Music

Liam Gallagher: As You Were

Photo: RANKIN (Warner Bros. Records)

Liam Gallagher answers all the questions about whether he can cut it as a solo artist on audience-pleasing rock 'n' roll record.


Liam Gallagher

As You Were

Label: Warner Bros.
US Release Date: 2017-10-06
UK Release Date: 2017-10-06
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It seems strange to say it about a man whose whole career has been based on an unwavering belief in his own persona as one of the last true rock stars, but 2017 sees Liam Gallagher in the rather unusual position of underdog. After Beady Eye came to an abrupt halt with a collective shrug after the release of final album BE, Liam has found himself musically cut adrift. With the chances of Oasis getting back together anytime soon, further diminishing with every new solo album from Noel, questions were beginning to be asked about whether Liam really had the appetite to strike out on his own without the ballast of a band behind him. What’s more, for a singer who went from fiery young punk to surefooted journeyman pro all with the help of others, would he be able to write the songs that would make people take Liam seriously as a songwriter?

These questions are ones that have troubled Liam, admitting in interviews that he would much prefer to be releasing a new album with Oasis rather than launching a solo career. Similarly, he has also confessed to having difficulties writing those big, life-affirming, era-defining choruses that brother Noel could knock out for fun in the mid-'90s. Wisely, with this realisation he has teamed up with someone who knows a thing or two about penning a hit song having written and produced for Adele, Sia, Kelly Clarkson and most recently the Foo Fighters -- Greg Kurstin. It has proven to be a shrewd move as the younger Gallagher’s first solo album is a confident, well-rounded rock 'n' roll record that finds Liam possessing a new found fire in his belly.

Opening single “Wall of Glass” had to come out all guns blazing. For his solo career not to be railroaded before it had begun, it had to show, even to his most ardent of supporters, that he still had the voice and the attitude that made him one of the most unpredictable frontmen of his generation. Additionally, it had to have the shock and the thrill of the new. Strangely enough, that comes in the form of a harmonica riff. In featuring a hook based on the humble harmonica, the song roars and wails from the off, in much the same way as Liam’s voice demanded attention on those early Oasis records. The harmonica riff, simple chords, and soulful backing singers frame what has to stand as one of the best lead singles from any band either Gallagher has been involved in since What’s the Story (Morning Glory).

It soon becomes apparent, that this is a surprisingly compelling and convincing set of uncomplicated yet frank rock 'n' roll songs written to show off Liam’s strengths as a singer. “Bold” is a mid-tempo, acoustic-driven rocker that sees him joined by former Oasis guitarist Paul ‘Bonehead’ Arthurs. The chorus line of “Yes I know, I’ve been Bold / I didn’t do what I was told,” perfectly summarizes Gallagher’s often rash and impetuous nature but hints at a newfound penitence. “Greedy Soul” is a swaggering rocker with over-driven guitar and pounding drums with the raw intent of early Black Rebel Motorcycle Club. Liam's vocals strut with self-assurance, as he revels in being the only thing he knows how to be -- a rock star.

“Paper Crown” is a more reflective number which finds Liam in fine voice, channeling early '70s solo John Lennon. “For What It’s Worth”, co-written with Cherry Ghost’s Simon Aldred, is the kind of soaring mid-tempo rocker that Oasis tried to get right on every release since What’s the Story (Morning Glory). Possessing a similar structure to “Don’t Look Back in Anger” it soars rather than feeling like a well-worn copy as Liam’s voice shines brighter than on anything since the demise of Oasis. It also finds him in a surprisingly vulnerable and contrite mood with lyrics such as, “For what it's worth / I'm sorry for the hurt / I'll be the first to say / I made my own mistakes." It’s these more unguarded moments that make the album feel far more rounded as a result.

On the whole, there is much more substance to Gallagher’s lyrics that one might expect. Admittedly, there are still some clunkers such as on the sweet, acoustic “When I’m in Need” with the nonsensical, “She’s so purple haze / You know what I mean.” Similarly, the energising, glam stomp of “You Better Run” is marred a little by the lazy couplet “Hey there gimme shelter / Tt’s all gone helter skelter.” Still, one has to admire any song so brazen that it opens with “Hey there / I’m a livin’ wonder.” Often, the fun comes in trying to decide who exactly is the subject of Liam’s ire. To that end, it’s probably pretty safe to assume that the line, “I never hold back from the truth / Unlike you.” from cocksure rocker “I Get By” is aimed at brother Noel.

“Chinatown” written with Andrew Wyatt from Swedish electro band Miike Snow and featuring John Martyn style figure picking from former Jeff Buckley guitarist Michael Oliver Tighe is an understated gem. Once again it finds Liam in superb voice whilst similarly demonstrating how shrewd he has been in choosing his writing partners. Throughout the album, the writing and production have coaxed the best performances out of him in years on the more stretching soulful numbers but without blunting any of the rough diamond, sneer on the rockers.

Overall, As You Were sees Liam Gallagher far surpassing even the most hopeful of expectations. Gone is the moodiness and sonic flourishes that characterised final Beady Eye album BE. Instead, Liam has opted for a far more straightforward, audience-pleasing rock 'n' roll record but with plenty to make it sound fresh and alive. An album that sees every question about him answered, screwed up and tossed in the bin.

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The Best Country Music of 2017

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There are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. Here are ten of our favorites.

Year to year, country music as a genre sometimes seems to roll on without paying that much attention to what's going on in the world (with the exception of bro-country singers trying to adopt the latest hip-hop slang). That can feel like a problem in a year when 58 people are killed and 546 are injured by gun violence at a country-music concert – a public-relations issue for a genre that sees many of its stars outright celebrating the NRA. Then again, these days mainstream country stars don't seem to do all that well when they try to pivot quickly to comment on current events – take Keith Urban's muddled-at-best 2017 single "Female", as but one easy example.

Nonetheless, there are many fine country musicians making music that is relevant and affecting in these troubled times. There are singers tackling deep, universal matters of the heart and mind. Artists continuing to mess around with a genre that can sometimes seem fixed, but never really is. Musicians and singers have been experimenting within the genre forever, and continue to. As Charlie Worsham sings, "let's try something new / for old time's sake." - Dave Heaton

10. Lillie Mae – Forever and Then Some (Third Man)

The first two songs on Lillie Mae's debut album are titled "Over the Hill and Through the Woods" and "Honky Tonks and Taverns". The music splits the difference between those settings, or rather bears the marks of both. Growing up in a musical family, playing fiddle in a sibling bluegrass act that once had a country radio hit, Lillie Mae roots her songs in musical traditions without relying on them as a gimmick or costume. The music feels both in touch with the past and very current. Her voice and perspective shine, carrying a singular sort of deep melancholy. This is sad, beautiful music that captures the points of view of people carrying weighty burdens and trying to find home. - Dave Heaton



9. Sunny Sweeney – Trophy (Aunt Daddy)

Sunny Sweeney is on her fourth album; each one has felt like it didn't get the attention it deserved. She's a careful singer and has a capacity for combining humor and likability with old-fashioned portrayal of deep sadness. Beginning in a bar and ending at a cemetery, Trophy projects deep sorrow more thoroughly than her past releases, as good as they were. In between, there are pills, bad ideas, heartbreak, and a clever, true-tearjerker ballad voicing a woman's longing to have children. -- Dave Heaton



8. Kip Moore – Slowheart (MCA Nashville)

The bro-country label never sat easy with Kip Moore. The man who gave us "Somethin' 'Bout a Truck" has spent the last few years trying to distance himself from the beer and tailgate crowd. Mission accomplished on the outstanding Slowheart, an album stuffed with perfectly produced hooks packaged in smoldering, synthy Risky Business guitars and a rugged vocal rasp that sheds most of the drawl from his delivery. Moore sounds determined to help redefine contemporary country music with hard nods toward both classic rock history and contemporary pop flavors. With its swirling guitar textures, meticulously catchy songcraft, and Moore's career-best performances (see the spare album-closing "Guitar Man"), Slowheart raises the bar for every would-be bro out there. -- Steve Leftridge



7. Chris Stapleton – From a Room: Volume 1 (Mercury Nashville)

If Chris Stapleton didn't really exist, we would have to invent him—a burly country singer with hair down to his nipples and a chainsaw of a soul-slinging voice who writes terrific throwback outlaw-indebted country songs and who wholesale rejects modern country trends. Stapleton's recent rise to festival headliner status is one of the biggest country music surprises in recent years, but his fans were relieved this year that his success didn't find him straying from his traditional wheelhouse. The first installment of From a Room once again finds Stapleton singing the hell out of his sturdy original songs. A Willie Nelson cover is not unwelcome either, as he unearths a semi-obscure one. The rest is made up of first-rate tales of commonality: Whether he's singing about hard-hurtin' breakups or resorting to smoking them stems, we've all been there. -- Steve Leftridge



6. Carly Pearce – Every Little Thing (Big Machine)

Many of the exciting young emerging artists in country music these days are women, yet the industry on the whole is still unwelcoming and unforgiving towards them. Look at who's getting the most radio play, for one. Carly Pearce had a radio hit with "Every Little Thing", a heartbreaking ballad about moments in time that in its pace itself tries to stop time. Every Little Thing the album is the sort of debut that deserves full attention. From start to finish it's a thoroughly riveting, rewarding work by a singer with presence and personality. There's a lot of humor, lust, blues, betrayal, beauty and sentimentality, in proper proportions. One of the best songs is a call for a lover to make her "feel something", even if it's anger or hatred. Indeed, the album doesn't shy away from a variety of emotions. Even when she treads into common tropes of mainstream country love songs, there's room for revelations and surprises. – Dave Heaton

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