Tuesday 11 December 2018

Liam tries not to look back in anger

With his cryptic debut solo album, Liam Gallagher falls somewhere between pastiche and homage to his heroes

It seems like Liam Gallagher has been fronting a 24-hour campaign to promote his first solo album for an eternity
It seems like Liam Gallagher has been fronting a 24-hour campaign to promote his first solo album for an eternity
Barry Egan

Barry Egan

On April 11, 1994, Liam Gallagher gave every young kid, from the council estates to the leafy hamlets, a personalised mantra that still rings brilliantly true to this day: "I need to be myself/I can't be no one else."

All these years later Liam is still pretty much that, an equal parts Burnage John Lennon/John Lydon spoiling for a fight with the world, or more probably, his big brother Noel (Liam has being directing cryptic-and-not-so-cryptic insults morning, noon and night at his more successful sib seemingly ever since Noel quit Oasis in August 2009 after a dressing room tete-a-tete in Paris which resulted in Liam swinging a guitar at Noel's head; with Noel walking out, never to return.)

"In my defence, all my intentions were good/And heaven holds a place somewhere for the misunderstood," Liam sings, intriguingly, on For What It's Worth from his long-awaited debut solo album As You Were. The aforementioned track bears more than a passing resemblance to All You Need Is Love by The Beatles and the attitude of the song owes a large debt to Don't Look Back In Anger by a certain band. Not least when Liam sings, possibly in the direction of Noel: "Let's leave the past behind with all our sorrows/I'll build a bridge between us and I'll swallow my pride."

It seems like Liam Gallagher has been fronting a 24-hour campaign on Twitter to promote his first solo album for an eternity. So it is good to finally hear As You Were. The mono-browed working-class Byron-in-a-parka whom Q magazine anointed as the Greatest Front-man of All Time in 2009 is magnificently menacing in parts ("You've got your kiss and tell/I hope you go to hell" he sings on Greedy Soul.) Other places he manifests sheer, undiluted joy. "Angels, gimme shelter/'Cause I'm about to fall/It's all gone helter-skelter," he swoons on You Better Run. There is also an "all things must pass", and a "tomorrow never knows" lyric somewhere, of course.

On Chinatown, we get another cryptic, Beatles-y glimpse inside Liam's upside down view of the planet, with the lyrics: "Well, the cops are taking over/While everyone's in yoga/'Cause happiness is still a warm gun." The latter references to The Beatles are even more obvious on Paper Crown, with its Fab Four sound. Beatle-esque melodies coupled with the swagger of heyday Stones, Liam wears his 1960s influences on his sleeves. "She's so purple haze," he sings on When I'm in Need.

Even though he still sings with the passion of a man who recently told The Observer "Rock 'n' roll saved my life", you are somehow always left with the disappointing sense that this isn't vintage Liam, possibly because that would be in Oasis back in 1995.

So pastiche or homage to his heroes? That depends on whether you think Liam Gallagher is a largely predictable, and annoyingly histrionic sub-Lennon oik or the real mad-for-it deal.

As Amanda Silberling pointed out in her review in Consequence of Sound of As You Were, it must be somewhat distressing for Liam because "no matter what he creates, he will never be allowed to match the songs he wrote in 1995" (indeed, Amanda also hit the nail on the head when she wrote that the two albums Gallagher recorded with his post-Oasis failure Beady Eye shaped up to be nothing more "than mediocre attempts at recapturing the grandiose appeal that made Oasis superstars".).

The brutal truth is that first solo album As You Were is a lot better than his detractors thought it would be and not quite as brilliant as its creator tells the world it is in the press. That still makes As You Were one of the better albums of 2017 thus far.

How the world will judge As You Were against Noel Gallagher's soonish album Who Built the Moon? only time will tell.

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