Half the World Away: “Who Built the Moon?” by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds
Who Built the Moon? is the third studio album by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. Noel Gallagher has not only expanded and redefined his profile as a solo artist, but has also done it in the most hypnotic and monumental way possible. The album was a bizarre and dangerous gamble, but it has definitely paid off. His partnership with producer David Holmes has guided him in a new direction, creating a stellar album that will change the way we think about Noel. Who Built the Moon? is cosmic, brave and downright wonderful. To a degree, it takes us on a dreamy journey through the blend of melancholic and celebratory Rock that Noel excels at, but it most strongly displays a monumental dose of joy, energy and experimentation of a whole new world.
The weird and wonderful of Who Built the Moon?
The first track is regarded as the most divisive of them all: “Fort Knox.” Despite the constant sound of ringing being the kind of noise you’d cover your ears for, it is compelling and reminiscent of an epic prison escape. The song’s instrumental nature was inspired by the no-vocal work by Kanye West and the Chemical Brothers. The song encapsulates the album’s diversity and its alternative nature. “Fort Knox” is absolute chaos, but it is the good kind of chaos.
“It’s a Beautiful World” has already created a cult-like status for itself. On the stellar Later… with Jools Holland, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds performed this song with Charlotte Mrionneau, who played the scissors. She has been now given the nickname “The Scissor Queen”. Scissors surprisingly make great sounds, like a backwards high hat. This is not the only unique aspect of “It’s a Beautiful World”, as there some awesome French spoken word thrown in too. It reminds me of the eerie French vocals in Visage’s Fade to Grey. Noel Gallagher’s wonderful voice never fails to give me goosebumps. Truly cosmic!
“They’ll let you play the game, son. But they’ll never let you win.”
Written as a message to Noel’s children about fame and money, “Be Careful What You Wish For” is also hypnotic and dreamy. I hear whispering and I think I can also hear cow bells?! Whereas a lot of the other songs could be listened to on a warm drive into the distance, this one would be listened to on a dark rainy night. Sooo eerie.
The many musical influences of Who Built the Moon?
“You can blow my mind if you’re that way inclined. All that I know is that you fell from above!”
The joyful, avant-garde number “Holy Mountain” is reminiscent of Roxy Music and is really telling of how upbeat the album can be. If you didn’t think that Noel could make a dance number, then think again. The song is truly encompassing of the sheer rush of being in love. It even descends into Irish folk at one point. Also, Paul Weller playing organ on the track.
The subsequent “Keep on Reaching” is another upbeat track with its joyful drum machines and epic brass. This track was inspired by Sly Stone’s soul and brass rhythms. The song even has Noel singing in the highest note he’s ever done on any track. During an interview with Noel, Radio X’s John Kennedy highlighted this song with one word: belter! Rightly so.
“Cause all the roads I run are coming back to you.”
In this album, the cosmic love song “She Taught Me How to Fly” truly flies the flag for the 80’s sound. The song sounds rather new wave, and very reminiscent of Blondie. Noel also managed magic by creating a guitar riff that can be danced to, and in his own words, one that sounded like the guitar work of Talking Heads.
“There’s no more tears left to cry myself blind. If love is the law, then this is a crime.”
“If Love is the Law” has the Phil Spector feel. The steady drum beat and 60’s acoustic sound is stellar! The chorus is emphatic and fast-paced. Instead of adding in an iconic guitar solo, Noel Gallagher asked Johnny Marr to play harmonica on the track. Gawd, is there anything Johnny Marr can’t do?! Seriously though, it’s wonderful!
Its epic soundtrack feel
David Holmes helped to give the album a classic soundtrack scope. After all, he put together the soundtrack for the Ocean’s series, and that is only scraping the surface!
“Interlude (Wednesday Part 1)” is an instrumental track you’d expect to hear in a blockbuster movie. Maybe in a scene where someone is walking down a dark road or alleyway in the pouring rain after something particularly bad has happened? It is so eerie and unnerving. Its classy nature and sense of anticipation makes the track immensely alluring though.
“The Man Who Built the Moon” is a nod to James Bond & John Barry. It is David Holmes at his soundtrack best. The song really has that crime thriller feel with its amazing strings. Noel started writing the song after imagining a character from a poster of Tarantino’s The Hateful Eight, and really shows his writing brilliance. Check it out here.
“You and I, the spider and the fly, will meet where the shadows fall.”
“End Credits (Wednesday Part 2)” is a great end to a truly atmospheric album. This song has a thriller vibe, and sounds like a lot of the music from 70s Giallo (a unique branch of Italian horror films). By ending with a song like this, the structure of a film soundtrack really shines through!
One man and his guitar: Back to simplicity with “Dead in the Water”
“So don’t walk away love. There’s never enough that could make me crash on the broken glass. Let the storm rage, I’d die on the waves. But I will not rest while love lies dead in the water.”
After an exemplar collection of multifaceted tracks, “Dead in the Water” is a bonus track that is the complete opposite. Another difference? This song wasn’t never recorded or put together in the studio. Noel Gallagher performed it at RTE Studios, but it was recorded without him knowing. This wonderful song really encompasses the intimacy and simplistic spirit of one man and his guitar. It is raw, spontaneous and displays a Noel Gallagher that has been truly stripped down to the core. How beautiful! It is what you’d get if “If I Had a Gun” and “Dying of the Light” were stripped down to their acoustic minimum, pre-production. Certainly, it is a song that so many Noel Gallagher fans needed.
Cosmic pop at its finest. Who Built the Moon? starts off by being alien, but then becomes so infectious. Don’t get me wrong, I adore Chasing Yesterday but the new experimentation also works. I think it would make great road trip music, especially if you’re going to the ends of the world. It is dreamy, hypnotic and joyful. The album has bundles of energy, and this new path by Noel Gallagher is certainly a fascinating and exhilarating one. Let the cosmic feel take you away!
From Sophia with Love x
P.S. Special thanks to Radio X and to John Kennedy for his excellent interview and LP Walkthrough with Noel Gallagher. It was an absolute delight! Upon the release of “Holy Mountain”, I wrote an article on why it is so cool. Check it out here.