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Rob Huff

CD of The Week

Week of 11/27/17

    Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds - Who Built the Moon? (Caroline / Sour Mash)

    It's never clear what will happen after one of the biggest rock bands in the world splits. Do its former members fall into obscurity? Do they trudge on experimenting and breaking from the norm? Noel Gallagher seems a fan of the latter, evident in his newest album under the Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds moniker, Who Built the Moon?

    Fresh off a release from Noel's brother and former bandmate, Liam Gallagher, Oasis fans are placed in a difficult position. Once a force for good, the Gallaghers find themselves embattled in the charts.

    Who Built the Moon? opens with "Fort Knox," a sonic journey that charms with high pitched synths and driving drums. The song is mostly instrumental, barring the occasional "hey," and repeating, "You gotta get yourself together." Midway through the track an alarm clock rings - and continues to ring through the rest of the song, helping to drive the point of waking up and moving on.

    This transitions seamlessly into lead single, "Holy Mountain," continuing to showcase Noel's masterful songwriting. A light flute melody plays under the chorus mixed with the occasional doo-wop "ooh" while supported by a powerful foundation of brass instruments.

    Thematically the album pays homage to Brit-rock and Britpop of yesteryear while integrating more modern elements. "Keep on Reaching" is driven by a fast-paced kick drum and blues-inspired guitar, as Noel sings "Keep on running down that long black road," soon joined by a choir asking, "Can you keep a secret?"

    Gallagher makes no mistake in invoking musical stylings of his inspirations. "She Taught Me How to Fly" fuses classic blues progressions with 80s-inspired melodies, managing to sound like Blondie fronted by the former Oasis singer. (Incidentally, members of Blondie have stated in interviews they'd like Gallagher to write a song for them, to which he responded, "I'm sorry to tell you, Blondie, I've already written you a song, but I'm using it first, so once I've finished with it you can have it.") "Be Careful What You Wish For" invokes a Beatles-esque feel, from its steady arpeggiated bass line to its staccato ethereal guitar, as if paying tribute to "Come Together."

    The album's breakout track, "If Love is the Law," serves as its most inspiring. Uplifting lyrics are matched with an unshakable full-band sound that strike the right emotional chord. "I didn't come here to make up your mind. I do believe that you are wasting my time. There's no more tears left to cry myself blind. If love is the law, then this is a crime," the song proclaims, focusing on finding strength after defeat.

    Following the tragic yet seemingly inevitable demise of Oasis in 2009, Noel Gallagher has continued to experiment musically. Who Built the Moon? is arguably his most daring and expansive release to date, highlighting his contributions to Oasis while maintaining individuality.

    Noel and his High Flying Birds return to Philadelphia at the Merriam Theater on February 13th.
    Review by Dan Baker

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