Like like a British version of the Robinson Brothers who founded the Black Crowes and oversaw a tumultuous career for those southern rockers, the two Gallagher siblings who fronted Oasis have continued to bicker even as they’ve pursued careers of their own. As You Were is the younger Liam’s initial solo album (after leading the band Beady Eye) and the opening track, “Wall of Glass,” has all the familiar elements of an English pop rock and roll style he’s preserved since the demise of his former band.
An effective hook, repeated just often enough, steadfast drumming and vocal harmonies aplenty emerge behind Gallagher’s accented lead voice there, all carefully parsed to keep the cut infectious. That template is the foundation for the work of three production teams on As You Were and while the input of producers Greg Kurstin, Andrew Wyatt and Dan Grech-Marguerat don’t dramatically alter the major components of the music, the cosmetics they apply impart enough diversity to keep the album entertaining throughout.
For instance, the faux orchestration adds a commercial sheen to “Bold” that contrasts effectively with the more rootsy likes of the harmonica on the track immediately preceding. And the one immediately following, “Paper Crown,” becomes set apart as well with acoustic guitars dominating the arrangement. The recurring liability within many of the dozen tracks here, however, is a nagging mechanical feel in the playing and it’s not just the scarcity of electric guitar(s): as on the latter cut, backing tracks don’t swing like the unified musicianship of a real band. Fortunately, the brevity of the numbers—few break the four-minute mark and none relay on extensive soloing– lessens the dampening effect.
The heavy, all-around echo on “Midas Touch:” accentuates Liam’s level of attitude here and, given the brothers’ ongoing (and continuing) public spats, it’s hard not to hear the lyrics of such songs as one’s ripostes to the other. Yet that argumentative dynamic matters less than this Gallagher at least has something to sing about for which he harbors some feeling. And if the uncommonly forgiving sentiment on “For What It’s Worth,” sounds a bit strained, especially combined with the aural sweetening of strings and horns, “When I’m In Need” much better illustrates how he’s successfully found a place for himself.
It’s certainly not in a niche all his own, but at least still Liam Gallagher sounds comfortable during As You Were. As “I Get By” and the quasi-psychedelic “Chinatown” appear, juxtaposed with the surprisingly self-aware and atmospheric “Universal Gleam,” it’s clear he’s not inclined to experiment, but that would only undermine what this record, and his work as a whole actually represents: the extension of a modern tradition begun by the Beatles.