Review Summary: On their forced third album, Noel Gallagher and his high flying birds are tired of chasing the sun, so they move to the desert to find out who built the moon instead.
Who Built the Moon" Well, here we are with yet another questioning title from Noel, after the likes of (What's the Story) Morning Glory", "Who Feels Love"," and "Where Did It All Go Wrong"" Except this question has a far more mysterious tone than those other three. Something that adds even more to the mystery is not printing lyrics for each song, putting cryptic, colorful drawings of outdoor landscapes in their place. It may seem like an attempt to have listeners focus more on the instruments rather than the words, but the real reason they're not included is because they are quite simple and repetitive, at least for most songs. "Be Careful What You Wish For" is one that consists of four verses and no chorus. It's also the longest song on the album, and it delivers its message quite overtly with jingling percussion, a steady drum machine thump, and a repeating guitar riff heavily inspired by blues rock. There are some others on here that stand out, such as "The Man Who Built the Moon," which, contrary to the album cover art, is more swamp than desert. It's as if Noel took his song "Riverman" and crossed it with "When the Levee Breaks" to end up with something far more apocalyptic. Not to mention those bells that chime like a clock signaling imminent doom.
Unfortunately, there isn't really much else to love about Moon. Two of the album's fatal flaws are poor-man's-psychedelic production and flat mixing. David Holmes, the producer, was an interesting choice considering how electronic music is his specialty, a genre that Noel himself has touched upon a few times, but has never really immersed himself in entirely. That said, this album would have benefit from Noel co-producing, so that there would be at least be a stronger fusion of psychedelic rock and electronica. But the way it is, there's not enough of either of those elements. In fact, half of the time the songs are completely padded with reverb, various bells and whistles, and lyrics that go nowhere outside their dry desert setting. The first track, "Fort Knox," is almost entirely instrumental, and has limited lyrics that are more about hooks, which is not bad, given that it is the very first song. It probably wouldn't sound appropriate anywhere else on the album though, because it's really nothing more than a warm-up for what's to come. Lead single, "Holy Mountain," is perhaps either the catchiest song on here or the most agonizing. The lyrics are just another example of Gallagher singing about a nameless woman, who "smelled like 1969." There's a unique hook involving a whistle in the chorus, sampled from "Chewin' Gum Kid" by The Ice Cream, but that's about it. The whistles aren't enough to get past the glaring repetition of "She fell, she fell, right under my spell" towards the end or the over-mixed guitars. Other songs like "Black and White Sunshine" and "Keep on Reaching" are rather lackluster, but not entirely grating. Even the instrumentals don't add much to the album other than letting the tracks flow together.
If you listen to these tracks separately, you might enjoy them more than if you had listened to all of them at once. That's because the mixing is just so loud, tired and flat that there's hardly any relief, especially if you listen to this whole album with headphones. "Dead in the Water" is that moment where the echo-laden rock ceases and all the noisy excess of the original album is stripped away. It's not particularly mind-blowing, and since it has the status of being a live bonus track, it's tacked on at the end of the album, when it could in fact be placed comfortably in the middle as a breather (even if it is a live recording). For a record that embraces experimentation, it sure seems shallow. "Fort Knox" and "Be Careful What You Wish For" are real peaks, but the sound of the fourth number, "It's a Beautiful World," rises far above those peaks and into the night sky. It's spacious, melodic, and just electronic enough to be one of the most memorable tunes on Moon. As for the rest of the album, well, it's pretty much all desert. But you would think that in the middle of this hot, scorching desert, maybe Noel Gallagher would at least be able to find an Oasis"