Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built the Moon? Review

Who Built The Moon? Is the album that Noel Gallagher had been a long time poised to produce since leaving Oasis. The album where he was free to be himself, experiment and show to everyone that the portrayal of a frustrated singer-songwriter held back musically by his frontman brother was an accurate one. His debut solo outing was a light change of tone and a completely solid album, his second a mere afterthought on the back of a promising collaboration with Damon Albarn. We now reach 2017 and it’s more than eight years on from you know when; with the brother still arguing via the press and every indie haunt and pub blasting out Oasis tunes… it’s time to hear something different.

With booming saxophones, plunging rhythm sections and stomping percussion, ‘Holy Mountain’ has all the energy and infectiousness of a Rock Pop track that has a sing-a-long quality via its bombastic sound and simple lyrics. It is certain that no track by Noel has ever been so catchy nor featured basic Pop elements and it works well in that sense; undoubtedly becoming a gig favourite. It is not evidence of the great innovation or shift hinted at initially, but a dose of Glam Rock is something unexpected and it works as what it is. The whirring and ringing guitars that open ‘Its A Beautiful World’ echo and reverberate outwards as do Noel’s vocals. The bass line and percussion offer a intricate rhythm and generally this track is a good example of the subtleties of production and arrangement Noel has decided to consider. It is a shimmering yet smooth track that combines elements of electronica and dream pop. This track does sometimes trips over its own transitions though, but it is refreshing to see an act as established as Noel experiment a little. ‘She Taught Me How To Fly’ is another heady and open track which is sees Noel use his new found Lacey rhythms and hooks to best effect with a buoyant arrangement facilitated by ringing guitars in an outwards echo and his vocals fading out in a similar fashion. Clicking percussion and electronica drive the song on as do the focus bridge sections which provide a fast-track to the hazy mock-shoegaze of the chorus. It is a well arranged and produced track that allows Noel to sound like he’s actually enjoying himself and it makes for a warm and uplifting track if not an groundbreaking one.

With ‘Fort Knox’ Noel begins to hint at the new styles and approaches he’s long promised to take in the album’s opener. The Kanye West influenced track opens with a lintany of psychedelic strings and sitars before ringing distortion and punchy percussion drives the song on along with joyous backing vocals. These combine in unison to deliver an ever more theatrical sound which bursts towards a fruition with the rapid tempo change of the string sections. Noel’s few words are repetitive and merely serve as a tool of the dominant rhythms of the track for what is a dynamic and imaginative piece of music. ‘Keep on Reaching’ shows Noel trying to add a bit of soul to his music and adopts a versatile vocal supplement with brass bursts and cool, easy backing vocals. The bluesy and steady stomping beat of ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ is in effect Noel’s best attempt of ‘Come Together’ and is a fine one at that. It’s slick and and varied enough to keep thing interesting with the close vocals and distant backing vocals keeping the listener engaged. ‘Black and White Sunshine’ has enough guitar bursts and basic pitch shifts to be a perfect piece of psych-pop that reminiscent of many British bands of emerging in 2012/13 and is effortlessly delivered track nonetheless. ‘The Man Who Built The Moon’ hits hard with this gathering waves of rhythm and the guitars strike to leave their mark as do Noel’s lyrics which are his most clever on the record. The unceasing rise of the strings add to the peculiar sense of theatre to the track which is one of the best on the record.

It has been an intriguing listen and though he sometimes fall wide of the mark, Who Built The Moon? is an enjoyable and easy listen. The soundtrack experience of producer David Holmes makes for brilliantly poised dramatic arrangements and in any case Noel seems to have a lease of life and energy not seen before and it runs throughout the track for all to see. Some tracks either see him try to hard to produce an elaborate track when a simple one would do and at other times he comes up with sounds already fully formed and explored. The delivery is immaculate however and when it works on this album, it sounds like Noel has made something truly superb. A thoroughly enjoyable album with flashes of something even better.

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Who Built The Moon? = 7.5/10

Owen Riddle

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