“Holy Mountain” is Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds’ first single from their new album “Who Built the Moon?”. It has sent shockwaves through social media for numerous reasons, both good and bad. However, regardless of whether psychedelic pop or rock is your cup of tea, I think that Noel’s experimentation (and his approaches to creating) is great for British music.
On my first listen, it didn’t completely grab me. However, after the second and third listen, I began to love it. So what changed? I think the discomfort and confusion felt by a lot of people is due to the genre expectations we have of Noel Gallagher. We don’t expect to listen to a new track of his and hear psychedelic music. But then, if you isolate the track for what it is – it is a great track to dance to, and in more phonetic terms, has some serious oomph. It is a rather groovy throwback to psychedelic rock, given a lovely pop finish. The lyrics are also fun, romantic and spirited. David Holmes’ Irish touch to the song is sooo catchy! Paul Weller even plays the organ on it! I think it is great that Noel is experimenting as it truly shows his evolution as an artist, or at least the many avenues he is prepared to take. On Radio X earlier today, Chris Moyles so perfectly commented that no matter what Noel does, there will be a bunch who will be unhappy: those wishing to hear Oasis or “Chasing Yesterday” would be disappointed at his new avenues, and if he had gone down the Oasis route, he would be placed under scrutiny for not trying anything new. My dad recently told me stories of how David Bowie would be criticised for every new avenue he took at the time. Imagine if we had social media then? Would he have still gone on to be the legend we view him as today? Anyway, with Liam Gallagher’s “As You Were” exploring rock in his own personal way, Noel is bringing his own personal touches with his new album. With both of the Gallagher brothers being different with their own separate contributions to contemporary music, what a time to be alive!
On the topic of incorporating psychedelic pop and rock into his musical style, I especially found the story of Noel’s encounters with Irish producer David Holmes fascinating. The tales of Holmes grabbing vinyl from his collection and playing them one by one to Noel was how new music used to be visualised. It was also a way from which new musical trends were started. Upon hearing these anecdotes, I couldn’t help but think of a number of music movements in the UK, started by British DJs coming across vinyl from not only different genres to what they were used to, but from countries they weren’t accustomed to looking through. Without that way of doing things, we wouldn’t have had pioneers such as Rusty Egan, the ex-Blitz DJ who introduced German, Japanese and early British electronic music to Britain’s club scene and almost single-handedly started the New Romantics movement in the late 70’s, aiding the emergence of bands such as The Human League, Ultravox and OMD. With examples such as this, this tendency of experimentation within the UK has remained strong, thankfully. Of course, you can say it isn’t your cup of tea but I don’t think one should criticise artists for branching out, especially when they aid the resurgence of music that has been forgotten. Noel’s eyes were opened, so why can’t ours?
One thing I admire about the recent interviews of both Noel and Liam Gallagher (of course, not together!) is their love of vinyl. Liam printed deluxe editions of “As You Were” only to be sold at independent record stores and therefore refreshed the vinyl market. Having come from a family of avid vinyl collectors, my family owns one of them. Well if they didn’t think to do it themselves I would have made sure they did! Apart from the importance of vinyl with regards to his new explorations, even Noel Gallagher has spoken about the possibility of a number of different versions of new tracks being released on special 12″ vinyl editions. Artists are thinking of new ways of releasing music on vinyl to help keep vinyl vital, and rightfully so.
In sum, I hope that the track will grow on people. It does get better with every listen. However, if it doesn’t (which is also plausible), I’d at least consider admiring Noel’s bravery and his creative processes regarding “Who Built the Moon?” in particular – it has been an esteemed quality of British music for decades, and we should definitely be proud of that.
From Sophia with Love x