What a difference two decades make. In the 90s we nailed our colours to Blur or Oasis; now we’re forced to choose between Oasis Oasis and Blur Oasis. Team Liam prefer things as they were – one massive, lairy love-in. Team Noel, meanwhile, are embracing a more experimental mindset and thereby, by some immense twist of cosmic irony, finally starting to live up to all those frigging Beatles comparisons at last.
It’s hardly Oneohtrix Point Never but, for Noel, NGHFB’s third album ‘Who Built The Moon?’ marks a grand sonic expansion. First single ‘Holy Mountain’ set the retro-revisionist tone – the sound of glam-era Bowie, The Vaccines, Showaddywaddy and Ricky Martin all marching to Jona Lewie’s tin whistle – and its excitable, life-loving spirit infects Noel’s best album since ‘…Morning Glory’.
Enshrouded in a kind of sepia rock dream-haze and one big lyrical air-punch, ‘…Moon’ beams with surprises. Opener ‘Fort Knox’ is a far more exotic ‘Fucking In The Bushes’ full of afrobeat choirs, a fire alarm and backing vocals like Florence Welsh atop a minaret. ‘Keep On Reaching’ is pounding space gospel while ‘It’s A Beautiful World’ could be early Spiritualized or Elbow remixed by Underworld, and includes a middle-eight in French that surprisingly reveals a greater grasp of the Gallic tongue than “je m’appelle Noël, cinq bières s’il vous plaît.”
Producer David Holmes comes into his own in constructing the galloping orchestral western ‘If Love Is The Law’, a couple of instrumental interludes that could soundtrack a French arthouse movie and a bombastic finale in ‘The Man Who Built The Moon’ that practically demands they write a Bond film to go with it. But, bar the turgid swamp blues of ‘Be Careful What You Wish For’, it’s Noel’s freewheeling solo freedom and return-to-mega-form song-writing that makes this amongst the albums of the year. Noel shoots for ‘…The Moon’, and strikes bullseye.