Review Summary: Noel aims for the moon, has trouble getting off the ground.
After a huge guitar wail announcing exactly how faithful its worship of psychedelic rock will be, Who Built the Moon"
kicks off with the sound of a jet engine ramping up. It's a fair bet to call it a tongue-in-cheek reference to "D'You Know What I Mean"", the 7-minute behemoth somehow managing to have a snarl in its title which opened the coked-up palace of excess Be Here Now
. The reference makes a weird kind of sense; while Who Built the Moon"
avoids some of the bombast and confines its songs below seven minutes, there may be no closer analogue in Noel's body of work than the multi-layered, colossal overconfidence of Be Here Now
That's all surface level stuff, though, because beneath the psychedelic bluster and cluttered production job, this is still mostly the same old Noel. The man's been doing one thing for most of his career, and continuing to do it well even post-Oasis, as proved by the High Flying Birds' highly replayable self-titled. If Moon
was marketed as a massive departure, it only occasionally lives up – in the near wordless Hendrix rave-out "Fort Knox", the surreal folk of the "Wednesday" pieces, and most obviously the freaky Eastern-tinged shuffler "Be Careful What You Wish For", a lot of which comes off as Dig Out Your Soul
's navel-gazing experiments done exponentially better. Obvious singles "Holy Mountain" and "Keep On Reaching" slather good pop melodies beneath layers of brass and bass and wah-wah, but the poor mixing prevents them from doing anything more than trudge along stolidly. But we are, by law, guaranteed at least one vintage Noel cut each album – all respects due to "If I Had a Gun..." and "Riverman" - and this time one even comes with Johnny Marr in the package deal. "If Love is the Law" finally allows the music to breathe, trading in the suffocating rock for acoustics and harmonica, while "She Taught Me How to Fly" uses the layering to its advantage and builds a stunning soundscape from the simplest ingredients, like cool air in the desert under a shimmering heat haze.
If Who Built the Moon"
gets too lost inside its own wanderlust to actually search very far, it's a fault of composition rather than ambition. Unless the Amorphous Androgynous collaboration ever makes its way out of the vaults, we're not likely to hear Noel prodding at his well-defined boundaries in a more well-intentioned manner again, and certainly never while maintaining such a golden heart of pop songsmithery. Gallagher can still pump out timeless melodies like they're barbed comments to an interviewer, and his confidence in delivering both has only become stronger with time and experience. For now, Noel's planted on Earth with the rest of us common folk, staring up at the stars. And maybe that's alright.