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

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In Who Built the Moon? Noel offers an experimental album that takes him away from his Oasis heyday, lacking in depth, but much better than anticipated.

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The greatest sibling rivalry in rock has seen both Liam and Noel Gallagher release albums virtually simultaneously for the first time in their seemingly endless saga. Whilst As You Were saw Liam rise to a height that he had yet to see since the break-up of Oasis, Noel had already seen a fair amount of success with his backing band The High Flying Birds prior to this latest release. However, in Who Built the Moon, it appears that the tables have turned, with the album seeing Noel slide away into fathomless obscurity due to its rather nonchalant performance.

In an attempt to be revolutionary, Noel has produced something that doesn’t live up to the self-proclaimed hype but also isn’t quite as bad as some may have you believe. The album gets off on the wrong foot with the hugely disappointing ‘Fort Knox’, enduring some justified widespread criticism. However, it does, in fact, pick itself up quite quickly, with the highlights being early on in the extremely gospel-like ‘Keep on Reaching’ and the spiritual ‘It’s a Beautiful World’.

It is clear from his promotion of the album that Noel is enjoying making music again, and this is clear to see in Who Built the Moon? It’s full of upbeat almost funk-like glam-rock whilst displaying a lyrical internalisation through the rewriting of Noel’s past endeavours with Oasis in a much more mellow and hallucinogenic manner. Whilst Noel is renowned for his talent as a lyricist, giving us the timeless classics of ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Champagne Supernova’, he has clearly put a lot more attention on the sound of this album, focusing on bluesy guitar riffs and experimental psychedelic bass.

Whilst there are positives to Who Built The Moon?, perhaps unexpectedly due to the much publicised heavy criticism from younger brother Liam,  it does fatigue as it comes to its conclusion. In his pursuit to distance himself from the ‘parka monkeys’, ironically the fan base that essentially made his career, Noel almost tries too hard, resulting in the latter half of the album becoming more and more repetitive and tedious. By the time you reach the end of the album it feels like all the songs have blurred into some kind of homogenised existential mess. It also seems like Noel is aware of this, breaking up the close of Who Built the Moon? with a couple of redundant interludes that neither take the album forward nor give it a satisfactory ending. Rather than being purely bad, it’s instead an experiment that even Noel himself seems to give up on before we come to the end of the twelve songs long record.

Whilst it seems that the critics have decided to pre-judge the album as a failed attempt at a progressive, Pink Floyd-type psychedelic venture, they have been proved to be rather harsh. Although it has its faults, Who Built the Moon? is arguably one of the better albums to date from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, proving to be much more successful than anticipated. It falls away at the end, but if this is the direction that the band decide to take, you can hold your expectations a fair bit higher.

Who Built the Moon? is out now via Sour Mash Records

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