Like Jaegerbombs, cereal cafes and Jacob Rees-Mogg, the idea of Liam Gallagher is perhaps much more satisfactory than the existence. When it comes to spouting soundbites, he is a journalist’s wet dream – he’s constantly pouring scorn over his older brother, dismissing ‘lesser’ bands, and shamelessly showboating about rock and roll currency. Throughout the interminable press campaign surrounding his debut album, his never-ending barrage of bluster has been refreshing, if slightly retrograde. But does his debut solo album back up the brashness?
Of course, the answer is no, but is that really the point? Like a band needing a record to tour, Liam needs an album to chunter. Beady Eye always seemed destined to failure, a Joey to Oasis’ Friends that sank beneath its own bravery, but as a de facto solo album, it feels like Liam’s last chance to remind people of his potency. Instead of Noel, Gem Archer or Andy Bell providing songwriting assistance, this time Adele and Ellie Goulding scribe Greg Kurstin has been recruited. However, dig deep and this makes perfect sense – Liam is just as much of a formidable frontman as those two, equally as strong a superstar with a swaggering and stately stage presence.
However, there’s a saying that even the best people can, if working with also-rans, be brought down to the latter’s level. Sadly, that seems the case with As You Were. Even with a crack team of chart-gobbling hook writers behind him, Liam Gallagher’s lyrics still remain awful. Even more amazing is the worst offender here, ‘Chinatown’, doesn’t even have Gallagher’s name in the credits – with clunky couplets like “the cops are taking over / and everyone’s in yoga”, as well as “what’s it to be free, man? What’s a European?” (a particularly thought-provoking ponder over Brexit), it seems like an end-of-day office game where the gang tried to devise a parody version of ‘Little James’. The song carries a certain ethereal charm, but that’s only until you realise the chorus hook has been pilfered from ‘Champagne Supernova’ – you half expect Liam to sing “where were you when we were getting high?”. Followed by “I was eating humble pie.” Actually, maybe that’s too good.
The record opens strongly, with a screeching harmonica and blistering guitar riff bleeding into the strutting single ‘Wall of Glass’, easily the best song on offer. With its rollicking verses and pounding chorus, it has the rage, energy and eclecticism of a more focused Be Here Now. Similarly, the shrugging confessions and string-drenched melodies of ‘For What It’s Worth’ sound like a much more purposeful latter-day Oasis offcut, the kind of ballad that would have been released as the second single from the Heathen Chemistry era.
But even that has its own problems – when you’re championing a record for sounding like one of Oasis’ last albums, the ones that were widely derided but were purchased devotedly, surely that’s a bad sign. ‘Paper Crown’ begins promisingly, a subdued strum that propels Gallagher’s gorgeous falsetto, but the chorus then dissolves into a weary re-tread of Britpop grafters Cast. Similarly, on ‘Bold’ he wistfully sighs about his own mischief, but it’s delivered with such toothless banality you can almost picture the Red Stripe cans sloshing in laddish contemplation.
The record would be better if Gallagher also reined in his ham-fisted homages to The Beatles. “Happiness is still a warm gun,” he coos on ‘Chinatown’, “Tomorrow never knows,” he winks on closer ‘I’ve All I Need’, which, despite Liam’s continued criticism of U2, has the widescreen balladry of ‘With Or Without You’. Surely by this point he has demonstrated he’s something of a Fab Four fan? Or maybe Liam lacks anything truly original to say beyond the Noel taunts and the cocky barbs.
Musically, As You Were is solid, richly textured with gentle acoustic thrums, glossy keys, stadium-sized electric riffs and the occasional gospel backing (see the convincingly menacing ‘Greedy Soul’). But lyrically and aesthetically, this is no giant step forward – replete with ropey platitudes, shallow self-pondering and artistic limitations, As You Were veers dangerously into beer tin-for-a-brain balladry. “In my defence, all my intentions were good,” he sighs on ‘For What It’s Worth’. True enough, but this needed much more.