Noel Gallagher finds his soul in The Moon
It’s been eight years since their feuding brought about the end of one of the bestselling bands of all time, but Oasis’s Gallagher brothers are still at it, and their well-documented sibling rivalry has now extended to the charts. Earlier this autumn, younger brother Liam released As You Were, his third album since the dissolution of Oasis after his Beady Eye efforts and the most critically acclaimed. So it would only stand to reason that, six weeks later, Noel would release his best work to date, the third album with his new band, the High Flying Birds.
The elder Gallagher has been criticized for his reluctance to depart from his tried-and-true sound (remember the space-rock collaboration with Amorphous Androgynous that was “shelved indefinitely”?), and though his previous solo efforts, 2011’s self-titled album and Chasing Yesterday in 2015, were well-received and satisfying, they merely dipped a toe into the waters of experimentation. So, with its neo-soul grooves and hallucinatory electronic instrumentals, Who Built the Moon? is the album critics and fans alike have been waiting for.
Working with renowned producer and DJ David Holmes, Gallagher’s newest release wanders through a dream-like landscape of exhilarating high peaks and more austere, melancholy turns. The opening track, a funky instrumental called “Fort Knox,” sounds the literal and metaphoric alarm for this new page in Gallagher’s book, before launching into one of his best songs in years, the celebratory dance number (featuring a full brass section) “Holy Mountain.”
Noel Gallagher seems to have found a new niche with songs that wouldn’t be out of place at a nightclub, a revelation that became apparent with the hit “AKA…What a Life” from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds and flourished with this album, as also seen in standout track “She Taught Me To Fly.” But for all of its fun and frivolity, there is an equal amount of dark contemplation.
Behind the sultry swagger of “Be Careful What You Wish For” is a cautionary tale for the naïve; “The Man Who Built the Moon,” a sinister opera of losing oneself. The interludes channel the ethereal ambiance of a Moby instrumental. The album ends with the wistful, lovely bonus track “Dead in the Water,” which evokes, and indeed could be a sequel to, the Oasis b-side “Idler’s Dream.”
Seeking inspiration in everything from early Rolling Stones to southern gospel choirs, and utilizing the talents of legendary artists like Johnny Marr and Paul Weller, this is easily Gallagher’s most ambitious and far-reaching effort. Even its development – being written entirely in the studio – is a departure from his norm. But the lyric mastery that saw the elder Gallagher compose such iconic songs as “Supersonic” and “Wonderwall” twenty years ago is just as prevalent here. So the sibling rivalry might continue, but Noel leaves little doubt as to which Gallagher brother was truly the creative force behind Oasis. He seeks to soar with Who Built the Moon?, and he succeeds.
Who Built the Moon? is out now.
Coverage by Colleen Martin
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