Liam Gallagher – As You Were vs. Noel Gallagher – Who Built the Moon? (2017): Odd Couples

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After the breakup of Oasis in 2009, many fans were hoping it was only another in a series of spats between the Noel and Liam Gallagher – and that, like all the other times, they would get over it shortly and get back to the business of making music.

Others sensed that the last straw had finally landed on the camel’s back, and the world would have to get used to being without an Oasis to worship or kick around, depending on how much one loved/hated the band.

There was, however, a third point of view: Maybe give them some significant time away from each other, and eventually Noel and Liam Gallagher would realize they were better off together in a partnership where Noel was the main songwriter, and Liam was the frontman who gave voice and attitude to those songs. Put another way: If the breakup was inevitable, the reunion would be inevitable, as well.

Reviews of the Gallagher brothers’ subsequent releases always seemed to hint at such an option. Liam Gallagher and the remnants of Oasis went on to form Beady Eye, though they went to great lengths promoting it as something different from their previous group. Still, many couldn’t get past the idea that Beady Eye was simply Oasis without Noel’s songs. As for his sibling’s project, many liked the song craft of Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds but often commented that the overall approach seemed very restrained.

Some critics even went so far as suggest one could take the best songs from the two Beady Eye albums and the best from the two High Flying Birds releases, and combine them to make a couple of good Oasis albums – or close enough facsimiles.

It looks like that line of thought is going to have to be abandoned in light of the most recent releases from each camp, both of which appeared in late 2017: Liam Gallagher’s first solo album As You Were, and the third offering from Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds, Who Built the Moon?

First of all, Beady Eye is no more, which leaves Liam a totally fresh place from which to (re)start. On As You Were, he’s written or co-written most of the material himself, and assembled a couple of different production teams to put the whole thing together. The first observation to make relates to the strength of his singing: Liam Gallagher can still bring on the rock-star swagger, but his voice has matured, as well. Liam seems to be able to handle more subtleties than he needed to back in his younger days. A good improvement, for sure, but maybe one that shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Instead, the surprise here might be how strong the songwriting is. The songs come from the same rock-solid quarry of ’60s-flavored Brit pop that Liam Gallagher preferred back in his glory days without resorting to simply imitating it. Sure, “For What It’s Worth” borrows its title from an old Buffalo Springfield hit and its tone from vintage John Lennon, but these nods to sources are incidental and the song feels otherwise genuine. Other highlights are the primitive thump of “You Better Run,” the straight-up lyrical meditation of “Paper Crown” and the tip of the hat to psychedelia found in “Doesn’t Have to Be That Way.”

Speaking of psychedelia, Who Built the Moon? is in some ways a return to form after a couple of solid but relatively subdued albums by Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds. The intricate studio flourishes support the more muscular songwriting, which immediately kicks the whole affair up a couple of notches from their previous releases.

For example, the album opens with the one-two punch of “Fort Knox” and “Holy Mountain,” the former a mostly instrumental stomp and the latter a weird amalgamation of a Godzilla-like rock rant and the echoes of all the catchy bubblegum one hit wonders ever made. “Black & White Sunshine” is another highlight as well, an example of a more stripped-down approach that still connects with everything else. Even the musical “Interlude (Wednesday Part 1)” contributes to the whole. The assorted horn sections and similar touches that drop in periodically throughout Who Built the Moon? hold various elements like these together to give the whole production a sense of both depth and breadth.

Once again, though, there’s a surprise here: Noel’s singing. He was always a decent-enough singer, but now he seems to be more comfortable in letting his voice carry the songs when necessary. And that’s a good thing.

In fact, with the releases of As You Were and Who Built the Moon?, one could make the point that good things are happening all around, and maybe it’s about time that each of the Gallaghers was left to pursue his muse without the pressure of nostalgia trying to force the two of them together again.

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito

JC Mosquito spends most of his day keeping the wolves from the door. When he's not occupied with this pastime, he's interested in all things rock and roll -- which may or may not have died back in the late 1950s, the late 1970s, or the early '90s, depending on who you believe. Contact Something Else! at reviews@somethingelsereviews.com.
JC Mosquito
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