Who Built the Moon? is a trip back to the 1990s, but not the Oasis version
Album review: Noel Gallagher flies high with 90s-centric third record
The battle of the Gallagher Brothers is back on, with the pop world’s favourite sibling rivalry in full flow again, for the first time since Oasis split up – both brothers have released solo albums within weeks of each other. Twitter spats are under way: younger sibling Liam is predictably pouring scorn on Noel. For his part, Noel seems to be taking the moral high ground and letting his music do the talking.
And in fairness, Noel’s latest album under his High Flying Birds moniker talks rather loud and takes quite a departure from the guitar-rock standards of previous HFB albums – perhaps in part because of the production skills of electronic wizard, big-beat survivor and regular film-score composer David Holmes.
The album kicks in with a statement of intent in the form of Fort Knox, which is not so much a song as a four-minute dirge of guitar and pneumatic drill with repeated stabs of sampled “Heys” and eastern-tinged female moans. Think Death in Vegas remixing Kula Shaker, and you are somewhere in the zone. This is followed by Holy Mountain, which shamelessly lifts the brass refrain from Bryan Ferry’s Let’s Work Together before moving into rollicking glammed-up stomper territory, and it becomes clear that Gallagher is moving on from popular-but-predictable guitar-rock standards that built his career. The album continues in a similar vein, calling to mind blissed-out Screamadelica-era Primal Scream in many of its lighter moments, heavy in Holmes’s influence through trademark horn stabs and the cinematic Interlude (Wednesday Part 1) and End Credits (Wednesday Part 2), and delivering an all-out folk-rocker, Black & White Sunshine.
There is nothing ground-breaking on the album. Indeed, it is ironic that its power seems to come from Gallagher Sr becoming influenced by the very 1990s contemporaries he and his brother spent much of the era deriding in their self-appointed role as “greatest band ever” – but there is an urgency and excitement to the album that has been largely absent from both brothers’ work since about 1995. Liam is sure to hate it, but if this had been Oasis’ third album in 1997 – essentially the year it sounds like it should have been recorded – instead of the self-indulgent Be Here Now, how different things may have been.