The last time I saw Liam Gallagher he was on stage with Beady Eye (his post-Oasis band) at the last ever Gold Coast Big Day Out. A scorching Queensland sun and a lifeless crowd of a few hundred people completed the scene. Knebworth, it was not.
Not long after, Beady Eye quietly disbanded, to no one’s great sadness. From there Liam went into a long hibernation, punctuated only by a messy divorce, a solitary live performance (singing ‘My Generation’ with Roger Daltrey on a British television show) and the occasional ‘potato’ insult directed towards his brother via Twitter.
While all this was happening, Noel released a number one album, wrote a song with Paul Weller, recorded one with Johnny Marr, and sold out concert arenas. Together their opposing fortunes set a narrative of Noel as the talented, clever one, and Liam as the hooligan has-been.
it was not a solid foundation from which to launch a solo career. Even an Oasis obsessive like me began to doubt whether ‘Our Kid’ had it in him to make it as a solo artist.
I am pleased to say that my doubts have been extinguished by Liam’s debut solo effort. As You Were is a fine record, and the best thing he’s been involved with since Oasis’ Don’t Believe the Truth came out 12 (!!!) years ago. The reward has been commercial success: not only did As You Were top the UK charts, it outsold the rest of the Top 20 combined. For good measure it’s also the highest selling vinyl LP of the last 20 years. As far as comebacks go, it doesn’t get much better.
When I reviewed Beady Eye’s BE, I saved my biggest criticisms for the songwriting and lyrics. I wrote that Liam would benefit from having someone else writing for him. My crystal ball must have been on point that day, for Liam has brought in professional songwriting help on As You Were.
“I can’t write those fucking big songs”, he told NME earlier this year. “I’m limited. My verses are up there, but I just can’t do that next bit.”
Scrolling through Oasis fan forums, some have criticised the decision to bring in hired help. They’re talking bollocks. Sinatra barely wrote a song in his life. Most of the few songs Elvis wrote were shit. The Stones wrote one song on their debut LP. Good enough for them, good enough for Liam. Besides, he’s still written six of the songs on the album (with co-writing credits on four more).
The first song released from As You Were was ‘Wall of Glass’. Written by enough people to fill a Toyota Camry (including Greg Kurstin, the Adele hit-maker), it’s slick and punchy with a radio-friendly sheen. The opening song on the album—and one of its best—it is a statement of intent announcing the return of one of the last remaining rock n’ roll stars: “you were sold a one direction / I believe the resurrection’s on”.
Elsewhere, highlights include the reflective, post-divorce ‘Bold’ (“you’re ticking all the dickheads off, you know what I mean?”, says Liam), the Black Rebel Motorcycle Club-style acoustic stomp of ‘Greedy Soul’, and the delicate and heartfelt ‘Paper Crown’ which features the best Liam vocals on the album.
There is a noticeable dip in quality on the second side of the record. ‘I Get By’ and ‘You Better Run’ are Beady Eye level plodders, while the pleasant ‘Chinatown’ struggles to be taken seriously with its awkward lyrics (“well the cops are taking over / and everyone’s in yoga” … err, what?).
Fortunately, the run home is saved by the last three songs, the Stones/late-Oasis sounding ‘Come Back to Me’, the dreamy ‘Universal Gleam’ (a bit of a ‘Tender’ by Blur rip-off, but hey – Noel’s been nicking tunes for years), and the most anthemic song on the album, ‘I’ve All I Need’, which should have been released as a single.
There’s another stand-out song buried away in the bonus tracks on the deluxe edition. ‘Doesn’t Have to be That Way’ sounds like Liam Gallagher fronting Tame Impala, and should definitely have been on the main track list.
All in all, As You Were represents a spectacular career resurrection for Liam Gallagher. While it may not be a perfect album—the second half is too patchy for that—it is undoubtedly (and unexpectedly) a great one. Put it this way: Noel has his work cut out to top it when he releases Who Built the Moon? next month.
Welcome back, Liam.
Best songs: Wall of Glass, Paper Crown, I’ve All I Need