“I know my strengths and I know my limitations. I’m an OK songwriter but I’m a great singer and frontman”, said Liam Gallagher when he spoke about the ambition for his second album, safe in the knowledge that he wanted to take things further this time.
His debut album ‘As You Were’ from 2017 arrived with an Oasis tag attached. It was polished but the recognisable punk spirit and attitude was there. It was raw but popular, but for the majority of the follow-up things have somewhat shifted: it is a big, bombastic rock sound with a few less refined, more spontaneous moments.
It is infectiously catchy from beginning to end. The objective to deliver songwriting excellence means that everything has been brought a level up and traditional writing structures and arrangements take centre stage. But no two tracks sound the same, and navigation around this album is a smooth experience. A flawless running order means that from the opening track – the stomping glam-rock whirlwind of ‘Shockwave’ and the final atmospheric ‘Gone’ – plenty of ground is covered.
All influences on ‘Why Me? Why Not’ represent a clean slate. Playing with a wider palette of inspiration than previously, the many facets are hard to detect. It is the idea of Anglo-American sound forces coming together, as they meld, the 60s, 70s and 90s sonics come together and transform into a current, relevant sound.
Stylistically, everything is captured in recognisable ways. David Bowie is a vocal influence on the subtle, more understated and laid-back ‘Meadow’ where reflective lyrics show an alteration in mood, “It’s a long lonely life. Sometimes you’ve gotta hold your head up high”. Tracks such as ‘Be Still’ and ‘Halo’ represent affectionate nods to iconic bands like The Stooges, The Kinks and The Who.
The urge to address biographically significant matters is a recurring feature. Lyrically and personally this album takes a closer look at family relationships – and his brother Noel Gallagher in particular – references to their estranged relationship appear throughout. The stunning ‘One of Us’ is an example.
Similarly, ‘Once’ is a song led by rich John Lennon inspired vocals, “It was easier to have fun back then when we had nothing”, and on ‘Gone’ a lyric compares changing times, “I used to go away and come back, back another day but now I don’t know how long I’m gonna be gone”.
Other themes tackled include his daughter Molly Moorish, who is in his life now. The two connected, and the optimistic, feel-good vibe of ‘Now That I’ve Found You’ is about the relationship. A disapproval of celebrity culture is expressed on the softer glam-rock vibes of ‘The River’.
Gallagher remains an excellent interpreter of others’ lyrics, but he takes the skill further here and it results in a collection of classic songs drenched in melody, accompanied by clearly expressed, noticeable lyrics.
There is no shame in co-writing, it is fine to reach out and work with others. Who knows, maybe he will choose to lead the writing of his third album. He is famously known as someone who follows his instincts, and is at his best when he does that.
As one of the greatest frontmen in rock he shouldn’t have to change, even when the ambition to channel a greater, more ambitious outcome is there, and achieving a better, more ambitious record is the aim of Liam Gallagher and his cohorts on ‘Why Me? Why Not?’
Words: Susan Hansen / clashmusic.com