We all know the story so far. Well, you should do, unless you’ve been living under a rock since the mid-90s. A decade ago, the biggest band of our generation breaks up after a blazing backstage fight.
The elder brother who was responsible for writing the hits sold over a million copies of his debut solo album. One can’t help but wonder if this move had been planned for years, with Noel Gallagher saving up his best songs from the 2000s for his own record rather than an Oasis album. Meanwhile, iconic vocalist and younger brother Liam carries on working with his remaining bandmates, relaunching as Beady Eye. However, while the critical response to the band’s first two albums was surprisingly positive, sales and attention was a long way off the stratospheric status of the Gallagher juggernaut of the 90s.
With Beady Eye forever destined to be in the shadow of Oasis, and unable to reconnect with fans, it seemed like the younger brother would always be left in the shade by his elder sibling. A couple of years pass and Liam Gallagher returns under the banner of his own name, reclaiming the Oasis hits and reaffirming his status as the voice of a generation. His platinum-certified solo debut As You Were entered the UK charts at number 1, outselling the entire Top 10 combined.
We are also probably all aware of the myth that “Liam is nothing without Noel”. For sure, the younger Gallagher has stated his desire for a reunion, but “without Noel” does not necessarily mean “on his own”. From the way some people talk, you’d think that Noel Gallagher was the only person in the world capable of writing a good song. Liam freely admits that “I’m not a guitar player or a prolific songwriter. I can write a few songs every now and again but I miss being in a band.” With the assistance of a rough-and-ready backing band and a few songwriting partners, the debut largely silenced many of the doubters.
Its follow-up is even better, immediately marked by bolder songwriting, a more assured tone and undeniable confidence. Edgier and harder moments are balanced out nicely with heavily melodic indie rock bangers and anthemic slow numbers. It’s widely believed that Liam Gallagher was at his peak during the mid-90s. Vocally, perhaps, but essentially his “peak” consisted of singing brilliant songs written by someone else, in that example his older brother. In 2019, he is once again singing brilliant songs, but this time each co-written with a couple of prolific and talented songwriters. One of them, Greg Kurstin has been responsible for some of the biggest selling hits of the last decade. Gallagher is hardly working with amateurs, and clearly he himself has flourished as an author of music. He is a figure whose talent is greater than the sum of his parts. And now, you could argue that in terms of all-round ability, he has, in fact, come a very long way.
Why Me? Why Not?‘ explodes into action with the strutting, tough, gritty glam of lead single Shockwave delivering an opening knockout punch, “keeping it dangerous” to coin a favourite Liam phrase. The shimmering introspection of One Of Us grows from a heartfelt groove into a huge gospel flavoured outro. While Noel’s solo material suggests that a reunion couldn’t be any further away, LG’s music offers hope for Oasis fans, as well as (of course) THAT voice, which is in magnificent shape here. The big Lennon-influenced ballad Once is a nostalgic tearjerker that provides a bona fide lighters-in-the-air singalong, while Now That I’ve Found You offers an enjoyable helping of joyous, carefree Britpop, and an irresistible chorus, coming across like a hybrid of ‘Help!’-era Beatles and The Stone Roses.
Halo is reminiscent of an amped-up Beady Eye, pumping up the pace with its rampant ‘Lady Madonna’ piano. Hugely invigorating, it recaptures the “10 feet tall” vibe of Oasis at their best, Liam sounding so cool that he can even sing the word “mittens” and not sound ridiculous. Then there’s the stunning epic title of a title track. The sort of thing fans like myself patiently waited years for his old band to produce. Its mammoth strings and soaring melody make for something genuinely anthemic. Be Still switches to sturdy driving rock, powered by a Roses-like vibe. Its brilliance seems effortless, sounding like the work of someone who is genuinely on a roll.
The ghost of George Harrison is felt all over Alright Now’s guitar solo, matching up wonderfully with powerful, reflective verses and lyrics that listeners will once again associate with the estranged relationship between music’s most famous siblings, particularly in the wake of Liam’s recent claims that “Noel is not happy right now”. Meadow’s floating psychedelic melancholia and mesmeric chords showcase a more subtle side to the record. Again it’s highly reminiscent of Harrison, with touches of ‘Dark Side Of The Moon’ period Floyd thrown into the mixture. In contrast, the thumping glam blues of The River finds Gallagher in defiant mood, spitting out unmistakable attitude, sounding every inch the tough, swaggering “prizefighter”. Indeed, prior to his solo debut, one suspects that even Liam himself didn’t think he could compete at the same level as his older brother. Here, he is fighting at the top of the game and not afraid to take anybody on.
Featuring a very rare (and perhaps the first) example of spoken word, the mighty closer Gone sweeps into a glorious R.E.M-style waltz, delivering a striking finale. Certain critics will no doubt complain about the non-complexity of the lyrics and the lack of originality, but for what it is and based on its own merits, this is top class indie rock n roll. And in many ways, it’s Liam personified. A triumph. The resurrection continues in a confounding fashion.