It’s been eight years since Oasis split up. In the intervening years, Noel Gallagher has gone on to find success with his solo project, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, that launched back in 2010. He seems settled and content, enjoying spreading his wings as a solo artist rather than one half of Britain’s most volatile duo. For Noel’s younger brother Liam, things haven’t been quite so smooth. There were two albums with Beady Eye, the band formed from Oasis’s ashes, that were met with little fanfare or acclaim. Then there was the public breakdown of Gallagher’s marriage, in which it was revealed he had a two year-old daughter he’d never met, mothered by an American journalist he’d slept with while in New York. Then there were the Twitter spats, the mouthing-off and the constant goading of his younger brother through any platform he could get his hands on. All in all, since Oasis’s split, Liam Gallagher has been a bit of a shambles.
It’s taken eight years for an LG solo record to emerge, and maybe now that is has, Gallagher will let his music do at least some of the talking for him.
‘As You Were’ is a collection of rambunctious electric rock songs and stripped-back nostalgia ballads. The constant see-sawing between the two can make for a somewhat disjointed listen, but Gallagher is a strong enough presence to hold things together, oozing confidence as he delivers vitriolic one-liners and melancholy ruminations. ‘As You Were’ is certainly an album of two parts, even if these parts are muddled together, but the ramshackle structure of the album feels fitting given Gallagher’s chaotic reputation.
While part of Beady Eye, Gallagher was criticised for making music that was Oasis-light, and while in Oasis, he was criticised for pretending to be John Lennon with a Mancunian accent. This still rings true on several songs here, with tracks like ‘Chinatown’ and ‘For What It’s Worth’ reminiscent of Oasis’s famous ballads while ‘When I’m In Need’ certainly owes a lot to the Fab Four. But Gallagher has never been particularly fussed with making music that sounds of-the-moment, and these tracks – as derivative as they are – are some of the album’s most pleasing. They show Gallagher at his most sincere, stripped of the cocksure posturing and in a far more plaintive, thoughtful mood than his public persona would suggest possible.
But for all the criticisms of flogging a dead horse, Gallagher does play with new sounds, most notably with rough rockabilly and bluesy Americana. Tracks like lead-single ‘Wall Of Glass’ as well as ‘Come Back To Me’ and ‘Greedy Soul’ use screeching guitars and scuzzy riffs to great effect, the choppy ruggedness complementing Gallagher’s voice that has taken on a coarser tone in recent years. Elsewhere, Gallagher embraces psychedelic distortion on ‘It Doesn’t Have To Be That Way’, one of the album’s best tracks that features a chorus that sounds like something off a Tame Impala record.
On his debut solo album, Gallagher doesn’t pull any punches. He’s still full of acid, and is only too happy to throw it around. “I hope you go to hell,” he sings on ‘Greedy Soul’ while on ‘You Better Run’ he offers the dubious insult: “You’re nothing, you’re a butterfly”. But it’s not just people falling victim to Gallagher’s lyrics. In ‘All My People/All Mankind’, Gallagher declares “Selfies, what a fucking disease,” something of an over-reaction, you might think, but Gallagher has never been one to sit on the fence. Rounding off the album is the self-explanatory ‘I Never Wanna Be Like You’, a doleful closer that shows Gallagher is still lugging around a whole lot of grudges.
But for all its vitriol, there are more than a few glimmers of a softer – remorseful, even – Gallagher, particularly on redemption anthem ‘For What It’s Worth’ that serves as something of an apology for past misdemeanours. The same is true of ‘I’ve All I Need’, one of the album’s cheesier tracks that sees Gallagher in a thankful, optimistic mood. Like the album’s differing musical styles, Gallagher switches from attack to defence at barely a moment’s notice. It would be jarring were it not so typically Liam.
There is plenty to sink your teeth into on ‘As You Were’, a meaty album that proves Liam is just as convincing a solo artist as he was a front man. On his debut, the younger Gallagher pushes himself into new territory while remaining stubbornly, brazenly and unapologetically himself. Because who would want him any other way?