Album Review: C'mon You Know by Liam Gallagher
Third time’s the charm.
That’s not to say Liam Gallagher’s first two shots at sparking his solo career ended in complete darkness, but it did take a few tries for the fire to start roaring. His independent pursuit has finally come to fruition.
Gallagher has always been the face of the operation, but his name now bears all the burden. Collective responsibility is one of the perks of being in a band, and it couldn’t have been easy for him to learn how to do more than just play his part. He's blessed with the voice and demeanor of a rockstar, which is why he perfected the role of fronting Oasis with such ease for nearly two decades. Noel, his older brother and co-frontman, wrote majority of their songs but seldom took centerstage — a spot that was and still is reserved for Liam.
The Gallagher brothers have never been the brightest, but Noel has the unique ability to disguise his stupidity with wit. That is precisely why he is a successful songwriter, and having Liam’s voice distract listeners from his nonsense lyrics worked out well for both of them. But when Oasis came crashing down in 2009 with big brother walking away from the band, Gallagher Jr. was left directionless. After a brief and draining stint with the remaining members of the group under the name Beady Eye, Gallagher disappeared from the music space for a few years. Noel, on the other hand, wasted no time in putting out his first solo record because he had grown comfortable with singing lead vocals toward the final years of Oasis whereas Liam still couldn’t compose.
It took Gallagher six years and three albums to finally grow into his big-boy parka and conduct an operation with significantly positive outcomes. His solo catalogue went from tolerable to one catchy tune after another, and he is now in the best shape he’s been in since Oasis disbanded.
C’mon You Know exceeded expectations. The album’s supporting singles lacked cohesion to the point where it felt like the upcoming record would be his most disappointing one yet; the printer seemed to be running out of ink. “Everything’s Electric” and the title track both sounded dull by themselves, but when inserted into the tracklist, their value increases a great deal — the power of arrangement mustn't be ignored. “Better Days” was and still is the most boring song of Gallagher’s latest collection, as a single and even when packaged with the rest. Apart from that, there are very few low points over the entire listen. Even if certain parts don't work, all the songs have redeeming qualities that make them difficult to completely ignnore. "The Joker" is one such example: it starts with a wavy, dream-like guitar line, but the ensuing vocals sound ill-fitting at first ... then the choir comes in followed by additional percussion in the second verse, tying all the elements together and allowing the song to land as smoothly as it took off.
The allure of C’mon You Know is evident from the very first track. The one constant in Gallagher’s solo career has been strong openers, but this time, it’s not explosive as in the previous two albums but instead gentle and elegant. As rock ‘n’ roll as he may be, this record is a testament to his aptitude for slow-paced ballad rock rather than the badass loud stuff his bravado was initially built on. He is among the few rockstars who have aged gracefully, and the decision to allow his softer side to dictate the theme of his latest project proved to be a sensible call.
There’s nothing mind-blowing about any of these songs and some of them even sound quite generic, but fans don't always want music from eccentric geniuses. Gallagher’s style is in fact quite basic — he has never been one to experiment or stray from the formulas that have served him well in the past. There is, however, a distinct inimitability to his voice that makes his brand exclusive. Add to that his trademark body language — a standing manspread, both arms fixed behind his bottom, head tilted backward, mouth wide open and ready to swallow a towering microphone — and you have the quintessential British rockstar. Why does he always hold a tambourine or a pair of maracas when absolutely no one can hear it? Who knows, but it doesn’t even matter. And did he ever start writing his own songs? Somewhat, but he rarely does it without help. The point is Liam has a sea of fans who have accepted him for who he is because what’s not to like about a foul-mouthed Manchester City hooligan with a Charlie Chaplin walk?
Noel, on the other hand, does not have such distinguishing qualities. He might have the same fans, but when he tries something new, it doesn't quite stand out. A song by him could be a song by anyone now that he doesn’t have Liam’s voice to polish and stamp his writing.
Liam Gallagher is exactly where he needs to be as he approaches 50. He probably won’t sell out area tours like he did with Oasis, but he is also no longer the cheeky troublemaker he used to be in the heyday of Britpop. With age, he has softened up, become (a little) wiser and gained a better understand of how to continue doing what he lives for in a sustainable manner. In the '90s, it might've been tough to imagine Gallagher as a delightful geezer, but his youthful arrogance has turned into a greying acuity that is, at its core, still rock 'n' roll.