Monday, November 13, 2017

As You Were

Liam Gallagher has released his first proper solo album, and it is excellent. I highly recommend this release in the vinyl format because it has everything you'd expect from a man who, literally, had no good reason to make this record and every reason not to. This is guitar music in the age of the disposable click track and it sounds like someone actually showed up and tried their damndest to create a classic.

Let's dispense with the main criticism of the record--the fact that Gallagher had to bring in outside help to shape the songs and put it together. This is more common than you think because, nowadays, you can make an album on a laptop. Collaboration can happen without anyone getting on a train and going to a studio. Having extra help might mean more sales, more quality, and enough success to get you through to another release. 

Morrissey has been doing it this way since 1989, using different writers, different producers, and different sounds to create a tremendous body of work. Every Morrissey solo album has his passion and his talent and his ear for a great song. That's what you have here--a man who knows what he can and can't do and is smart enough to enlist people to bring him closer to a finished product that doesn't embarrass anyone. This is not Liam rolling around on thin carpet with a Tamborine and a bottle of gin, emoting out of his ass. This is the work of a proper craftsman who takes a drink at the appropriate time of day when recording. It's not 1997 anymore, and this is the sound of a man who wants to have a seat at the table. 

Pop records can certainly work if they are written by committee. You can't bring in all of the different styles and elements to a project completely on your own unless you're Prince and, come on, who's Prince these days? No one. So, don't expect Gallagher to have played all the instruments and written everything and put it all down on tape in his home studio. If you were to assemble everything he's written from Oasis forward, you'd have a solid body of work. 

For this album, the committee that was assembled got it right. Every song goes by with a handle on what it's trying to do and what it's place in the universe is supposed to be. "Wall of Glass" is supposed to do just what it says--tower over everything. "For What It's Worth" is going to be a live staple for a very long time. I probably like "Paper Crown" better than everything else, but, even then, it's hard to single out tracks because this is a solid body of work. There are hardly any misses and a raft of hits. This is the kind of album that the British music buying public will embrace for a solid two years. Gallagher can tour this one for as long as he wants. And if they can release a steady stream of singles, and put out some solid B-sides, this will feel like a proper success I would imagine. Whatever else you can say, they got the cover right, they got the track listing right, and they didn't miss the mark.

The band is great and the performances are stellar. From what I've seen of the live airing of these songs, someone made the right decisions, and the worst tendencies of indulgence and self-referential flattery are no where to be found. Gallagher tells you what's in his heart, sings it for you, and the song carries it through. If only more "solo" artists could approach things this way, there'd be fewer duds out there. You are never going to hear him overthink anything.

I don't know what this album will do in America, but it's no slouch and no embarrassment. It's straight up rock and roll. There is no deep dive into the complexity of modern life. This is the album that won't confuse you with anything other than surreal forays into late-catalog Beatles and a healthy dose of mid-period Oasis. Remember, the last three Oasis records were largely done as a whole group, with Noel Gallagher writing about half of the songs and with former Beady Eye bandmates Gem Archer and Andy Bell adding their own tracks along with some of Liam's finest tunes (the ones he should be playing live are The Meaning of Soul, Songbird and The Boy With the Blues, and all of them are his, so why not?).

As You Were is better than either of the Beady Eye records, in my humble opinion, and ranks up there with some of Liam's best singing. I don't get why people have to bag on that work, either. Beady Eye had a lot going for it and was maligned unfairly from the start. I can't think of any period where Liam gave up and phoned it in. On As You Were, his performance is spot on. You can tell he held himself in check, sought out criticism, and refined his approach on this album. It was not thrown together in a month in order to start a desperate race with his brother for relevance. It's a sure thing that stands on its own.

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