Secret Meeting score: 59
by Philip Moss
After fleetingly dabbling in the art of songwriting during his days as frontman of Oasis, Liam Gallagher has seemingly given it up as a bad job. Since then, his vanity project, Beady Eye, has been banished and Liam – after a three-year sabbatical – is back with a debut solo album.
Beady Eye’s failure must have wounded Liam. As frontman in the biggest band in Britain, to his fans he could do no wrong. Yet, Beady Eye never caught the public’s imagination.
Now, everyone has ‘their’ band. The band that defined their childhood. Their school years. Their friendships. Their nights out. And, Oasis was all of these to me. Sheesh – I took the morning off school on the morning The Hindu Times came out and was lucky enough to see them seven times. But part of the main appeal of Oasis to me was the attitude. The punk ethos. The way Liam called out new bands and pop megastars alike. I couldn’t wait to pick up the NME every week to see who he’d be having a pop at. The ‘You Cock!’ incident with Starsailor’s James Walsh and subsequent sticker frenzy that followed, being a particular highlight. No one escaped Liam’s tirades, particularly those he deemed not to have the appropriate ‘tude to fit into his blinkered view of the music biz.
Which begs me to ask the question – what would an 18-year-old Liam have said about an ageing rock star returning with a collection of songs written by a hit factory? Of course, Liam’s always been propelled by a songwriter, but Noel’s a) his brother and b) was in the band. But, for As You Were, Liam’s seeked out the industry’s go to songwriters (Greg Kurstin – Adele, Katy Perry, Kelly Clarkson; Andrew Wyatt – Bruno Mars, Pixie Lott, Charlie XCX) to help assist his comeback.
Lead single, Wall of Glass, is a wall (excuse the pun) of trashy harmonicas and polished guitars which, with the addition of Bridget Sarai’s wailing backing vocals, feels like a watered-down version of the Stereophonics’ single, Madame Helga, being sung by Miles Kane. Now, it’s understandable why Liam has roped in professional songwriters, as lyrically, the songs Liam’s penned individually are a myriad of lazy rhymes and cliches. However, sadly, so are the songs he wasn’t involved with either – ‘You’ve never been alone before and the wolf is at your door’ (Paper Crown). And the song that sounds most like a Liam concoction, Chinatown, with its childlike, Beatles referencing lyrics (‘Well the cops are taking over/While everyone’s in yoga/‘Cause happiness is still a warm gun’), is also a song he receives no writing credit on.
I must point out, As You Were, is not a complete failure. Bold, the record’s second track, finds Liam in autobiographical mood (and, yes, he wrote this one himself) as, over chugging acoustic guitars, he reflects – ‘Yes, I know/ I’ve been bold/ I didn’t do what I was told’. His is voice on absolute top form and delivering the kind of sing-a-long melody that will go down a treat at the live shows. Plus, with its Beatlesy guitars and orchestration, For What It’s Worth is also the kind of song which would have sent the 15-year-old me crazy. As is I Get By with its instant, ear worm chorus. Alas, the highlights are few and far between and get caught up in a bog of dissonance.
So, despite being Manchester’s biggest musical icon, Manchester’s poet laureate he is not. And, in the words of one of the city’s most revered sons, Morrissey, sadly, As You Were ‘says nothing to me about my life.’