My favorite thing about Liam Gallagher is that he’s one of funniest people on the planet that has no idea whatsoever that he’s funny. In fact, I often wonder whether he’s even trying to be funny when he’s making me laugh. Does he realize how truly hysterical it is that he’s publicly called his older brother and former Oasis band member Noel Gallagher a “potato” half a dozen times on Twitter? Only God knows.
While the jury’s out on Liam’s self-awareness as a comedian, there is one thing Gallagher knows for certain: he’s a fookin’ rockstar. Despite the legendary end to the iconic Oasis in 2009 and the less-than-thrilling end to his mediocre side project Beady Eye in 2014, Liam never stopped rockin’. And now, in October 2017, he’s released his own solo album – most of which is written entirely by him – with the fitting title, As You Were.
It is equal parts incredibly tempting and fitting to compare Liam’s solo work to that of his brother’s. After all, Noel has released two critically acclaimed albums of his own with a third on the way, and was the primary songwriter of Oasis’ discography, except for the handful of tracks written by Liam. Some of the more condescending listeners and critics might consider As You Were underwhelming coming from a member of Oasis, but surprising coming from the knuckleheaded little brother of Noel Gallagher. When, in actuality, setting those unfair comparisons aside, Liam’s songwriting is more than capable of succeeding on its own merit.
When you hear album opener and lead single “Wall of Glass,” you think, oh, I know what kind of album this is. “Wall of Glass” is fun, catchy, and the type of rock ‘n’ roll cool tune that feels as if it was written with the sole intention of perpetually playing in the background of a lively bar or pub. The guitars and vocals are inoffensive and what I imagine many would call “a proper jam.” “Bold” and most recent single “Greedy Soul” continue to uphold this theory; neither are necessarily throwaway tracks, but there’s a bit of heart lacking in their own indulgence.
Liam’s mind-boggling penchant for rhyming every single line with the one before it becomes particularly numbing when he sings on “Greedy Soul,” “She’s got a six six six / I’ve got a crucifix / She’s got a spinning head / Like seeing Grateful Dead / You’re getting told / You greedy soul.” Second single “Chinatown” is especially guilty of a cringey rhyme scheme (re: “Well the cops are takin’ over / while everyone’s in yoga / […] What’s it to be free, man? / What’s a European?”), but at least the song is a nice, easy break from the heavier production of the opening tracks.
Despite the rocky start, As You Were takes a monumental turn a quarter way through its tracklisting. “Paper Crown” could be mistaken for an actual Beatles song with its sweet melodies, pitch-perfect tone, and honest songwriting. Although Liam didn’t pen this one (only one of two on the album he didn’t write), you’d never know without looking at the liner notes. The reflective and off-the-cuff lyrics fit the rest of the album like a glove, and perfectly set up “For What It’s Worth,” which just might be the best Oasis song written since the end of Oasis. A true album highlight, “For What It’s Worth” exposes Liam at his most honest and real. There’s no crocodile tears here; you really believe him when he sings, “In my defense, all my intentions were good / And heaven knows a place somewhere for the misunderstood / […] For what it’s worth, I’m sorry for the hurt / I’ll be the first to say, ‘I made my own mistakes’ / For what it’s worth, I know it’s just a word and words betray / Sometimes we lose our way.”
Ultimately, while Liam Gallagher is 100% a “fookin’ rock star” and no one will deny that, As You Were is strongest when that persona is set aside for moments when the man’s heart shines through. “I Get By” and “Universal Gleam” feature Liam at his most self-aware. Layers of acoustic and gritty electric guitars backed by his trademark tambourine provide the perfect setting for him to admit, “But I’m older now / Gonna show you how for real / Gonna spit you out / Of my motor mouth / I won’t ever let you down.”
It doesn’t take a genius or diehard Oasis fan to notice that most songs in some way reference Liam’s complex relationship with Noel or very public failed romantic partnerships. And while all of these references speak true to Liam, their personal honesty never sacrifices listeners’ ability to connect in their own way. No one on Earth could listen to a Liam Gallagher song and feel alienated – even when he’s going on about being a rockstar. He’s an everyman, working class, and firmly planted by his own roots.
So even on a record packed with Beatles’ references and the weight of his own complicated failed relationships, Liam still bares his honest-to-goodness, slowly-maturing self. He’s not perfect, but he’s trying hard and we should give him a break. After all, he’s still a rockstar.
As You Were Rating: 7.5/10
Highlights: “For What It’s Worth,” “Paper Crown,” “Universal Gleam”