When Liam Gallagher announced his return to the music scene with a debut solo album earlier this year, I wasn’t especially excited. Even as a big Oasis fan, Liam’s output with his former band, Beady Eye, did little to convince me that he was better off without his brother, Noel, whose two solo albums featured more than enough great material to justify his leaving the band. As anticipation amongst the press and music fans began to build with each of Liam’s announcements, I just couldn’t help but feel slightly sceptical.
Then ‘Wall of Glass’ was released: a bold and dynamic track which featured, arguably, Liam’s best vocal performance in recent years. This was a song that sounded current, but also managed to avoid any sense that he had abandoned his roots. My stance changed in an instance: Liam was back, and he had a point to prove. As the album’s release date drew closer, and two further singles were released, my anticipation was higher than I ever thought it would be, and my expectations soared.
Fortunately, ‘As You Were’ does not disappoint.
This album is exactly what was required in order for Liam to put himself back in the picture, and to demonstrate that he isn’t merely waiting around for an Oasis reunion. ‘As you Were’ is a statement of intent. Although it does not reach ground-breaking levels of song writing or musicality, it has given him a bushel of songs which’ll allow him to justify his brash public persona and capably keep the audiences of his sold-out tour later this year captivated.
‘Wall of Glass’ gets off to a stomping start with its driving drumbeat and wailing harmonica, setting the general mood for the rest of the album. ‘Bold’ follows, and is one of the standout tracks, where the influence of the Beatles can be heard particularly strongly: a soft acoustic chord progression and psychedelic keyboards work with Liam’s falsetto vocals in the chorus, before building to an atmospheric climax of overlapping vocal hooks. Powerhouse tracks like ‘Greedy Soul’ and ‘You Better Run’ appear to have been written to get the crowds bouncing, whilst the delicately delivered ‘When I’m in Need’ and Bowie inspired ‘Paper Crown’ provide an insight into Liam’s soft side – something we’ve not seen much of before. ‘I’ve All I Need’ is a satisfying conclusion, bringing together many of the elements which make the album so strong.
However, a highlight comes from one of the early singles, ‘For What It’s Worth’: a ballad which would stand out on any Oasis album, even. Stripped back verses and string-infused choruses provide the backdrop for the refreshingly honest lyrics of a Liam with his guard down, who proclaims “I’ll be the first to say I made my own mistakes”. On top of this, it’s difficult to escape the sense that in the words “I’m a dreamer by design and I know in time, we’ll put this behind”, Liam is directly addressing his brother.
In spite of obvious peaks, ‘As You Were’ does have its flaws. At twelve tracks, it may have benefited from being a couple of songs shorter. ‘Universal Gleam’, for example, feels considerably weaker than most of the album. Additionally, some of Liam’s lyrical output is somewhat questionable, with lines like “the cops are taking over / While everyone’s in yoga” from ‘Chinatown’ hardly giving Bob Dylan a run for his money. Then again, if you’re looking for the next Dylan, ‘As You Were’ was never going to be the best place to start.
In ‘As You Were’, Liam Gallagher has done exactly what he needed to do: produce an album that would remind people of what they loved about him in the first place, without coming across as a dated nostalgia act. This is a new, matured version of one of modern rock’s most-loved frontmen, which has, thankfully, not sacrificed any of what made him great in the first place. Is this the perfect album? No. Is it worth a chunk of your time? Most definitely. Is it good to have him back? Absolutely.