“Rejoice greatly, O sons and daughters of the Parka King, O children of the madferit, behold thy King come unto thee: he is just and brings rock ‘n’ roll salvation; lowly and riding under his own steam…”
Because nobody, and I do mean nobody, does it any better.
Let’s forget about the trouble and strife with you Noel who and focus instead on why anyone still cares about a new record from a man who doesn’t really play an instrument, who doesn’t really write songs and who, increasingly, has to take greater care of his voice lest it give out and give up from beneath him.
It’s easy really.
We care because he does.
In a time when people can move with ease between X-Factor pop star wannabe to reality show star to social media “influencer” to “Celebrity” jungle shenanigans the one thing we all crave is…authenticity.
You don’t have to like Liam Gallagher.
You don’t have to fill your wardrobe with Pretty Green clobber (I’d actively discourage such a decision) and start doing the walk.
You don’t have to choose the haircut…even Liam is past that.
But what you do have to do is appreciate the fact that here is somebody who has remained entirely consistent from the moment he arrived with a magnesium flash of a performance on The Word in 1994.
His is a blind faith, a devotion to his own rock ‘n’ roll vision; John Lennon, John Lydon and him with splashes of other things added to the mix for flavour.
When he sang the words to “Rock ‘n’ Roll Star” he wasn’t singing the words his big brother had written for him…he was channelling his own manifesto.
So here we are, twenty-five years after he first entered our lives and with his second solo album, a follow up to the massively successful “As You Were” and what everybody wants to know is; is it any good?
The short answer to that is…yes.
It really is good.
There will be detractors and doom merchants who will pick and nitpick at the edges but, genuinely, this is good.
First things first.
Don’t expect anything “new”.
Liam isn’t going to go all “Black Star Dancing” on your ass anytime soon…or anytime ever for that matter. Why should he? He’s not interested. That’s not him. He isn’t here to push things forward, he isn’t here to expose his experimental tendencies, he isn’t here to chart unexplored territory; he’s here to sing songs, give you a good time and make you feel ten feet tall while he is doing it. That’s who he is. That’s what he is.
So you already know you are going to get nods to The Beatles, Lydon, The Stooges, glam stompers and punk rock at its most melodic. At times that is an intoxicating mix with things like the title track soaring over and sinking into its inspirations.
A curious thing about “Why Me, Why Not” is the fact that the best version of one of the best tracks isn’t the one that features on the album. The piano version of “Once” that was recorded for Radio One was a thing of tenderness, heartbreak, honesty, pain and hope all at once. Stripped back and laid bare Liam was able to deliver one of his finest vocals and while the lush orchestration and superb production on the album version is a beautiful thing, I would have preferred something more intimate, less fussy and more “real”.
The album opens with “Shockwave” which is a magnificent mess of early Who mashed together with a swamp song blues groove.
While the songs on “As You Were” highlighted, for the doubters, quite how good he could be there were moments where the voice sounded…strained? Like he was having to work for every note…things that were once in the palm of his hand were not just within reach. But on “Shockwave” his voice sounds sweet, strong, confident, melodic and pure.
I don’t think you need to look too closely to find the “hidden meaning” in the lyrics.
Anger is an energy.
That’s what Lydon told us…and he was right.
Here that energy has brought new life into Liam, he is channelling it, moulding it, bending it to his will, instead of allowing it to control him…this is the sound of a man on a mission, a man with a message, a man with a point to prove and far from ranting and raving, like a loon at Speaker’s Corner, he is preaching, testifying and healing all at the same time.
More than one early review has pointed out that for all the casual, and sometimes not too casual, dismissal of the Beady Eye era from Liam one of the most engaging and, frankly, fun moments on the album is “Halo” which is a close, but not too close, relation to “Bring the Light”…all plonkin’ and plinkin’ piano with a pinch of recorder thrown in; which is dangerously close to having a scissor solo in my book.
The highest peaks on the album are the already released “One of Us”, “The River” and “Gone”…each one different and yet bound by some musical thread. Along with “Once” these are also the moments where Liam sounds strongest. If he were to play those four back to back on the tour there would be few dry ears and even fewer people with their vocal chords intact. That sounds great actually…Liam?
“Why Me, Why Not” is easily the match of “As You Were” and it would be difficult to argue with someone who said it was the better of the two. Together they give Liam a body of his own work that, while it can’t match the impossible highs of Oasis, draws him closer to somebody else who was in that band. That is down to both his own drive and the work of the musicians he has drawn close to…while they may all sail under the Liam Gallagher banner they are, increasingly, becoming a band.
Anyone who was waiting for Liam to crash and burn, for “As You Were” to be a flash in the pan or a last hurrah, for the opportunity to indulge in a Twitter pile on is going to be really upset when they hear this.
The Parka Monkeys would have lapped it up even if had been no better than a Beady Eye b-sides collection so that just leaves people like me; people who really only care about the music, who have no axe to grind, who don’t deify Liam. For those people this is a treat, a delight and a welcome addition to their record collections.
He’s back and he’s just as good as we always wanted him to be.
I haven’t actually heard the album but I’m fairly sure this will be bang on the money.