Liam Gallagher: Why Me Why Not review – Cheap but potent
Why Me Why Not
Two years ago, Liam Gallagher’s debut solo album, As You Were, proved that the former Oasis (and, lest we forget, Beady Eye) singer could at least instil some measure of energy into songs that were as cookie-cutter as they come. It is little surprise, then, that the follow-up album doesn’t so much deviate as hammer home not only the sheer force of Gallagher’s encoded rock’n’roll voice as a valuable instrument but also (and here, of course, we are obliged to quote Noël Coward) “how potent cheap music is”.
So, no, there are no FKA Twigs feints here, Blood Orange tricks there or Bon Iver ruses in between. What we have instead is, pretty much, what you would expect, albeit more streamlined and – following the debut’s commercial success, which dragged him out of Beady Eye’s downfall and into a space where he took on his older sibling, Noel, and surpassed him in the charts – more assured, and not too surprisingly, more reflectively middle-aged.
Just because we know what’s to come, however, doesn’t necessarily make the music any less enjoyable. All of the songs here are co-written with Andrew Wyatt, Michael Tighe, Greg Kurstin (all of whom reinforced Gallagher’s debut with a wealth of songwriting expertise) and another American songwriter, Damon McMahon. While cynics may ponder exactly how much of a contribution Gallagher actually makes to his solo work (big brother Noel has dismissively mentioned that Liam’s mates comprise an “army of songwriters”), the results are often so good that such thinking becomes a waste of time.
The album begins as it means to go on: borrowing from the great and not-so as a means to an end. Flagrantly grabbing the guitar intro from U2’s Desire, opening track Shockwave subsequently drifts into a sub-Oasis stomp. It’s a kicker of a tune, and there’s more to come.
One of Us refers to the Oasis split in 2009 (the video for this song is much less ambiguous about this), while the acoustic strum of Once is a veritable nostalgia fest in its continuation of the Beatles/Oasis mash-up. Indeed, quite shamelessly, Once doesn’t stop there: it so efficiently conjures up the spirits of at least three John Lennon songs that Apple Corps should start looking for royalties.
And yet our friend Noël Coward was right: the phones-aloft chorus of “I remember how you used to shine back then, you went down so easy like a glass of wine, my friend. When the dawn came up you felt so inspired to do it again, but it turned out you only get to do it once” is delivered so reverently in memory of dear, departed friends that its blatant familiarity fails to spoil it.
Other songs such as The River (a lost Oasis classic, if that kind of thing takes your fancy), Meadow (a splendid power-pop merger of Strawberry Fields Forever psychedelia and George Harrison-style guitar solos) and Halo (it’s as if Mott the Hoople never split up, and there’s a T Rex mention for good measure) ensure reference points never stray too far from your mind, but the glint and polish of the tunes are never too far from the surface, either.
Look – you know what to expect, so let’s be having none of your whining. Liam Gallagher, for all his flaws, can hold a tune, and Why Me Why Not is full of them. If you can accept that, without prejudice – and the realisation that there isn’t a crumb of originality here – then you’ll be humming them from now to next summer. Carry on.