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

To Noel Gallagher’s credit, that is a good question. Primary school children across the country probably asked that. Youngsters tend to wonder whether it is made of cheese once a viewing of A Grand Day Out has concluded. Adults know the truth. How else do we get so much Philadelphia? You would think his high flying birds could take Gallagher up there to have a nosy about for himself. But no, they redirect him through the bright lights of the behind-the-scenes studio services and chain him up to a radiator. Swallowing the key, insisting it’ll be coughed back up like a pelican feeding its youth if he adds another soundscape impression onto Who Built the Moon?. Awful things, birds are. Not so awful an album though, surprisingly.

But the writing was on the wall already. Even with this potential, the desire to break some sort of colourful, American pastiche, there are the same shortcomings listeners can always expect from Gallagher. Fort Knox whines away with confidence, an explosive soundscape which pleads with listeners to get themselves together. As far as instrumentals go, the mixing and realisation Fort Knox makes, it may be one of Gallagher’s best tracks. Powerful pieces of the push-and-shove mentality flow through on Holy Mountain, and although the obvious psychedelic influence is nothing new, it is for Gallagher’s craft and works rather nicely. Even if it does have this obvious pastiche, Gallagher has some fun with it and the trumpet-clad Keep On Reaching. Much of the joy displayed throughout Who Built the Moon?, and there is a lot of it, comes from risk.  

Gallagher finds himself throwing caution to the wind, carefully still, but nonetheless throwing it. He breaks through with consistencies nowhere to be found on the previous record Chasing Yesterday and lost entirely on Council Skies. Take the upbeat skill of She Taught Me How To Fly, heavy noise and mixing mask the still simple lyrics. Even then, Black and White Sunshine depends on this simplicity. Crawling around on his hands and knees, looking for some semblance of chemistry to bleed into his solid instrumental backing, Gallagher loses more than he should throughout Who Built the Moon? yet presents a decent collection of tracks. They need squaring up in places, but it is too late to lament the past. Here they are then and in good and working order. 

Nothing particularly memorable, but some of the material here is worth a go around more than once. Twice, maybe. At a push, three listens. No more though, there are only so many times you can figure out who built the moon. Simple love songs on If Love Is The Law and those extra bits and pieces which trickle out toward the end are nothing special but there they are. Decent enough filler for an album which slowly sheds its psychedelic appeal and focuses on the weaker materials Gallagher has always produced. A shame, but at least it is there in portions. Some is better than none but worse than most. Who Built the Moon? brings out both sides of the Gallagher machine, his obvious influences from hearing Bob Dylan or Clive Mellor on harmonica plant themselves firmly and refuse to budge, a spanner in the works of weak lyrics. Even then, The Man Who Built the Moon answers Gallagher’s burning question with a wonderous track which sticks firm with a dark James Bond-like effect. It is not as cool before or after, but we all have our moments. 

Ewan Gleadow
Ewan Gleadow
Editor in Chief at Cult Following | News and culture journalist at Clapper, Daily Star, NewcastleWorld, Daily Mirror | Podcast host of (Don't) Listen to This | Disaster magnet

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