Liam Gallagher. Oasis frontman, Lennon-wannabe, fashionista, provocateur, loud mouth, soloist.
Despite slagging off his older brother for many years for ditching ‘the band’ and heading solo, Liam too has finally made the transition from Oasis to Beady Eye to LG. I imagine that this transition largely has taken so long because of the way he attacked Noel’s decision to go it alone. But nonetheless, we’re finally here with all the swagger and charm we would expect.
As You Were is the first studio album in which Liam has had no band around him to write the music for or with him. No Noel, no Andy Bell, no Gem Archer. That being said, the work written by Beady Eye was far from rock ‘n’ roll genius, so it’s no surprise that Liam invested in song writing and producing wizards, Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt. For me, there’s no shame in Gallagher getting help from professional song writers to get him to a full album; he isn’t known for being a songwriter, he’s used to singing his brothers songs, and at least he’s been transparent about the whole process.
But nonetheless, there are a number of songs on the album in which the sole credits are to Gallagher, namely Bold, Greedy Soul and Universal Gleam, amongst a few others. I mention this merely to show that despite criticism of Liam singing other people’s songs, he has the ability to write a solid rock ‘n’ roll song, and rather successfully too.
Lyrically, his debut album screams LG. But it screams LG at 45. With numerous references to the Beatles, Stones and Hendrix (You Better Run being a brilliant example of this), an open apology for his unsavoury attitude (For What It’s Worth) and somewhat baffling phrasing (Greedy Soul), on the whole the lyrics are seemingly open and insightful. Gallagher snarls lyrics that reflect on the musical heritage that crowned him the voice of a generation, reassurance to his fans (“I’ll give you something you can shout about, I won’t ever let you dow”’) and a heartfelt note to his partner (I’ve All I Need). He also manages to sneak in reference to his older brother’s second album, Chasing Yesterday. Whilst in places LG fails short of being a poetical genius, Chinatown being a notable example of this, he’s largely convincingly genuine and meaningful whilst remaining relevant to his career and life.
On his year long campaign as the saviour to resurrect rock ‘n’ roll, Gallagher exploded back on the scene with Wall Of Glass, the opening track of the album. With an introductory harmonica riff supported by overdrive guitar and thumping drums, the album kicks off on the right foot. Bold follows and is equally as anthemic. The chanting bridge, “lay it on me”, is a brilliant middle section which undoubtedly will become a live favourite, and also sonically reflects on the late 90s Oasis era. But for all the traditional rock songs, there are also moments of vulnerability – take Paper Crown, a largely acoustic and sincere rendition, or, For What It’s Worth.
As well as the brash guitars and pounding drums that dominate the album, there are also moments of decoration which help take As You Were to the next level. Take the harmonica on Wall Of Glass, the Primal Scream inspired piano on Come Back To Me or the strings on Universal Gleam which undoubtedly are influenced by The Masterplan, even if Liam didn’t write the songs himself (this also seems to resemble the opening track to Blur’s 13). These small flourishes reflect Liam’s inspirations and add a splash of colour to the album whilst remaining on a straightforward sing-a-long road that doesn’t distract from his charming vocal.
This is an album that has been anticipated by many, including myself, for well over twelve months. My expectations were low, and I will admit I was wrong. This is a solid album that is consistent, meaningful and vocally in tune. Whilst there’s little talk of cigarettes, gin, drugs, sex and the desperation for fame, as with his vocals, the album shows the maturing side of LG, even if his Twitter account suggests otherwise.
For his debut album, LG remains largely inoffensive, deploying infectious melodies with strong backings finding their foundations in traditional guitar based rhythms. And of course, Liam’s refreshed and rebooted charismatic vocal is sounding as enthused as the early days with a new-found vintage charm. Twenty-three years after he first graced our ears, it shouldn’t be forgotten that he is a singer. He doesn’t claim to be a musician, nor a songwriter, but a frontman with a voice endeavouring to challenge Lennon, Bolan and Bowie. And for all his vocal struggles throughout the years, he has come back triumphant.