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LIAM GALLAGHER As You Were gets 8/10

Liam Gallagher
As You Were
Warner

8/10

Liam Gallagher’s debut solo record As You Were is the best record he’s been a part of since 2005’s Oasis record, Don’t Believe The Truth, and an undeniable return to form.

Having fathered a child with a US journalist during a boozy night in New York back in 2014, Gallagher was swiftly divorced by his then wife Nicole Appleton. Being dragged through the courts for both issues he found himself out of pocket for millions and deep in the doldrums. During the same period Beady Eye, the band that was founded out of the ruins of Oasis, disbanded on the back of lackluster album sales and guitarist Andy Bell wanting to rejoin seminal 90s shoegazers Ride.

For three years the man was confined to barracks, with no goals on the horizon, his days consisting of walking the dog and taking calls from lawyers. It was only when PA and now girlfriend Debbie Gwyther reignited his passion for music did Liam pick up a guitar and pen Bold – the defiant song that won him a new record deal and sun-soaked LA sessions with industry heavyweights Greg Kurstin (Adele, Foo Fighters), Andrew Wyatt (Lorde, Bruno Mars) and Dan Grech-Marguerat (The Vaccines, Lana Del Ray). The results are inspiring!

The run-up to this album’s release has been superb and all credit is due to Warners and Fear PR – Liam has been everywhere and the music he’s producing is his most vital in a decade. Wall of Glass, Chinatown and the soaring For What It’s Worth are modern classics that made the world take Liam seriously again.

Wall of Glass had R&B production, a gospel section and a catchy-as-fuck riff all in one. Chinatown was unlike anything we’d ever heard from him before: a mystical, musical pep talk to “concentrate on winning, forget about beginning”. Then came Forth What It’s Worth, a track that only a Pitchfork writer could dislike. Seemingly an apologetic plea to loved-ones he’s hurt for second chances. It hinted at remorse, but shied away from asking for redemption.

The first thing that strikes you about the album itself is the polish on the sound. This is a big expensive record like they used to make. There’s real strings, brass and backing singers. There’s stompy, strutty numbers. There’s whimsical ‘Beatles-y’ numbers. There’s even a groove-rock monster that could have been nicked out of Kevin Parker’s top draw (more on that later). Liam hasn’t sounded this good since Oasis’ Heathen Chemistry (2002), but it must said that sometimes the applied vocal effects detract from his replenished tone and timber.

Straight into the fray, the aforementioned Bold is a mid-tempo trance-rock track, dubbed “chin out” music by Gallagher earlier in the year. It’s a little bit Mind Games in flavor but it couldn’t have been made by anyone else except Liam. An early highlight.

Next comes Greedy Soul, our frontman’s favorite track on the record. It’s meant to be a Sex Pistolsstrop of a tune, berating his detractors and threatening to lash out with “it’s a long way down when you’re the wrong way round”This is a belter live but on the record the production let’s it down. It’s more 50’s-rock twang than late-seventies Marshall-stack roar. This is intentional of course, with the record retaining the natural state of the songs (Gallagher’s machine-gun acoustic strumming) and layering on the instrumentation from there. That said, spirit-wise, the video version of this track at Air Studios is sonically far better. Paper Crown follows behind and is a grower, containing some blissful harmonies – definitely the album’s Rubber Soul moment.

The second half of the album begins with the mediocre When I’m In Need, a track that isn’t necessarily bad – it’s just Liam’s already written it in various guises before.

That said, when you’re on your tenth listen it glides over you and makes decent passive listening. From here the album kicks up a gear and we get into big rock song territory with You Better Run, I Get By and Come Back To Me providing a powerful broadside of brass-tinged soul searching. The rhythm of the first two are very ‘Elvis-y’ with lyrical content revolving around, well, defiance. Come Back To Me is swaggering, sexy declaration of going too far and wanting to feel yourself again.  The descending chord structure and raspy Bob Dylan-esque vocals catapult into a soaring chorus before a brilliant guitar solo simulates Gallagher’s cognitive dissonance – this reviewer’s favorite track.

Arguably the worst track on the album is the plodding Universal Gleam, a breather perhaps before we close out the album with something truly magical. What finishes the album-proper is I’ve All I Need: As You Were’s most uplifting track. A melding of Liam’s most cherished influences – The La’s, John Lennon and his brother Noel, I’ve All I Need’s chorus is wistful, thanking those that stuck by him when his life was falling apart: “There’s no time for looking back, thanks for all your support”. The album’s best lyrics are also contained within: “I hibernate and sing while gathering my wings”There’s a slight twinkle of The La’s Looking Glass in here – one that Lee Mavers would definitely approve of.

By this time you think you’ve had the full shebang, but the first bonus track Doesn’t Have To Be That Way bursts out of the speakers with a messianic Motown beat and airy falsetto. You immediately think Tame Impala and for good bloody reason – it sounds like something you’d find on Innerspeaker. A total surprise and proper curve-ball with Gallagher staring you down admitting “I am a dark star, I am a race car”. Terrific stuff.

All in all, this album reinforces Liam’s clout in the industry as a showman, singer and songwriter. No one from the 1990s can touch him, save his brother. It’s the picture of a middle-aged man who’s not quite turned his street-smart into wisdom. Nevertheless, it’s good to have the wild man back, and long may he reign.

BEN PATTISON

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