kicks off with the sound of a jet engine ramping up. It's a fair bet to call it a tongue-in-cheek reference to "D'You Know What I Mean"", the 7-minute behemoth somehow managing to have a snarl in its title which opened the coked-up palace of excess Be Here Now.
Ironically, perhaps the two most direct rip-offs of John Lennon 's songwriting in Gallagher's catalogue to date came not with Oasis , but in what should ostensibly have been considerably more experimental territory. The brace of tracks on which he collaborated with The Chemical Brothers in the nineties, "Setting Sun" and "Let Forever Be", both owed colossal debts to "Tomorrow Never Knows", particularly in terms of percussion. Gallagher would return to that same cresting wave of rolling drums for "Falling Down" in 2009, which proved to be Oasis' final single as well as one of their strongest late-period efforts.
They were hard-pressed to top last year's Potato Wars showdown, but on this season of every Britpop enthusiast's favorite reality show, The Gallaghers, we've been treated to the most dramatic story arc yet. For the first time in their post-Oasis careers, Liam and Noel have each released albums within weeks of each other, setting up the proverbial WrestleMania of rock's greatest sibling rivalry. Alas, it remains to be seen whether Noel's latest record with current backing band the High Flying Birds, Who Built the Moon?, will match the chart performance of Liam's recent solo effort, As You Were, which debuted at No.
Just after Liam Gallagher released his great As You Were, here comes his brother Noel with a fine one of his own - it's almost like they're in a rivalry. His latest with the High Flying Birds is a dazzling mess spackled together from the influences he's been tapping since Oasis' golden age - post-Stone Roses rave rock ("Fort Knox"), glam stomp ("Holy Mountain"), Smiths-Beatles shimmer ("Black & White Sunshine"). It wouldn't be Noel without a little grumpy snark (the bitter space-soul of "Careful What You Wish For").
Gallagher's second outing with his High Flying Birds was called Chasing Yesterday, the title of which now, listening to its follow-up, seems like a mission statement. Ever since the release of the first Oasis single he's had to contend with being labelled derivative, and now he appears to be at peace with it, because Who Built The Moon? is confidently audacious in its magpie qualities. The advance single Holy Mountain leads the charge with its borrowed glam motifs and sneaky snatches of, among others, Back In The USSR and Diamond Dogs ("get out of the doldrums, baby"), as if Gallagher is teasing us to pick up on his trail of bygone breadcrumbs.
"They'll let you sing your songs, son, but they'll never hear you scream" offers Noel Gallagher on 'Be Careful What You Wish For', a strange, soulful tune from this here new record Who Built The Moon? that veers between a shuddering, low-key guitar riff, Ray Manzarek-like organ splashes and layer upon layer of choral backing vocal, all held up by a strict, shuddering electronic beat. Yes, that's correct. Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds have made a record unlike any they or Gallagher have made before.
The early days of Noel Gallagher's solo career felt a little stilted, with a palpable reluctance to stray too far from what legions of Oasis fans might expect. As a consequence, the self-titled debut possessed very few songs that weren't descended from the works of his former band. 'Stop The Clocks' was famously one of their songs that never quite worked out and 'Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks' paid affection homage to 'The Importance Of Being Idle'.