Gallagher the elder is back with his third solo record Who Built the Moon? due for release this Friday. Noel has taken a different approach to this record, going into the studio without any finished songs. In an interview with NME he declared he wanted to challenge his audience, even intentionally lose “the little 15-year-old snotty cunts with polka dot scarfs” he affectionately refers to as “the parka monkeys”. He’s basically telling anyone that liked Liam’s record that they can fuck right off away from his.
Album opener ‘Fort Knox’ is four minutes of ringing guitars, chanting, pneumatic drilling and mantra repeating that will get right up the nasal cavity of any self-respecting, crop-cut simian. With the Weller-ites suitably alienated the more enlightened of us can get on with enjoying the album proper.
Lead single ‘Holy Mountain’ is the bloated infant of Slade and Roxy Music, incessantly prodded and pushed along by the kind of saxophone last-resort organ donor Liam describes as ‘creepy’. The track is built up in a bombastic ‘Wall of Sound’ to great effect, infectiously catchy.
You find yourself using the words ‘sounds like’ more listening to Who Built the Moon? than you would playing a lengthy game of charades; the riff from The Beatles’ ‘Come Together’ is the backbone of ‘Be careful What You Wish For’. Manchester’s most brazen musical magpie strikes shiny again. Better to lift something from a song everyone knows and hold your hands up than rifle something obscure only to get found out in the long grass. The couplet “Be careful what you wish for, be careful what you dream. They’ll let you sing your song son, but they’ll never hear you scream” hints at Gallagher’s unease with how he feels he’s perceived prior to this record.
‘She Taught Me How To Fly’ is a perfectly constructed pop song – all summertime reverb, angular New Order guitar line, disco hi-hat hustle and joyously uplifting chorus. It’s one of the most traditionally structured songs on the record but it’s also the antithesis of the sombre songs of barely-held hope Gallagher has built his career on. It’s the most immediate song on the record.
Instrumentals ‘Interlude (Wednesday Part 1)’ and ‘End Credits (Wednesday Part 2)’ coupled with ‘Fort Knox’ means that there are only eight actual songs on Who Built the Moon? Even those hip enough to appreciate a nice cape and a sharp pair of scissors may feel a little short changed. Gallagher’s production partner for this record, Northern Irish DJ/composer David Holmes, is known for his electronic soundtrack work on films such as Out of Sight and Hunger, as well as the chameleonic slant applied to his own personal musical output. His influence is evident on the atmospheric backing tracks the songs have been built round.
Gallagher’s new approach makes Who Built the Moon? more unpredictable than many would have expected and throws up some great moments. Ironically it’s a similar approach that ally, and king of the parka monkeys, Paul Weller began to take on 2008’s 22 Dreams – only without quite the same variety, expansiveness and musical dexterity.
His desire to abandon the tight, beautifully written songs he’s known for in order to push musical boundaries is understandable but Who Built the Moon? gets lost somewhere in the gap he’s trying to bridge.