Album Review: Liam Gallagher – As You Were

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

Oasis Albums from Best to Worst

As a long-time Oasis fan, the re-mastering and re-release of the band’s back catalogue has got me revisiting their albums. Over the last few weeks, for what must be the umpteenth time, I’ve listened to each and every Oasis album from start to finish, and taken the opportunity to rank them from best to worst.

No matter how many times someone ranks Oasis albums, Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory will always be number one and two (arguing otherwise is like arguing that Ringo was the best Beatle), but from there it’s less clear-cut, with Heathen Chemistry and Standing on the Shoulder of Giants the most difficult to place. Alas, to see where they ended up, read on….

1. Definitely Maybe (1994)

Definitely Maybe picks itself as Oasis’s finest album. It’s perfect, with Liam’s sneering ‘John Lennon meets John Lyndon’ vocals fronting up Noel Gallagher’s songs about living forever and being a rock and roll star. Songs like ‘Supersonic’, ‘Colombia’ and ‘Bring it on Down’ beg you – no, force you – to turn it up loud. But for me, the crowning glory of Definitely Maybe is ‘Slide Away’, a six-minute long track which could be another six-minutes long and still not overstay it’s welcome. It’s a love song (“I don’t know, I don’t care, all I know is you can take me there”) which provides a genuine tenderness many would never think Oasis capable of. By my reckoning, it’s still the best thing Noel and Liam have ever done.

oasis0012. (What’s the Story) Morning Glory (1995)

There are more hits on the first half of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory than most artists have across their entire discography. Really, what can you say about an album that features not only ‘Roll With it’, ‘Wonderwall’, and ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’, but also ‘Some Might Say’, ‘Morning Glory’, AND ‘Champagne Supernova’. Hell, that’s a return on investment that even the Beatles or the Stones would proud of. But as utterly brilliant as …Morning Glory undoubtedly is, for me Definitely Maybe just eclipses it, offering up a sense of urgency and rawness that it’s ubiquitous successor can’t quite live up to.

oasis0023. Don’t Believe the Truth (2005)

Don’t be put off by the dull cover art – Don’t Believe the Truth is the best Oasis album of the new century. It’s their least ‘Oasis-y’ sounding album, bringing together influences from the likes of the Kinks, the La’s and even the Velvet Underground. As the best of Oasis’s ‘democratic’ albums, it features strong contributions from Andy (‘Turn Up the Sun’), Gem (‘A Bell Will Ring’), and Liam (‘The Meaning of Soul’). Noel too, was in a rich vein of creativity; with ‘The Importance of Being Idle’ he wrote Oasis’s last number one single… and arguably their last truly mega song.

oasis0044. The Masterplan (1998)

In the argument that Noel Gallagher is one of the greatest songwriters of his generation, I present Exhibit A: The Masterplan, a compilation of B-Sides from Oasis’s first three albums. Incredibly, these are songs which were deemed not good enough to make it onto an album. I say ‘incredibly’, because many of the songs here are on par with those on Definitely Maybe or (What’s The Story) Morning Glory. Of course, as a compilation, The Masterplan lacks the flow of a ‘proper’ album, but nonetheless there are some absolute gems here, amongst them the gorgeous ‘Listen Up’, the Gallagher-brother duet of ‘Acquiesce’, and the rueful ‘Rockin’ Chair’.

oasis0035. Standing on the Shoulder of Giants (2000)

The come-down to the cocaine excesses of Be Here Now, Standing on the Shoulder of Giants is Oasis’s most underrated album. It’s an album that I used to rarely listen to, but over time I’ve come to appreciate it’s vulnerability and neo-psychedelia, most notably on the likes of ‘Gas Panic’ and ‘Roll it Over’. It’s not all melancholic gloom though – Liam’s vocals are at their snarling best on ‘Go Let it Out’, while 15 years later the menacing ‘Fuckin’ in the Bushes’ still sounds like it could start a riot. There is only one travesty here (no, I’m not talking about ‘Little James’) – the omission of the superb ‘Let’s All Make Believe’, which instead lived out life as a B-Side to ‘Go Let it Out’. It’s a song that deserved so much more.

oasis0056. Be Here Now (1997)

To me, listening to Be Here Now from start-to-finish is a bit like eating an entire packet of jelly beans in one go. At first. it seems like a tantalising prospect, but by the time you get to the end, it’s all been a bit too much to take in. And, like a packet of jelly beans, everyone has their favourite flavours (mine being ‘Don’t Go Away’, ‘D’you Know What I Mean’ and ‘All Around the World’) and their not so favourite flavours. In short, BHN is the sound of Oasis coked up to their eyeballs, fuelled up with lager, with the volume turned up to 11. That doesn’t make Be Here Now a bad album, but it does make it an album that you have to be in the right mood to listen to.

oasis0067. Heathen Chemistry (2002)

There was a time when I would have placed Heathen Chemistry in the top half of this list. Even today, I still marvel at that run of songs from tracks four through to six – ‘Little by Little’ / ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ / ‘Songbird’ (Liam: “It’s about a bird who sings”). The problem with Heathen though is two-fold. Firstly, those songs aside, there aren’t enough songs here which have stood the test of time (of the others, probably only ‘The Hindu Times’ and ‘Born on a Different Cloud’ are in anyway notable for me). Secondly, the in-house production on Heathen Chemistry doesn’t do the album any favours, resulting in an album that somehow manages to sound both flat and overly saccharin at the same time.

oasis0078. Dig Out Your Soul (2008)

It wasn’t the best way to go out. Put it this way, if Oasis reformed tomorrow and went on a world tour, it’s unlikely that anything from Dig Out Your Soul would make it onto the set list, with only ‘The Shock of the Lightning’ (notable for it’s pounding drum solo) a long-shot of inclusion. Where Dig Out Your Soul falls down for me is the half-way mark, where we are introduced to Noel trying to do something different – but not really hitting the mark – with ‘(Get Off Your) High Horse Lady’. From there, there is a brief glimmer of hope with ‘Falling Down’, before a disappointing run of largely forgettable Liam/Andy/Gem songs ends the album – and Oasis’s discography.