Albums of 2017: 1) Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Who Built The Moon?

Recently on the Chris Evans breakfast show, Noel Gallagher was appearing alongside fellow guest Sam Smith. Sam spoke about his nerves on releasing his second album – he was worried that people might not want to listen to him anymore or had lost interest in him as an artist. Chris then asked whether Noel had felt like that when his second album was released. “God no, I was doing the world a favour!” came the reply. His arrogance can be breath-taking, but the thing is that when he says how brilliant Oasis were and speaks of the impact they had on music, he is annoyingly correct – watch the recent documentary Supersonic on catch up if you need proof. He speaks from a place of authority and is so refreshingly honest when today’s beige artists daren’t express an opinion about anything. Just wait until Noel becomes a grumpy old man, it could get really spicy.

His tenth number one album, a huge achievement, is one of his most surprising. Working with David Holmes, he employed a different modus operandi, where any hints of sounding like Oasis were immediately jettisoned. Noel famously worked from 12 until 6, and then in an Elves and the Shoemaker kind of way, left David to tinker with what they had and would return the next day to view the magic.

The greatness of this album is that it’s ambitious, it sounds big and it’s unapologetically over the top. There’s tons of sound for your money. Opening track Fort Knox sets the tone – a mass of noise, alarms, gospel hey hey heys and apocalyptic bass – the sort of thing a boxer might enter the ring to. Every track is top class, and there are few albums where you can say that (although I’ve never been that keen on an interlude.) Holy Mountain is the big singalong and Noel really belts out the vocal to compete with all the rousing instrumentation. Beautiful World is just that – beautiful, light and skittery, and the addition of French lyrics gives it a certain je ne said quai (“inspire, expire le monoxide de carbone” is a particularly sweet moment.) Black and White Sunshine is a summery smile inducer. Be Careful What You Wish For is an outstanding track – although it sounds a little too like Come Together at the start, it’s a warning initially to his daughter, then to all, about the dangers of giving too much away on social media. Noel has created his own whispering conscience alley, “Gather your thoughts up, but keep them in your head… They’ll let you play the game son, but they’ll never let you win…They’ve given you the key son, but they’ll never let you in…” It is mesmerising and hypnotic. Last track Dead In The Water is an excellent choice as album closer because it is different again – a stripped back acoustic and unplanned recording which gave rise to a slightly unpolished but more honest vocal. All in all it’s a very impressive piece of work from an artist who has played it a little safe  musically on his previous two albums.

So in the battle of the Gallagher Brothers, Noel has edged it for me. He’s the head to Liam’s heart, the cat to Liam’s dog. One thing is evident now though, people can stop nagging about an Oasis reunion (in truth a reunion of brothers is more important.) Having Noel and Liam as separate artists gives us twice the joy. My final question is – Who actually did build the moon? Did we ever find out?

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