What a comeback. When Liam Gallagher announced that he would be returning as a solo artist following the unmourned demise of Noel-less band Beady Eye, few in the music world thought anything of it. Having promised that the record would replicate the “Lennon ‘Cold Turkey’ vibe, The Stones, the classics”, Liam’s debut solo effort delivers emphatically. Teamed up with a top notch group of LA hitmakers including Greg Kurstin (who wrote “Hello” for Adele), rock n roll’s greatest living legend hits all the right notes.
As You Were opens with the sneering stomper “Wall of Glass”, a song which sees Liam singing defiantly about spite and revenge atop a soulful, bluesy instrumental, his unique voice sounding better than it has since the turn of the millennium. Irritatingly overused harmonica riff aside, it sets the tone perfectly for the rest of the record, which owes more to the classic rock of the 60s and early 70s – The Rolling Stones, The Beatles, David Bowie – than it does to the Oasis-dominated Britpop scene of the 90s. Songs like “For What It’s Worth” and “Universal Gleam” could easily have been tracks on one of John Lennon’s lost weekend albums, while “Greedy Soul” and “You Better Run” emulate The Stones at their brassy best. As Liam himself said in the run-up to the album’s release, “I didn’t want to be reinventing anything or going off on a space-jazz odyssey” – As You Were is a return to crowd-pleasing rock n roll form for one of the genre’s true greats.
Indeed, there are only three songs on the record which don’t appear to fit into the old school Britrock mould on which the majority of the album depends. The first of these, “Chinatown”, is a psychedelic folk track more reminiscent of Animal Collective’s Sung Tongs or Big Star’s “Thirteen” than of anything the Beatles ever released; it’s certainly an outlier, but it never sounds like filler. Meanwhile “Come Back to Me”, with its nuanced, post-Britpop chord progression, matches Liam’s unparalleled voice with an instrumental more interesting than most of Oasis’ post-Be Here Now material. One of the album’s best tracks, it comes complete with a guitar solo that transcends Noel’s trademark uplifting-if-ever-so-slightly-boring pentatonic efforts, and would fit perfectly on Radiohead’s The Bends. The third of these anomalies is my least favourite track on this otherwise very strong release – “I’ve All I Need” feels like Liam wanted to write his own “Hey Jude” or “Champagne Supernova”, but sounds at best like “beige boys” U2 and at worst like Coldplay’s “Lost!” Nevertheless, a single poor track on an album of twelve is hardly a sizeable blot, particularly given the low expectations so many had for Liam’s solo return.
Overall then, As You Were is a triumphant success; we were promised rock n roll, and by God — foot stomping, swaggering, sixties rock n roll is exactly what we got. The album’s highlights are the raging rocker “Greedy Soul”, the Lennonesque ballad “For What It’s Worth” and the post-Britpop masterpiece “Come Back to Me”. It’s a spectacular return to form: welcome back our kid.