How’s a Nineties-era rock star avoid becoming a mere nostalgia act? If you’re one of the Gallagher brothers who fronted Oasis, like Liam, you not only record new music in the form of Why Me? Why Not., but document the process on film, which is what he’s done with As You Were, a video which covers the breakup of OASIS up to the making of this album, the first new music from Gallagher since his 2017 solo album debut.
Producers Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt reappear from that project to help write and record this second solo work of the younger Gallagher brother and, not surprisingly, there’s attitude aplenty from the very outset. In fact, its first track, “Shockwave,” contains the clarion call of electric guitars combined with bluesy harp, at least partially giving the lie to chest-thumping lyrics Liam delivers with an almost audible sneer. The repetition of the refrain might be better served with an extra dollop or two of spontaneity, and while this somewhat stilted production might well be expected from Kurstin and Wyatt–who’ve worked with the likes of Adele and Lady Gaga–it doesn’t lessen the dampening effect on this performance and that of “Now That’ I’ve Found You.”
Certain that latter number lends itself to live singalong as does the softer, string-laden likes of “One Of Us.” On that track, acoustic guitars give way to crisp electric figures as the orchestration swells over distinctly English vocal harmonies that recall no one so much as British bands going back some fifty plus years, not to mention Liam’s previous album. It’s an impression deepened with “Once,” where the man’s nearly swamped by the grandiose arrangement, an effect that only amplifies a certain lack of self-awareness in the lyrics: is Gallagher talking about the earlier phase(s) of his career?
Speaking of which, the heavily accented vocals combined with pounding piano and four-square drumming on “Halo” might deceive the unknowing into thinking Oasis is playing and singing (if the tempestuous sibling relationship allowed for collaboration). Perhaps not coincidentally, the three-minute duration of “Be Still” lends itself to a non-nonsense, unified performance of bonafide rock and roll right, right in line with Liam Gallagher’s pre-release forecast about his latest work. Swells of heavy organ introducing and dominating the arrangement of “Meadow” fortify what is perhaps the most straightforward cut of the eleven here.
There’s only the slightest hint of affectation in this delivery of an unself-conscious set of lyrics. Punctuated by slide guitar, slicing around and through the waves of keyboard textures into a moody conclusion there, it’s an almost perfect dramatic setup for “The River” which excels in part precisely because it doesn’t appear to be relevant to this contentious Brit alone; while the tune may not exactly constitute an anthem, it comes close, especially in the context of the contemporary politics percolating through Liam’s native country.
Such a relevant topical perspective solidifies further during “Gone,” the final track of Why Me? Why Not. The verbal recitation actually adds to an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ piece of production so that the silence at the end is deafening and imbues these (unlike all prior forty minutes or so) with at least an implicit sense of purpose beyond just the self-glorification of Liam Gallagher himself.