I once spotted Liam Gallagher in Carnaby Street outside a pub with a pint in his hand. I was far too shy to approach him as he had a slightly intimidating persona in my mind, but those that did were treated with the utmost patience. I guess the intimidating aspect came from his rather boorish behaviour as a young man enjoying the excesses of being in the biggest band in the world and living it large. The Gallagher brothers have always been wonderfully outspoken, but whereas Noel was always at the more intellectual end of the spectrum (he seems to be able to pal up with the movers and shakers more effectively) Liam was at the yob end, and things proceeded to get very messy with his personal life with four children by four different mothers. Having spent way too many years in the offices of lawyers and not been particularly striking in his efforts with Beady Eye, this comeback album could have been a slightly embarrassing effort from an artist whose best years were firmly in the rear view mirror.
At this point you have to give a huge amount of credit to the team who worked with Liam to put this album together (Greg Kurstin of Adele fame, Andrew Wyatt and Dan Greg Marguerat) because they have managed to guide the unguided missile and nail down the aspects of Liam which made him a truly great rock and roll star. It’s not an Oasis rehash, but it has the essence that I suspect many music lovers have missed and craved for many years, and is in some ways is simply old fashioned guitar based rock. Lyrically there are some (perhaps surprisingly) insightful and tender words. In For What It’s Worth, “In my defence all my intentions were good, and heaven holds a place somewhere for the misunderstood…Devil’s on my doorstep since the day I was born, it’s hard to find a sunset in the eye of a storm…” And the highlight lyric of the album, “I’ve been crucified just for being alive,” A song about apologising from someone who probably has a few to make.
Although the opening singles were promising, it’s only when you hear the album in it entirety that you appreciate its quality. There are some wonderful tracks – Greedy Soul is described by Liam as “like having a vindaloo” as he gets a sweat on busting a gut to spit out the song in a vicious fashion. Come Back To Me (my personal favourite) I’ve All I Need, Doesn’t Have To Be That Way and the exquisite Paper Crown, which demonstrates a sensitivity you might not associate with Gallagher Junior.
This new phase of Liam’s career has highlighted that he is an older, more settled individual who can be hilariously funny and spot on with his observations of life (watch him making a cup of tea or listen to what he has to say about Brexit) but more than anything he has been a grafter this year. Endless travelling, gigs, interviews, and a renewed connection with the fact that he was born to do this and now seems to appreciate it more. You can’t help wondering if any of the songs titles are aimed at his older sibling – Come Back To Me? I Wouldn’t Want To Be Like You? In sheer numbers of sales he has outperformed his brother. Oasis needed the two ingredients to make their success, but Liam’s part of it was the passion, rawness and voice that Noel lacks. And despite Noel’s insistence on ignoring his little brother’s efforts and achievements with this record, I’d like to think that he’s secretly pretty pleased that the public have responded so warmly to the spirit of Oasis encapsulated in this album. Hats off to Liam, it’s been the comeback of the year.