Fans of swagger and befuddling lyrics delivered like the singer’s tongue has been stretched mid-vowel rejoice: it’s Liam Gallagher’s solo album.
Oasis exploded – as most unstable devices made out of disparate parts are prone to – eight years ago. With his estranged brother spending the time since then delivering solid rock efforts via High Flying Birds, Gallagher Jnr. seemed content to mix pontifications on existence with contemptuous and mostly contradictory missives via his hugely entertaining Twitter account (“I’m a zen motherf*cker”, he proclaimed recently – around the time he also promised “That c*nt [Noel] will always get it from me”).
And here is the possible point of all this playing to the gallery: As You Were. With a title taken from his Twitter sign-off and a writing roster that includes Florence + The Machine and Adele composers, you’d be forgiven for thinking that there might be a modernisation effort underway that threatens to gentrify the nineties most trenchantly belligerent frontman.
This album cuts to the chase and crystallises Oasis’ raison d’etre: don’t bore us, get to the chorus.
Lead single and album opener Wall Of Glass exemplifies this beautifully, that rasp cutting through the stomping beat and honking guitar riff like a Mancunian’s nose through a line of coke during the sessions for Be Here Now. “That stone you throw will turn back in its path” he snarls, and you know this isn’t Beady Eye Mk. II.
Bold continues the excellent first impression, with the hand clapping chorus and climactic breakdown showcasing a grasp of dirty blues that he last successfully showcased on Heathen Chemistry stomper Better Man. It’s strutting cuts like this and the Swamp Song dirty harmonica of Greedy Soul that grab the attention. Thankfully, these tracks don’t drown out the more delicate ballads such as the excellent Paper Crown and second single, the dreamy yet lyrically nonsensical Chinatown. It’s this latter track, however, that highlights the album’s weakness: the lyrics swing from hollow digs at ambiguous targets (“You made fun of everyone who falls, meantime they were saving you a place” from Paper Crown) to just straight up boll*cks; “She’s so purple haze, you know what I mean?”, he sings on When I’m In Need, because it’s a 1960s reference and this is the former frontman of Oasis (this track does, however contain a storming climax that is unexpectedly reminiscent of Simple Minds’ She’s A River – and that is not a bad thing). Luckily, the singalong melodies and interesting production choices – kudos to whoever insisted bonus track strummer I Never Wanna Be Like You include a battering ram string section when you least expect it – means you’re never bored.
“This is all very good”, you’re thinking, “but is this actually a good album”? Yes, it is. Of course, Liam Gallagher and Oasis in general are a taste for which the term “middle ground” does not apply, so it’s safe to say that if you hate Oasis, you’ll want to hate this. If you feel like approaching it with an open mind, prepare for full-throttle choruses, verses that rhyme without meaning or just seem to exist to make Beatles’ allusions (lovely closing track I’ve All I Need contains three within 15 seconds of each other), and an artist dedicated to keeping the rock flag flying using the dark art of making the word “swagger” applicable to music.
As You Were was released via Warner Bros. Records on 6th October 2017.