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

By Justin Cudahy, Columns Editor
[Sour Mash; 2017]
Rating: 7/10

Key Tracks: “Holy Mountain”, “She Taught Me How To Fly”, “The Man Who Built The Moon”

Less than two months ago, heartbroken Oasis fans found solace when their polarizing frontman, Liam Gallagher, released his debut solo record, As You Were, which was met with overwhelmingly positive reviews. This time around, we get the other half of what remains from the group, the equally loud-mouthed and egocentric Noel Gallagher, who already has a head start in his post-Oasis career, releasing his third full-length LP, Who Built The Moon? 

While neither one of the two brothers have been able to fully escape their roots in their sound and style, Noel Gallagher has slowly but surely widened and develop his own soundscape which works well, as seen in the LP’s opening track, “Fort Knox”. Its dreamy and distorted instrumental slowly evolves into a much more intense and focused direction, before concluding with repeating lyrics of “You gotta get yourself together”.

Coming off its strong opening, the album reaches its peak only two tracks in with the lead single, “Holy Mountain”. With its annoyingly catchy chorus and an instrumental clearly influenced from Plastic Bertrand’s 1978 international hit single, “Ça plane pour moi”, the track easily establishes itself as one of the best from Noel Gallagher’s entire discography. From there on out, the album struggles to maintain that same bar that “Holy Mountain” established so early on, although the LP doesn’t completely burn out from there.

The remaining first half of Who Built The Moon? maintains its dreamy motif while also focusing on themes of love, persistence and the future. “It’s A Beautiful World” has Gallagher sarcastically detailing how, as the title suggests, what a “beautiful” world we live in, while its cheery and mystical instrumental provides a stark contrast. It’s a solid track that unfortunately loses steam quickly when a French dialogue unexpectedly begins to play out about three-quarters of the way through the song. While adding this experimental element may be appreciable, it doesn’t enhance the track at all, it only deflates it.

The second half is when the album begins to lose its steam, muddled with forgettable tracks that precede one after another. “Be Careful What You Wish For” is the album’s rawest track with an acoustic riff and Gallagher singing without any vocal effects. The nearly six-minute track drags itself on with its endless loop of choruses and melodies which wears itself out quickly. Beyond that, the album throws in its first and only interlude eight tracks into the whole thing despite there being only three songs left. It’s questionable placement in the track listing simply feels wrong, no matter how catchy or short the instrumental is.

Before simply fading away into mediocrity, Noel Gallagher instead decides to throw in the album’s most intense and experimental track, “The Man Who Built The Moon” to close things off. Its shrill and creepy melody along with dark lyrical undertones is the perfect climax, perhaps suggesting that the album’s original magical and optimistic themes were nothing but a façade.

Who Built The Moon? is a great album which showcases some of Noel Gallagher’s best material up to date. Despite its bumps in the middle, the record’s beginning and conclusion make it easy to overlook these issues, proving to Oasis fans that both Gallagher brothers are doing just fine without each other.

Listen here:

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