Liam Gallagher does whatever he wants and cares as little as possible about anything else. It’s the reason he’s one of the most beloved rockstars in British music history: a brash, unapologetic son of working-class Manchester with his chin out to the world telling them to piss off and rock on. It’s also the reason he’s one of the most hated men in the history of rock and roll: a pompous brat who only has basically two good albums to his name and yet walks around like he’s the reincarnation of John Lennon. He sticks his chin up and out to the world as a means of pride and a dare for the world to take a free shot at him.
Even though he may never escape the shadow of big brother Noel and his old band Oasis (let alone Oasis’s leftovers in Beady Eye), nothing will stop him for wearing those long jumpers and singing to the heavens.
It makes total sense that the title of his debut solo album is something as casual and self-assuring like As You Were. Co-produced by Greg Kurstin (fresh off of his work with Foo Fighters), Gallagher’s sound is right in his comfort zone: fist-pumping riff rock with a classic groove, acoustic ballads with tambourines shaking in the background, Gallagher’s vocals double tracked like Lennon before him, and Gallagher’s sneer loud and proud.
In fact, the album makes it quite clear that Liam is the star of this show. His vocals are the loudest and most prominent feature of every song, whether it’s the bluesy groove of lead single “Wall of Glass” or the haunting folk of “Chinatown.” And even when certain songs have hefty production, like the heavy drums and screeching guitar solo of “Greedy Soul” or the angelic background vocals on “Universal Gleam,” Liam’s voice comes back strong as the most present feature throughout the entire album. And even in his mid-40s, Liam remains a strong singer in his own raspy veneer. It’s more impressive to hear him hold his own on ballads like “For What It’s Worth” and “When I’m Needed,” hitting the high notes without breaking.
It’s also nice to hear Liam still trying to sound like a rebel 20 years after “Cigarettes & Alcohol.” He’s rebelling against his critics on “Greedy Soul” (“They’re digging me for gold/Well if the truth be told/You got you kiss and tell/I hope you go to hell”) and taking on the world around him on “You’d Better Run” (“I got to stand for something/That’s why I’m not standing for you/And I won’t fall for no one/That’s why I’m not falling for you”).
Liam’s never been the lyricist of the Gallagher clan (that’s always been Noel) and on his own, the best thing to be said about his lyrics are its simplicity. “For What It’s Worth” is both endearingly blunt (“In my defence all my intentions were good/And heaven holds a place somewhere for the misunderstood”) and lyrical finesse that might cause eye rolls (“Behind the lens is a poison picture you paint/And lets not pretend you were ever searching for saints/Cause I’ve been crucified for just being alive”). Even when Liam tries for actual social commentary on “Chinatown,” he starts right (“Well the cops are taking over/While everyone’s in yoga/’Cause happiness is still a warm gun”) but ends up stumbling over his own lyrical eccentricities (“Telephonic doses/Eliminate neurosis/And some say it’s the cause of it all”).
As You Were is probably the best possible end result for a Liam Gallagher project in 2017. It’s retro with modern production muscle that supports it’s charming-yet-limited headliner. Liam Gallagher hasn’t changed much over the years, for better and for worse, and yet his music remains charming despite being decades out of fashion. As Carly Simon once sang of the late Roger Moore’s James Bond, “no one does it better.” With a man still willing to be as brash as Liam Gallagher, who else would do rock and roll better?