There comes a time in every senior music statesman’s life where two things happen. Firstly, appearing on Jools Holland becomes the sole focus of everything they write; secondly, they feverishly collect backing musicians like a 10 year old on Hampstead Heath with Pokemon Go. Walk past a church in Alabama – take the choir with you, jazz saxophonist in Ronnie Scotts? Get him in. A horn section – who doesn’t need a horn section? Noel Gallagher seems to be embracing this. His latest album Who Built the Moon?, released only a few short weeks after his brother’s return to form, is packed to the rafters with every conceivable ‘additional musician’ you could name. Paul Weller is here too, obviously.
The most surprising element on the initial listen of Who Built the Moon? is how mediocre it is. Noel Gallagher can be criticised for many things, but writing droning, instantly forgettable songs is generally not one of them. Yet here, he seems to have cobbled together a bunch of weakly structured pieces, using heavy production to hide the lack of both energy and song-writing prowess.
Gallagher’s references here are pretty outstretching. If ‘Love is the Law’ sees the Vaccines at their worst, ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’ is Grinderman covering Jake Bugg, ‘Holy Mountain’ is Slade, ‘Fort Knox’ The Chemical Brothers, ‘She Taught Me to Fly’ is Cindy Lauper, ‘It’s a Beautiful World’ is, quite terrifying, Coldplay. Only ‘The Man Who Built the World’ is comparable with anything that has come before.
There are three instrumental tracks included and it’s telling that the first of these; ‘Fort Knox’, is by far the best song on the album. Of course, Gallagher is no stranger to instrumental tracks; ‘Fuckin’ In the Bushes’ and ‘The Swamp Song’ both appeared in various guises on Oasis albums and b-sides, and were welcome additions. ‘Interlude (Wednesday Part 1)’ and ‘End Credits (Wednesday Part 2)’ however are basically two parts of the same dull song, and are reminiscent of the first bits of a meandering Pink Floyd track before the interesting bits come in.
There are simply too many pedestrian, unexceptional songs here. Gallagher has seemingly written from the rhythm section up, a trick which works well for Prodigy, Mogwai or even a Second Coming era Stone Roses, but not so much a straight down the line indie man. It’s a surprising blip from Gallagher, who is presumably attempting to change direction somewhat, possibly as a reaction to the criticisms levelled at him after years of cookie-cut Oasis tracks. Who Built The Moon sees him trying to prove himself as a proper, dare we say it, mature songwriter. however, from this showing, he’s got a long way to go before that Quoasis tag can be fully shook off.
Who Built The Moon? is out now via Sony Music.