He’s an unfiltered as his Oasis heyday – and the music world is all the better for it…
There’s two sides to Liam Gallagher – which makes reviewing his album sort of like sitting in a bath with Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Call it bipolar disorder or a split personality, Gallagher the Man is a different beast to Gallagher the Artist. He’s a shining beacon of truth and authenticity in a scene filled with phonies and fakes – those who think they’re edgy and properly cool. Following the documented explosions between Noel, the younger sibling went off on his own course. Beady Eye, his still existent/on hiatus/extinct band produced two albums: Different Gear, Still Speeding (2011) and 2013’s BE. It was a case of diminishing returns for the Liam Gallagher-helmed clan: Beady Eye’s sophomore record was met with mixed reviews and it seemed, whatever life they had in them, had been left in the debut. Maybe Liam can only really flourish as a musician propelled by his brother’s songwriting.
Keen to dispel that myth arrives his much talked-up debut solo album, As You Were. Its title suggests a man keen to quell aggression, hype and speculation – just another day for the Mancunian legend. You have to distinguish the personal and professional sides of Gallagher because one is stunningly additive – and the other, not so much. Unfortunately, the less-than-epic half is the musical one. Having re-watched Supersonic for the zillionth time, I was amazed by the sheer bloody-mindedness of Gallagher. That aspect is still burning – and means he’s among a dying breed: a real and honest musician who throws soul and his all into everything.
Gallagher’s not been given a proper-good album to get his teeth into since Oasis’ second, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? – something that’s turned the once-God-like lead staggering around for something meaty. Times, politically speaking, have not changed much since Oasis’ glory years, but the nature of the music industry has – and, in a scene where there’s no mainstream working-class heroes, it’s hard marketing an artist like Gallagher.
As You Were, then, is the slack-gobbed idol assessing the broken nature of Britain and bringing his unique vision to the situation. Whilst he does articulate some of Oasis’ spirit, it’s in short supply in a time when it’s sorely needed. Lead single and opener ‘Wall of Glass’ kicks the album off to a great start, at least. Its thudding percussion and Rolling Stones-like harmonica-and-guitar combinations are backed by a determined and assured vocal; accusatory lyrics and a big chorus prove As You Were as some diamonds in the rough. Current single ‘Greedy Soul’ is not one of them. The song finds the hero going toe-to-toe with a Devil-like women with trite lyrics that lack invention and personality. Alongside Greg Kurstin – who has penned a few good hits in his time – Gallagher’s words provide any real substance.
Despite the fact that As You Were’s lyrics border on the mindless, the vocals and compositions are consistently strong – a quality immediately noticeable in ‘Paper Crown’. It’s always good seeing Gallagher taking his voice down and showing some sensitivity – and, aided by an acoustic guitar; we hear the hero talk about relationships, solitude and encroaching doubts like never before. It’s a more mature dynamic that’s refreshing to hear.
‘For What It’s Worth’, with Simon Aldred co-writing, features a few nice thoughts (“I’m a dreamer by design”/”I’m the first to say, I’ve made my own mistakes”), but there’s a bit too much Beatles for comfort. It sounds likes something that could have been lifted from their late 60’s phase, and doesn’t add anything original to the album. ‘You Better Run’ is much more like it: a spirited number that finds an appropriate outlet for cockiness, confidence and intent, with Gallagher audibly delighted to get his chops around something exciting. It’s a big song that, despite the production being needlessly layered, has a raw spirit. The overly-polished production values do show on songs like ‘Come Back to Me’ and ‘Universal Gleam’ – but they could have benefited from a little less polish and a little more spit.
As You Were, then, is true of the political situation of Britain: nothing has changed, despite a great call for progression. Liam Gallagher, in trying to tackle and explain the times we live in, has missed an opportunity to speak for the masses and compel change. Gallagher is a gifted singer, a human who’s still as roguish as he was back in the early-1990s. His voice is as strong, and attitude as spiked as ever. If that could be paired with songs that poke politicians and document atrocities, then that could be his crowning glory. As You Were is a good album – in places, at least – but short of what an artist like Gallagher warrants and requires. Let’s hope the Gallagher sibling rivalry dissipates soon – because a brotherly collaboration might be the only way to rediscover the true genius of Liam Gallagher.