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Liam Gallagher – As You Were album track by track review

The Oasis star’s solo album hits all the right notes.

Liam Gallagher
Credit: Liam Gallagher

It’s been a whole year now since we attended the premiere of Supersonic, the documentary following the formative years of legendary British band Oasis. It was there that the band’s former frontman Liam Gallagher told me what to expect of his solo debut following the dissolution of both Oasis and his follow-on group, Beady Eye. Twelve months of hype later, and the album, As You Were – named after his favourite Twitter sign-off, often found next to ‘LG x’ – is finally here.

As a full-time knows-the-B-sides-as-intimately-as-his-own-girlfriend’s-face-level Gallagher enthusiast, I am more than delighted to say that it has been worth the agonisingly long wait. Over the last five years or so, it’s seemed frustratingly trendy to turn one’s nose up at a man who has brought so much passion to multiple generations, but hopefully this will no longer be the case – he’s put his money where his mouth is (sorry) with this record, and shown just how much he still has to offer the music industry.

You just know that big brother Noel, primary Oasis songwriter, will appreciate what he’s achieved. When revving the hype-wagon for his own new album over the next few months it will be interesting to see what he says about As You Were in interviews: he may deny listening to it, he may even ask journalists prior to their interviews not to ask him if he’s listened to it, but he’s going to listen to it, and he’s going to be impressed. Not that Liam deserves any recognition from ‘Rkid’ mind – not only has he made it his mission to become Noel’s most prolific Twitter troll (unphased by the fact that Noel doesn’t actually use Twitter himself), but lyrics of the album itself are almost entirely about him, more often than not in a less-than-approving manner. Jesus, this reunion really isn’t happening is it?

As You Were is a pretty even balance between songs Liam wrote on his own, and ones he co-wrote with several talented professionals, including Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt, who have done stuff for Adele and Bruno Mars respectively. You can hear their influences in the production alone – the sound is as crisp and clear as any pop record, allowing nothing to hide. And that in itself is one of the album’s greatest strengths: the clarity of the production showcases Liam’s amazing vocal work. He just floats on top of everything else; it’s like somehow his nasal/vocal passages have been opened up, allowing him to truly sing. I’d go as far to say that, other than some standalone magical recordings, this is the best he’s ever sounded. Which, given the damage he must have done to his vocal chords over the years from both bellowing into stadia and absorbing all sorts of substances, is an amazing feat in itself.

Sure, it’s not perfect, but As You Were is a proper record. Even the worst Oasis album had four great singles, but this well and truly outshines that by having an orchestrated shape and consistency throughout. That said, it’s first-and-foremost a collection of tracks – Liam readily admits that he could not have opened with an experimental, psychedelic concept album: “I needed to come back with a bunch of proper tunes to get back in people’s psyche.” Which is absolutely what he’s gone and done, with each one having its own unique approach, energy and voice. There’s no plunging water between tracks 11 and 12 here – he’s made a bunch of songs which all stand on their own and work as individual statements.

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The album has been out a couple of days now – while of course mine and everyone’s relationship to it will change over time, it’s definitely been long enough for it to sink in. Liam’s words leave a lot to mull over (on the whole they’re actually much more concrete than Noel’s lyrics), and so I have taken the time to wrestle meanings out of them, to the point where Liam would no doubt tell me I am over-analysing and should just turn them up and bash my head instead. So without further ado, here’s my thorough (another word for bloated and over-indulgent) track-by-track analysis, punctuated with some choice thoughts on each one from the legend himself:

1) Wall of Glass.

LG insight: “Absolute stomper. I love singing it. No nonsense rock and roll guitar music.”

First track, first single. This is it: the ‘I’m back and I mean business’ song. Antagonising, arrogant, and most importantly, arresting, this is everything a 2017 Liam Gallagher debut needed to be. And it was very much engineered that way – it took five writers (one being Liam) to construct the perfect opening single. But that shouldn’t take away from the thing, because it was well and truly mission accomplished.
Wall of Glass came with a proper music video with a decent budget, a rare feat in an industry which has one eye on its income spreadsheet and the other on its video-editing intern who is putting together a ‘lyric video’ for 2% of the cost. But this one was more than worth shelling out for – the video grabbed naysayers by the scruff of their necks, proving that LG was still, in his own words, “cool as fuck”, and that he remains deserving of his own unique spot in the zeitgeist.

The song pulls you in with a stabbing harmonica, an instrument Liam previously used in his 2005 song The Meaning of Soul. It has a roaring guitar line which proudly screeches a message to the world that he has no plans to reinvent the wheel, and ‘you were sold the one direction, I believe the resurrection’s on’ proves with a casual 1D/Stone Roses juxtaposition that old and new do not have to be mutually exclusive. But the most thought-out lyrics are of course the ones directed at big bro – ‘anyone can see right through your eyes’ implies “sell-out”, and ‘the stone you throw will turn back in its path, one day you’ll shatter like a wall of glass’ gives weight to the song’s theme of fragility, whilst also setting the tone for an hour (or year+) of Noel-bashing…

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2) Bold

LG insight: “I love that tune. Very Lennon-y. Very me. Good tune man.”

Wall of Glass might have been the first single, but Bold was the first song we heard. In July 2015, a video sprung up of the frontman playing a new tune acoustically in an Irish pub to a group of older gents and a young man who took pride in ruining Liam’s melancholy reappearance by bashing an out-of-time drum beat on the pub table. The song, which excited fans who had been worried that the rock and roll star no longer had music running through his blood, was thought to be called ‘It’s Alright Now’, but was not confirmed by LG as being part of a new project. In fact, the following year he vigorously denied any plans of a solo career in a tweet perhaps too crude to justify quoting here.

And yet here we are: his debut solo album, and an amazing second track. It’s still a sad one, but, while structurally unchanged from the original performance, it has now taken on an epic new scale. In-time-actual-drums kick in at the second verse to truly take us somewhere else.

The line ‘there’s no love worth chasing yesterday’ is a wink towards the opposition’s last album, but Bold goes beyond ‘spot the Noel reference’. The whole song is one big splurge of feeling about the brothers’ acrimony, a wistful perspective which puts the reasons for their fallout down to how Liam ‘didn’t do what [he] was told’. For invested fans who feel like they’re still reeling from their parents’ divorce, this one digs into the feels just as much now as it did back when the pub performance leaked.

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3) Greedy Soul
LG insight: “Filth. Utter filth. It’s like when you have Vindaloo, and you start sweating, thinking ‘should I put this down?’ but you carry on because you’re just into it, you’re struggling with it… that’s what Greedy Soul is. When you start singing it you’re thinking ‘I’m gonna have a heart attack here, but come on!’”

If he didn’t already have you by the balls, he does now. Released last week, Greedy Soul is up there with the best of the ‘play-on-the-way-to-a-job-interview’ Oasis songs. It’s driving, perfect for on the move, and pure out-and-out rock and roll. Lyrically, this one seems to be more about the women in Liam’s life who did well out of him in court (hey, four kids with four different women isn’t cheap, especially when you’re not actually with any of those women anymore…). This notion comes from lines such as ‘they’re digging me for gold, well if the truth be told: you got your kiss and tell, I hope you go to hell’, not to mention ‘I got the Midas touch’ which might imply that some contact from Little Liam is all it takes to be drowning in riches…

Before lambasting the ladies though, the first verse strangely describes the Greedy Soul as a man, saying ‘he’s going down in nine, gonna be out a while’. This is a direct inverse of Liam’s Oasis triumph Guess God Thinks I’m Abel which would have so clearly been about a brother if the opening line hadn’t been ‘I could be your lover’. Perhaps in track 3 of this album he is dragging Noel into the same greedy league as the alleged gold-diggers, calling him out for keeping a much higher proportion of Oasis royalties. Or maybe with the profuse boxing imagery throughout the song, he was just a bit worried about violence-against-women territory (‘I’m going rope-a-dope, you think I’m giving up’ works so well when you apply it to the brothers’ respective careers over the last couple of years). The best line however, recently complimented by Jimmy Webb as being one of the finest lyrics he has ever come across, applies to whoever you choose the song to be about: ‘it’s a long way down when you’re the wrong way round.’

I love this one, but a shortcoming for me is that the recording just doesn’t capture the live sound. The glossy production of As You Were lends itself very nicely to almost all of the tracks in showcasing both the great songs and Liam’s stellar vocal work, but as the man himself said, Greedy Soul is meant to be “utter filth”. I wanted to hear the angry snarl of ‘I don’t give a fuck alright’ that we see at a gig, more guitars, heavier drums, the works. It’s like Greg Curstin felt the need to soften the anger, worried about securing the gig of producing Adele’s 32, the ‘happy married life’ album. Despite this regret, the song still very much speaks for itself, and is easily one of the best on the record.

4) Paper Crown
LG insight: “Classic, and a bit Bowie. Good tune, I love it.”

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Anyone would need a breather after Greedy Soul, singing or listening. At first, this feels a lot-more background music than anything so far. Which is fine, of course – not everything can be screaming about a woman with ‘six six six’ on her head. But Paper Crown has had an immense response on Twitter since the album has been released – perhaps the one that people have been most vocal about their affection towards, so we must not rush past it.

You can definitely hear what he means about the Bowie vibes. And the metaphor of the paper crown is a strong one – tangible imagery of fragility, which captures a rockstar’s life in a house of cards even more so than track 1 does. But it’s also very subjective – the specifics niggle away at you (well some of us anyway…) until you can’t stop thinking about it. At first it’s obvious – yet another song about Noel surely, outlining his inevitable crash back down to planet earth? But then a second or third listen illuminates it in a new light – perhaps the song is Liam talking to himself, highlighting his feelings of being alone for the first time after over twenty years of being in a band. It works with either, both, neither interpretations, and I’m sure Liam would advise not to read too much into it. But there’s depth in every line, and it’s a nice lyrical shift from some songs which are so on-the-nose they require next-to-no thought.

Paper Crown was played at the first few of Liam Gallagher’s live solo gigs, but hasn’t been heard for a few months. It’s set to make a reappearance at the December tour.

5) For What It’s Worth
LG insight: “Classic. Beautiful song. A lot of emotion in it. I reckon that’s the most Oasis-y song on the album. I loved Oasis, still do, not a day goes by that I don’t think of it – it’s good to be making music of that calibre.”

Wall of Glass had a fantastic response, and the positive wave of Gallagher love was maintained with this single, which went down just as well. Liam explained that For What It’s Worth is his ‘sorry’ song: “Obviously I’ve made a lot of mistakes. That’s life. I guess it is an apology to whoever. I’ve pissed a lot of people off. But I’m certainly not gonna write a song for each and every one of them. There’s one there. Fuckin’ deal with it and move on.” The most Liam apology you could ever come across: being told that this is all you’re getting, so take it or leave it…

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It’s also a Liam apology in its lyrics, with the great ones here actually acting as almost-excuses for his behaviour… ‘devils on my doorstep since the day I was born’ / ‘I’ve been crucified for just being alive’ etc. True excuses or not, they don’t take away from the sentiment of the chorus’s apology.

For What It’s Worth is a real sweeping ballad, something we never really heard Liam attempt with Beady Eye, but was one of Noel’s common markers of an Oasis record. It’s so wholesome, particularly two tracks down from the grunge fest of Greedy Soul, which must go a way to showcase the real spectrum As You Were is covering. I personally think it’s a little too clean to reach the same level as the Noel ballads – it’s genuinely one or two steps away from being an Adele song. And I think it needed a bit more fine tuning too, for example how it milks five syllables out of ‘still burning’ when ‘(beat) it’s still burning’ would have done. But anyway, it’s still great to hear Liam do a song like this – those lovely high choruses make a bit of a mockery of how low down the stave some of the Beady melodies refused to venture from.

And because I haven’t read too much into the lyrics on this one thus far: ‘The first bird to fly gets all the arrows’ – this is clearly Liam saying “Beady Eye were not as well received as the High Flying Birds because we were the first to release a record after Oasis split up.” Blatant right?

6) When I’m In Need
LG insight: “Beautiful song. I reckon that’s my Lennon ‘I’m only Sleeping’ kind of thing. That’s me playing acoustic guitar at the beginning. I like it man, it’s a beautiful song.”

I’m not sure I’d agree with Liam on this one – if I’m honest, I think it’s a bit nothingy. As a simple love song, it’s inoffensive, but he mastered the simple love song with the first single he ever wrote, Songbird. Fifteen years later, this one feels like a backward step.

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But you can still play through the album without having to get up and skip it – it’s not the one corker that, when you take the time to pay attention to it, properly makes you question the sacred. As for cheeky lyrics, the opening line is an homage to Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds, and he also describes the woman in question as being ‘so purple haze’… if that really works as an adjective?

It should be noted that this is the first track sans-Noel-dig. Can’t be having that Rkid, time to bring out some serious shade:

7) You Better Run
LG insight: “That’s a cocky little thing. Bit of an aggro tune.”

I consider this track to be a loose response to the competition’s best post-Oasis song (which Liam has previously expressed he’d liked to have sung). Everybody’s on the Run was one of Noel’s only songs where you could find direct digs towards his brother, with lines such as ‘you can’t find the meaning – sing to yourself and hold on’ accusing LG of lacking substance. The title ‘You Better Run’ not only seems to be a direct retort to the title of his brother’s song, but also seemingly responds to some of those accusative lyrics in the 2011 track: ‘You try to walk in my shoes, but they don’t belong to you’ is almost embraced now with ‘Ain’t that something […] to walk in someone else’s shoes’.

And this is what makes it, as he says, “an aggro tune” – he wrote the whole thing as a message: one that tells his brother to RUN. Liam warns him: ‘I see you, you think you’re something’ and ‘I’m gonna steal your thunder – you better run, you better hide’. Big words; is there anything affectionate to be found? Erm… ‘I won’t fall for no-one, that’s why I’m not falling for you’ could be interpreted that Noel’s very existence has motivated Liam to pick himself up and get back on the musical horse? Motivation’s good right…?

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You Better Run not only has a brash message, but is beautifully cocksure in its musicality too. It borrows the exact same guitar intro from the also-Liam-penned Oasis song I Believe in All, which propels us here into another carpe diem rocker. The verses are smug in the knowledge of how cool they are, and the choruses, with some flourishing female backing vocalists, would easily fill a stadium if he manages to reach those heights again. And you can’t help but smile thinking of the day Liam was mulling over his two favourite artists and his eyes lit up when he realised he could get a pararhyme out of ‘Gimme Shelter’ and ‘Helter Skelter’…

8) I Get By
LG insight: “Another good tune man… In your face a little bit.”

Continuing the upbeat Liam-wrote-all-by-himself’s: I Get By is quite a gritty little number. It’s definitely maybe another that’s aimed at Noel, who by this point is surely either feeling very conscious or extremely big-headed from having the best part of an album written about him. One line I take a bit of an issue with is ‘I never hold back from the truth, unlike you’. This seems a bit of an unfair stretch, particularly after he made some very nasty remarks about Noel’s performance at the We Are Manchester arena reopening, went on to claim they were the result of a Twitter hack when he realised he’d gone too far, but then as-good-as admitted that was a lie on Graham Norton this week. I thought you never held back from the truth Rkid?

But back to the track, it’s a good one, which I think would easily have fit on Oasis’s celebrated penultimate album. There’s plenty of nods to Liam’s music collection throughout the course of As You Were, and none more so than here – he does a good job of stitching them together, but a large part of I Get By is actually a collision of lyrics by a real spectrum of musicians – everyone from Neil Young to Joy Division.

9) Chinatown
LG insight: “Great tune.”

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Chinatown is the only single that hasn’t been unanimously revered, although that’s not to say it’s had a bad response by any means. Some people in fact preferred it to Wall of Glass, although you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone who thinks it’s a lyrical triumph. While there are a couple of really nice lines in there, it just doesn’t hang together with a cohesive sentiment as most, if not all, of the other tracks do. Yes, Chinatown is a shrewd place to sing about as it’s almost universal (we have them in Manchester, London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Newcastle etc), but unfortunately this song is barely a tribute to the Asian community – it’s primary school poetry at times: ‘Happiness is still a warm gun. What’s it to be free man? What’s a European? Me I just believe in the sun’. Now unless there’s something staring us all in the face, that’s as seat-of-pants as doing it ‘with a doctor on a helicopter’…

But the Gallaghers did not become famous from Morrissey-levels of song meaning. Quite the opposite in fact, and where Chinatown falls short in substance, it claws back in delivery. It showed us all just what a great pair of lungs Liam still has on him – it has a soaring chorus which may even have taken the man to new heights. He sounds bloody amazing. It’s just a shame that he isn’t singing about something equally as powerful, or we could have had a true classic on our hands.

10) Come Back to Me
LG insight: “Another Oasis-y sounding, a bit like I am the Walrus. It had a big melatron on it, so we took that off because it was a bit Beatley, so we just played it with the guitars. That’s a monster man.”

I’m not sure he’s right when he says it’s Oasis-y sounding; it’s quite a funky little number this. I don’t know why, but I can imagine Robbie Williams doing it. Then again, the Stoke-y blokey’s first album was an Oasis tribute, so I’ve just come full circle. Ten tracks of over-thinking is making me delirious.

It’s good though this – very cool and easy to listen to. There’s not loads to note about what he’s saying here because he puts the song front and centre, although it definitely works as a piece of writing much better than what preceded it. And with a title like that, it’s easy to stab a guess at whose company he may be pleading for; I’m going to move on before I start welling up…

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11) Universal Gleam
LG insight: “Beautiful tune. Love that song.”

This is an ethereal little surprise. It’s the kind of thing you’d often find at the end of an album (although of course, we still have one to go). But it’s only a surprise because of the meat-and-potatoes nature of the first ten tracks – this is actually much more akin to the kind of stuff Beady Eye were last found doing. In fact, its title is the same title Liam wanted to give their final album, but their label Columbia did not allow it (because, after all, they were Columbia, not Universal…). At the time he just threw the phrase into their (best) song Flick of the Finger instead, but here it is again – the Gallaghers aren’t known for being shy when it comes to reusing words and phrases. Like ‘acquiesce’ for example – that comes up a bit, and don’t even get me started on how often they use the word ‘shine’. Wait, hang on one parka-wearing moment, where was the ‘shine’ in As You Were?? Don’t say he left it out?? That’s sacrilege! He may as well have thrown the guitar away and recorded the whole thing on an electric triangle! What’s that? He saved it for the last track? Oh, thank God. I was getting the shine-less shakes then for a second. Ok, brill – this one’s bound to be good:

12) I’ve All I Need
LG insight: “Beautiful song, very La’s-y. There’s a lot of heartfelt stuff in there man.”

I was right. The obligatory ‘shine’ is a marker of quality. SO much quality in fact – he may have even closed the record on its highest note here, leaving us begging for more. Damn you Gallagher you tease. This tune is both peaceful and gripping, intimate and huge. The verses are very easy on the ears, and then the chorus kicks in and you can’t help but sit up and take notice of such an instantly-iconic sequence.

Although I feel worn out after so much lyrical scrutiny, it should be noted that ‘I hibernate and sing while gathering my wings’ was written on a banner which went right round Yoko Ono’s kitchen at the Dakota building when Liam went round to meet her after naming his son after her deceased husband. He’s been meaning to get the line into a song for years, but never has there been a more appropriate time than after a few years of him doing the very three things the line describes. And this song is one such product from that time gathering his wings – it not only feels like an album closer, but one you could close a gig to if you were a sentimental sort of rock and roll star: the middle eight offers a cameo from Ultimate Nasal Hero who sings ‘it’s not goodbye, so dry your eyes.’

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And then of course the wonderful bittersweet chorus: ‘there’s no time for looking back, thanks for all your support’ is melodically perfect in my eyes. Chris Moyles noted that it feels “very familiar on the first listen” and he’s absolutely right. Not because Liam has ripped something off (he admits himself that he’s not clever enough to do that), but because it’s classic from the moment you hear it. For someone who was once criticised for not having choruses in his songs, this is an almighty refrain, which required no input from any co-writers…

Which brings me to my conclusive point here: I would ask if it was really necessary to put the co-written songs so front-and-centre (see singles 1-3). My top 4 tracks (in no order: Bold, Greedy Soul, You Better Run and of course, this closing number) are all solely Liam efforts. While you can’t get away from the attention-grabbing co-written first single (which would probably join those 4 to complete my top 5), it has to be noted what an almighty job Rkid has done here off his own back, in the moments he’s been able to just sit and play with a guitar and his thoughts. This is an album of true musical and personal substance – for the first time, maybe ever, he has substantially proven himself as a credible artist in his own right. Your turn Noel, and although you probably never thought this would be the case, the pressure is on.

Released By: Warner Bros Records UK Release Date: 6th October 2017

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