Part complete sonic departure, part revisiting and re-imagining of post-glory days Oasis, Who Built The Moon? manages to sound both fresh and nostalgic, an affirmation that even when he seemed to, the most genius of all bricolage songwriters never quite lost it. But if Who Built The Moon? is propped up by Noel’s musical past (and a newfound penchant for French), some of Gallagher’s idiosyncrasies (lame interludes split across multiple tracks, moody heard-it-all-before-slow-strummers) grind the record down, but never to a stop.
Instead, much of the album, in its ebbs and troughs of highs and lows, feels like a constant crescendo cumulating in some of the best tunes the best songwriter of his generation has ever penned.
“Demands heartfelt singalongs”
‘If Love Is The Law’ and ‘The Man Who Built the Moon’ are special. The former is a soaring celebration of love, an upbeat and optimistic slice of clever pop with some surprisingly smart lyrics (‘I didn’t come here to make up your mind … If love is the law then this is a crime’) that demands heartfelt singalongs, and a harmonica section that proves that the instrument still has a place in modern music without necessarily making songs sound like a ’60s throwback.
Of course, the ’60s throwback genre is one which the older Gallagher brother has always been most comfortable in, but one which hardly makes its appearance here, outside the most Oasis-y songs on the record. Sometimes this works (‘Black & White Sunshine’, with a chorus to rival that of ‘If Love Is The Law’); at other times, this makes for some of the weakest songs on the record (‘Keep On Reaching’). Noel should have really learned from Liam’s solo debut, whose best songs were the least like the band that made the brothers famous.
But by and large, there are other influences abound here, not unheard of in Noel’s other work, but never as prevalent. ‘Holy Mountain’ is an ear worm of a tune that takes its cues from 70s and 80s pop, and nothing quite says a fresh-feeling Gallagher record like a lead single that ditches trademark guitar for organ (provided by Paul Weller). ‘She Taught Me How To Fly’ is similar but better, one of the many songs here that sounds designed to make people fall in love and will stay in your head for a long time.
“A Western-influenced giant of a stomper”
Elsewhere, ‘The Man Who Built The Moon’ – truly a ‘Masterplan’ for the 21st century – is a Western-influenced giant of a stomper, and while the phrase ‘James Bond theme’ gets thrown around a lot when talking about Noely-G, it’s never been more fitting than here. And then there’s the U2-influenced ‘It’s a Beautiful World’, which utilises SFX to doll up a chorus which doesn’t really achieve what it set out to do, and whose verses are amongst the most tepid of the record.
Yes, surprisingly for a High Flying Birds record, there are a handful of disappointing tracks. ‘Keep On Reaching’ is a decent enough high-paced rock song (that, much like ‘It’s a Beautiful World’, uses production to disguise itself as something it ain’t) but feels out of place on an album otherwise teeming with experimentation.
“Nowhere near interesting enough to justify an almost six-minute run time”
The Dig Out Your Soul-esque ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ is like ‘The Right Stuff’ on drugs, an incredibly slow crawler, and nowhere near interesting enough to justify an almost six-minute run time – especially when it’s closely followed by one of the record’s three instrumentals. This number is arguably too high for any album, especially when the only one that works is ‘Fucking In the Bushes’-on-speed-opener ‘Fort Knox’, and even this runs for a minute too long, and is nowhere near close to capturing the heights of the Kanye tracks that inspired it (‘Fade’, ‘Power’).
Despite its flaws, Who Built the Moon? is still an irresistible listen, whose life-affirming heights are amongst the best songs the Godlike Genius has ever penned. Skip past the lame tracks and you’ll be listening to a perfect record, but even the low points are Noel’s low points for gods sake, thrown into sharp contrast by the better songs that surround them. So I’m going to give this a solid –
Wait, what’s this? A curtain call after ‘End Credits’? What is this liquid beauty seeping from my speakers?…
“Buy the Special Edition for this alone”
I usually make a point not to review bonus tracks, but the only thing more heartbreaking than ‘Dead In the Water’ is the fact that ‘Dead In the Water’ is not in the standard edition of Who Built the Moon? An accumulation of all the ‘Talk Tonight’s and ‘Champagne Supernova’s Noel has already blessed the world with, this is a track that rips hearts open, and instead of suffering from the lack of a studio recording, benefits from the sheer emotional honesty and intensity of a live take. A true competitor for Best Noel Song Ever. Buy the Special Edition for this alone.
Image Courtesy of Noel Gallagher Official Website