By DAN MACINTOSH
For such a famous rock guitarist, Noel Gallagher’s latest album with his High Flying Birds, Who Built The Moon? is sure a relatively un-guitar-y collection. Rather, it’s one tending to play with rhythm and other sonic elements, more so than laying on the six-strings thick.
“Holy Mountain,” for instance, plays out like a ’60s novelty rock anthem, even though the term ‘novelty song’ is anathema to what Gallagher is all about. Gallagher’s friend Paul Weller adds organ to “Holy Mountain,” but the horn-accented, Ray Charles-esque soul workout “Keep on Reaching,” carries with it much more of a Weller vibe. “It’s a Beautiful World” nervously skips to a faux electronic groove. The guitars put atop it are sparse and rhythmic, instead of rocking.
‘She Taught Me How to Fly’
But strangest of all is “She Taught Me How to Fly.” Once again, it’s an electronic-sounding backing, but this time, the vocal sounds like Jeff Lynne and Electric Light Orchestra. Granted, both Gallagher and Lynne share a deep and abiding love for the Beatles. Yet, who could have guessed Gallagher would record a song like this one? It sure came, uh, out of the blue.
Gallagher does get a bit of his Beatles on with “Be Careful What You Wish For.” It’s driven by a moody, thumping beat reminiscent of “Come Together.” It’s unclear if Gallagher had any religious intent for the track’s lyric, which was said to be written for his children. But it ends with the lines, “And if you’re waiting for the rapture/The day will never come.” It’s both fascinating and spooky. Johnny Marr adds a Smith-ly guitar part to “If Love is the Law,” although the Gallagher’s own guitar part for “Black and White Sunshine” out-Marrs Marr.
‘Who Built The Moon’ Bonus Track
Lyrically, Gallagher can often be mysteriously vague, to put it mildly. “You and I/The spider and the fly/Will meet where the shadows fall,” he tells us on the album’s title track. Okay, like, whatever.
The true treasure of Who Built The Moon? is the bonus track, “Dead in the Water,” which sounds as though Gallagher spontaneously recorded it in the studio. Its lyric is like Dylan Thomas’ “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” and finds Gallagher raging against the dying of the light. “I will not rest,” Gallagher declares, “while love lies dead in the water.” It’s not just great; it’s “Wonderwall” great.
As with any solo artist whose roots reach back to an iconic band (in Gallagher’s case, Oasis), everything he will ever do will be compared to this musical genesis. This album won’t make you forget about Definitely Maybe, but in its best moments, it might make you recall that recording fondly.