Liam Gallagher John Squire

Liam Gallagher and John Squire Play the Familiar

Former Oasis frontman Liam Gallagher and Stone Roses guitarist John Squire sound reenergized on their new collaborative album, but the songs never catch fire.

Liam Gallagher John Squire
Liam Gallagher and John Squire
Warner Music UK
1 March 2024

In May 1988, Liam and Noel Gallagher caught a concert at Manchester’s International 2 nightclub by two local bands, James and the Stone Roses. For Liam, attending his first gig at age fifteen, the Roses were a revelation. “The whole band looked cool,” he told BBC News in 2011. Cut from the same Mancunian cloth as the Roses, he decided that “I could definitely go and do that if I find the right guys.” In 1991, Liam formed the nascent Oasis, which his brother Noel joined a few months later.

By the early 1990s, the Stone Roses had become Manchester’s most celebrated group since the Smiths broke up in 1987. Their eponymous debut album reached the UK Top 20 as songs like “I Wanna Be Adored”, “Waterfall”, and “Fool’s Gold” paved the way for the future Britpop scene. However, singer Ian Brown (whose shuffling onstage persona Liam emulates to this day) and guitarist John Squire were notorious for feuding, much as the Smiths’ Morrissey and Marr had been in the 1980s and the Gallagher brothers would be in later years.

The Stones Roses’ sophomore album, Second Coming, dropped like a slab in December 1994, disappointing many with its meandering songs and leaden riffs. Sixteen months later, Squire quit the Stone Roses, signaling the group’s dissolution. A reunion between 2011 and 2017 yielded two more singles but not the third album initially forecasted.

Oasis fulfilled the rock and roll promise the Stone Roses had once held. Their first two albums, 1994’s Definitely Maybe and 1995’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, stirred the Madchester sound into a potent brew of Noel’s Beatlesque songwriting and Liam’s keening vocals. Oasis spent the next decade-and-a-half as Britpop’s reigning kings – until a backstage brawl in 2009 ended Noel and Liam’s working relationship. Both brothers have teased notions of a reunion ever since, which so far has come to nothing.

Naturally, a collaboration between Liam Gallagher and John Squire announced in 2023, was hailed as the next best thing to an Oasis or Stone Roses reunion. Sparked by Squire’s guest performance with Gallagher at Knebworth in 2022, the duo tapped both artists’ shared roots – despite their ten-year age difference.

The duo’s first single, “Just Another Rainbow”, released this past January, garnered mixed reviews. NME saw the duo as “playing to their strengths”, while The Guardian lamented the “distinct placeholder feel” of Squire’s lyrics. But overall the song, with its loping Beatlesque rhythm (circa Revolver) and swirl of Stonesy psychedelia (circa Their Satanic Majesties Request), fulfilled speculations of what an Oasis-Stone Roses hybrid would sound like.

The completed album, Liam Gallagher John Squire, matches similar expectations without exceeding them. The songs, all penned by Squire, are catchy approximations of the Stone Roses sound – better than most of Second Coming (apart from a few standouts, such as “Love Spreads”) without threatening the iconic debut. Gallagher, his voice stronger than ever, sings with appropriate swagger. But the whole thing feels crushingly inevitable, suggesting that neither artist was willing to push the other beyond his comfort zone.

“Just Another Rainbow” is as good a song as the album offers. The opening track, “Raise Your Hands”, and the second single, “Mars to Liverpool”, are both snappier, channeling Revolver vibes into stompers sure to thrill in a live setting. More surprising are “I’m a Wheel” and “Love You Forever”, based on gritty blues riffs expressing Squire’s love for the likes of Jimi Hendrix and Robin Trower.  

Elsewhere, the album flags, especially lyrically. Gallagher does his best to enliven lines like “Thank you for your thoughts and prayers / And fuck you too” (in “Make It Up as You Go Along”) and “Take me down to the river / Take me down to the sea/ Drink up your coffee and sip your tea” (in “Mother Nature’s Song”). But a surfeit of these clunkers suggests Squire might have sought help from other songwriters – especially since two capable ones, Gallagher and producer Greg Kurstin, were beside him in the studio.

Both Squire and Gallagher have done compelling work apart from their legendary groups. After the Roses, Squire joined the Seahorses, a short-lived quartet whose 1997 album Do It Yourself charted higher than either Stone Roses album. Gallagher initially played out the Oasis string on two albums with Beady Eye. But his first two solo albums, 2017’s As You Were and 2019’s Why Me? Why Not affirmed his ability to hold his own as a singer-songwriter.

Liam Gallagher John Squire draws its best moments from Squire’s guitar playing – on what sounds like a Fender Stratocaster through a cranked-up tube amplifier. His style has become more bluesy and assured than in the past. His performance on an upcoming tour with Gallagher is sure to delight fans eager for something – anything – new from one of Britain’s legendary guitar heroes.  

But for Liam Gallagher, the album feels like a backward step. On 2022’s C’mon You Know, he moved beyond his Beatles/Mod obsession to explore new sounds, including choral flourishes and dancefloor grooves. He had reached the point where he no longer lived in Noel’s shadow. However, on Liam Gallagher John Squire Gallagher sounds content to play the role of the scrappy front man – handing creative reins to Squire in an odd emulation of his former relationship with Noel.

It’s a shame because all three men are capable of creative brilliance despite their having squandered so much time and energy on egotistical bickering and laddish feuds. An Oasis reunion may or may not ever happen (a recent offer by Liam’s people to Noel was rebuffed). The Stone Roses, all members now in their 60s, are most likely over for good. Liam Gallagher John Squire might have been the next best thing, but as long as they avoid challenging each other or whatever feels most comfortable to them, middling releases like this one are the unavoidable outcome.

RATING 5 / 10