Was that headline too much? Is the secret out that I have heard As You Were, the solo debut record from Liam Gallagher, and that I love it? The album, out Friday, October 6 on Warner Brothers Records, is, quite simply, the finest showcase yet for what is, arguably, the greatest voice of the modern rock era. As You Were provides what even the triumphs on Oasis and Beady Eye albums couldn't provide, and that is definitive proof that Liam Gallagher is the best rock 'n' roll singer of his generation.
Sure, there was some familiar and welcomed fire on "Wall of Glass", lead-off single from As You Were, but it's the near-ballads here that crackle with life, from the trippy "Universal Gleam" and on to the splendid "Paper Crown", an achingly lovely number that sees Gallagher engage with the material in a manner that suggests Lennon ('natch), as well as Weller. It's evidence of a refinement of his technique that builds upon past successes like "The Morning Son" from the first Beady Eye record, or even mid-period Oasis single "Songbird", among others.
It's almost as if the cliche of "Liam's grown into his voice" is somehow being proven here, as the rich lyrical turns on the yearning "When I'm In Need", and the supple melodic swells on "I've All I Need" seem to suggest. That latter cut does that usual Beatles chord-thing that old Oasis tracks did, but Liam sounds proverbially older and wiser here, the material his as he purrs through the arches of the tune. And to praise that song so specifically is not to say that there's no trace of the rowdy Our Kid here on As You Were, 'cause, truly "I Get By", the Stones-y "You Better Run", and the more successful "Greedy Soul" rawk with the sort of menace that those early Oasis offerings delivered in a more ramshackle fashion. If things here are sleek and reasonably well-produced (by The Bird and The Bee's Greg Curstin, among others), it's only in service of the material as, at least this time around, until the inevitable reunion with his brother at some point in our future, Liam's intent with As You Were is to offer his record, one entirely under his thumb, as it were. So, if things sound less like the products of an indie band, and more like numbers from a charismatic lead singer and a backing band, that's fine when the material has the kick and heft that "Bold", a fine and mature rocker, has, for instance.
And as Liam coos a reckoning for past behaviors ("For What It's Worth"), or seemingly takes the high road against his brother (the beautiful "Paper Crown"), long-time fans of the guy are rewarded. This is finally his moment in the sun. And while some of us raved about that first Beady Eye record, and praised Liam's wrangling of a bunch of guys who used to be in Oasis, and Ride, and Heavy Stereo, into a fighting-fit Rock Band, there were loads more who didn't give him and that group the praise they deserved. So now it's time for us to sit back and watch as Liam lights the fuse and tosses the grenade into a moribund music scene, a scene that desperately needs front-men with the charisma and personality that this guy's brought to any material he's sung for more than a quarter-century now.
What As You Were is, then, is all the usual Liam vocal tricks and flourishes wrapped into material that actually serves him extraordinarily well. The tracks here are uniformly strong, with some ("Paper Crown", "I've All I Need") being among the very best recordings Liam Gallagher has ever been a part of. So, ignore the genuflecting of this fan and just dip into any part of As You Were and remind yourself why this is The Voice that Rock as an institution needed so badly back in 1994. That he's maintained it, and that he's (finally) been able to put that voice into the service of songs that suit it so well are things to be happy about.
And if you're a fan of his in any way, if he's touched you with his tunes, or given you the soundtrack of a night out, or roared like the hooligan you'd always wanted to be, buy As You Were when it's released next week.
As You Were is out Friday, October 6 on Warner Brothers Records.