The Chief did not set out to save rock and roll. In fact, when he started writing the songs that would become Who Built the Moon?–his third full-length album with his High Flying Birds-he had no idea what kind of album he was making at all.
That’s a function of the way the album was recorded, he says, as the former Oasis guitarist and songwriter entered the studio with producer David Holmes with no songs and no direction beyond being open to exploring whatever sounded good.
But Gallagher would not struggle long. Soon, after sampling a snippet of a tin whistle from obscure ’70s psych band The Ice Cream, he and Holmes built “Holy Mountain,” a good vibes, wall-of-sound anthem unlike anything his catalog.
“The song is revolutionary in this day and age,” Gallagher says. “If you’re a guy and you play a guitar, you’re almost obliged to write about the news. And, quite frankly, the news is fucking boring. No good songs are going to come out of Donald Trump’s face. There’s not going to be a good song about Brexit. There’s not going to be a good song about the little fat fellow from North Korea. There will be a song,” he says, taking a knowing pause, “but it will be fuck-ing shite.”
One of rock’s great quote machines, Gallagher doesn’t hesitate to voice his disdain for what rock music has become, nor does he shy away from positing his album as an antidote to the posers and pretenders. In an era where the lines between rock and pop have largely eroded, Gallagher remains a staunch partisan, asserting that real artists write their own material and don’t allow their record labels to put commerce over quality. “It all boils down to the songs,” he says. “What is the last great rock song that you’ve heard? We’re going back a fucking while now. That’s even before we go into the last great rock song that actually meant anything. Just writing your own songs today is a revolutionary act.”
Though Gallagher has been more of the consummate craftsman than bold innovator to this point in his career, he appears to be entering a new phase of experimentation as he enters his 50s. Take the album opening “Fort Knox,” a mix of siren drones, hip-hop beats, and thunderous riffs that sounds like the culmination of everything Oasis tried to do but couldn’t quite reach in their 18-year run. Or take the galloping “If Love is the Law,” a George Harrison-ish bit of sing-along pop that provides a sharp counterpoint to the expansive psychedelia of “It’s a Beautiful World.” Gallagher might not have set out to save rock and roll, but he’s happy to be cast in that role.
“I do a lot of interviews around the world, and the image of rock and roll is the guy in the black jeans and the fucking shouting into a mic and the bracelets,” he says. “And I say to people, ‘Rock and roll is about freedom. It’s freedom of expression. Freedom of thought.’ And when you listen to this album, that’s what it is. It’s pure rock and roll. It’s pure freedom. It’s somebody in a studio saying, ‘I don’t give a fuck what you think. I don’t give a fuck what you thought you thought,'” he says. “It’s rock and roll.”