Noel Gallagher's Who Built the Moon?: What You Need To Know
Two years on from the release of the second album from his new project High Flying Birds, Noel Gallagher returns this week with a third LP that promises to be a bit of a departure from his previous work. So what, exactly, can we expect from new album Who Built The Moon? Here's everything you need to know...
A little background...
Since the release of Chasing Yesterday in 2015 there have been one or two changes in the line-up of High Flying Birds, both on tour and in the studio. Drummer Jeremy Stacey and guitarist Tim Smith have departed, with Noel's former Oasis bandmates Chris Sharrock and Gem Archer stepping in to replace them. The other new addition is former Jellyfish man Jason Falkner, who plays bass throughout the new album.
By late 2016, after High Flying Birds had supported U2 on a handful of live dates, Noel was back in the studio working on a follow-up to Chasing Yesterday, posting a picture of himself in the studio to his Instagram account with a caption that read: “New shoes. New amp. New album...”
Who's producing it?
Although Gallagher self-produced the first two albums under his High Flying Birds moniker (albeit with some help from Dave Sardy on their 2011 debut), this time around the former Oasis guitarist was keen to push himself out of his comfort zone and has hired Belfast-born DJ and composer David Holmes as producer.
Holmes insisted that, rather than following Gallagher's usual process of writing on acoustic guitar and bringing the songs in to record, this time they should start from scratch and write everything in the studio, a process which Gallagher as described as “liberating”.
Any special guests?
Paul Weller puts in an appearance playing organ on 'Holy Mountain', while Johnny Marr adds guitars and harmonica to 'If Love is the Law'. Besides these two, the only other guest appearance of note is from Le Volume Courbe's Charlotte Marionneau, the owner of the voice you can hear delivering a monologue about the fate of the planet, in French, on 'It's a Beautiful World', but also, more importantly, the woman playing the scissors at Gallagher's live shows.
What does it sound like?
Gallagher's fans might remember that a few years ago he began working on an album with Amorphous Androgynous, one of the many aliases of Future Sound of London duo Garry Cobain and Brian Dougans, and while a couple of tracks from those sessions did eventually find their way onto Chasing Yesterday in the form of 'The Right Stuff' and 'The Mexican', the rest of the album was shelved after the three had failed to click in the studio. (Cobain later claimed that Gallagher was “too afraid to be weird', while Gallagher, for his part, claimed to have destroyed the master tapes and described the recordings as “shit”.)
Despite the unfortunate fate of their work together, there was clearly a willingness on Gallagher's part to try something more experimental and in David Holmes he seems to have found the perfect wing man. Throughout the recording sessions, Gallagher says that every time he played something that sounded like Oasis or any of his earlier work, Holmes would stop him and encourage him to do something different.
As a result, Who Built The Moon?, while perhaps not quite the free-roaming psychedelic trip you might have imagined the Amorphous Androgynous collaboration to be, is certainly a sort of departure from his previous albums.
This becomes obvious right from the album's opener, the almost-instrumental 'Fort Knox', a hypnotic groove featuring some scattered, afrobeat-style chanting vocals and ringing alarm bells that sounds as far from Oasis as anything you could imagine. Elsewhere, you'll find the glam-stomp of 'Holy Mountain', the New Order-channeling 'She Taught Me To Fly' and the infectious dance vibes of 'It's a Beautiful World'.
Does it deliver?
No doubt the change of direction on Who Built The Moon? will be divisive amongst some of his fans, but at the risk of sounding like Noel himself this might just be, post-Oasis, the best thing he's done. Sure, it'll take a couple of listens to wrap your head around it, but his desire to mix things up here is to be applauded and the results are impressive.