Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (NGHFB) released their long-awaited third studio album, Who Built the Moon?, on Nov. 24, a project that Gallagher claims to have begun work on in 2014.
For those who don’t find this name familiar, Gallagher was the principal songwriter and lead guitarist for the British rock band Oasis, who created such hits as “Wonderwall” and “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” Who Built the Moon? follows up on Chasing Yesterday, an album in which Gallagher experimented with dance-rhythms and progressed his musical stylings away from the guitar-driven songs of his youth.
Now, as Gallagher looks toward his 51st birthday, some are wondering why he is telling everyone in one of his latest singles, “Holy Mountain,” to “dance dance” and to “get to know me like the back of your hand.” Has he lost his mind? Is it a midlife crisis? Maybe. But I think that it really shows, however, that Gallagher is in no way “chasing yesterday” in his new album, on but rather pushing his craft forward. And it is awesome.
“Fort Knox” is the album’s first track, and it catches you off guard. So much so that you might double check to make sure you selected the right album on Spotify. It catches you off guard, because it starts with heavily-distorted synth and a fast-paced drum beat, followed by some rhythmic “new age” chanting. The first recognizable lyrics of the song are “keep holding out, keep holding on,” which is a total call out of lyrics from a 2002 Oasis song called “Stop Cryin’ Your Heart Out.” Given the contrast of the slow, deep piano track underlying “Stop Cryin’” to the fast paced drumbeat of “Fort Knox,” it seems that Gallagher is trying to distance himself from his angsty Oasis days. It’s like he’s saying “I’m not like a regular washed-up rockstar; I’m a cool washed-up rockstar.”
Then we are introduced to “Holy Mountain,” a romping diddy where you hear the distorted voice of Gallagher singing a grand total of three notes over electronic dance music. While I don’t love this song, it does make me want to sway my head back — and — forth to its beat. In other words, I can’t think of a time that I would ever go out of my way to listen to this track, but if it’s on I might keep it on just to get a chuckle out of lyrics such as “she smelt like 1969.” Your guess is as good as mine when it comes to the meaning of this lyric. And anyway, Gallagher was only two years old in 1969, so that really limits the available smells.
“It’s a Beautiful World” continues in the vein of songs on the album featuring heavily synthesized drum beat, but this one includes Gallagher singing in his “real” voice. With Gallagher singing lyrics like “it’s a beautiful world; it’s a beautiful life,” the song feels very inspirational and lovely, like something U2 would make. So I didn’t really like this track that much either, except for the weird feminine voice speaking French over the beat. The song is super weird and aware of its own weirdness, and I appreciate that.
Finally, there are some tracks that remind me of older NGHFB work, such as “Black & White Sunshine” and “If Love is the Law.” While I like those songs for their guitar-driven melody and some acoustic instrumentation, they do not compare to the album’s electronic tracks that layer melodies and vocals masterfully. Overall, I would say that this album is about a four out of five, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Gallagher’s future work continues to experiment with dance and electronic music.