As irritating as Liam Gallagher’s general public persona can be, it’s clearly working out for him. Being the grumpy old man of British music is a role he’s just kind of embraced at this point, coming up with some surly quip about anything and everything with almost dutiful ease, and thus it’s no wonder why he’s remained in the spotlight as long as he has given the easy headline fodder spouted on such a regular basis. That combined with the ever-underestimated power of nostalgia had made Gallagher more of a prevailing force than he should have ever been; he was always far weaker as a singer and songwriter than his brother Noel (both in Oasis and their subsequent efforts), while both Beady Eye and his solo debut As You Were were both blatant retreads of the same Britpop / indie sound that simply doesn’t need to be replicated anymore. It’s enough to make the music feel like a little more than a subsidiary addition to Gallagher’s celebrity image, such is the case with Why Me? Why Not., an album that not only feels utterly unnecessary on almost every front, but tries to mask it with a title highlighting his played-up confrontational nature that’s the only reason he’s still in the public eye in the first place.
And for an artist like Liam Gallagher whose loutishness has gotten him this far, you’d half expect an album like this to take a chance and play upon that, perhaps to make good on his desires to make something harder-edged with inspirations from punk. However, it’s telling that one of the first touchstones of punk that Gallagher touched on in that statement was the Sex Pistols, a band that might have laid the foundations for what that genre would become, but in themselves were as manufactured as any of the pop acts that Gallagher’s followers would so immediately shun in favour of ‘real music’. And that can also be applied fairly well to Why Me? Why Not., an album that wants to masquerade as something beyond the norm to bring rock ‘n’ roll back to a mainstream level, when in truth it’s as bland and sanitised as even the most micromanaged, by-committee pop. That’s not really surprising considering As You Were wasn’t much different, but a single go-around is at least preferable to a second that just feels drawn-out and unnecessary in almost every regard.
That alone effectively guts any notion of punk that’s supposedly here, as another wet, uninspired crop of Oasis castoffs plods lazily along with the very few exceptions that are here doing barely anything to contribute to a net positive. Sure, the big, beefy guitars of Shockwave and Be Still are nice, as are the lush strings of Once, but even they have a colourlessness and tonelessness that reeks of a lack of ambition all the way through. Granted, the lack of pace overall does that on its own, but there’s a lack of refinement to really any compositional element that tries to emulate a bashed-out, homegrown sensibility that could occasionally come from Oasis, but the majority of the production from Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt has a cleanliness that just doesn’t work with that vision. Just take a track like Halo, which aims for a sweaty barroom atmosphere in its quickfire pianos and choppy guitars, but with the former brought far too high in the mix and latter congealing in the back as a brown sludge that just feels as though it’s there to fill space (to say nothing of the horrendous squeal when it’s further forward), the whole thing feels thrown together with little concern for a capable final product. Still, at least there’s some semblance of tempo here, more than can be said for the underwhelming reams of acoustic guitars and deeper mixes that are an absolute chore to sit through.
And that can be pretty much a game-ender when paired with a songwriter as historically underwhelming as Gallagher, except the only genuine surprise on Why Me? Why Not. comes in displays of humility that feel distinctly out of character but definitely delivered from a more mature standpoint. There are calls to reconcile with Noel and to reunite Oasis on One Of Us and Once, and Gallagher’s dedication to his previously estranged daughter on Now That I’ve Found You that aren’t exactly deeply written, but are well-meaning enough to catch the ear regardless. That’s not exactly a constant on this album though, as the rest of the time Why Me? Why Not. indulges in the same warmed-over slop akin to its execution that lack any sort of standout features or points of interest. It certainly doesn’t help when these are about as textbook as modern indie and rock topic gets – whether that’s swaggering rockstar bravado on Shockwave, underwhelming self-esteem pablum on Be Still or boiled-down-to-the-point-of-idiocy political sloganeering on Meadow – but it’s Gallagher as a presence that sours it all even more. His extended honk of a voice and generally sour demeanour don’t match with what are, by all intent, designed as more light, uplifting subject matter, but the occasionally laughably awful lyric like Halo’s “Yeah, she’s teaching me that two plus two is four” only highlights him as an artist whose single, solitary draw nowadays is the rather spurious promise of nostalgia.
That’s bound to be a point of severe contention, as is a lot of what can be said to criticise an album like this. There’ll be people who’ll jump to its defence by saying it’s not supposed to be deep or cerebral, and it’s tapping into a vintage style of rock ‘n’ roll that so few artists cater to anymore, but off the back of this evidence, maybe there’s a reason for that. It’s just not interesting whatsoever, as what already meager creativity was there has been wrenched away for empty shells of songs that make no apologies for how absurdly drab they are, all presented by a frontman suffering from a severe lack of vocal personality and – let’s face it – talent. That ultimately culminates in an album that’s never worth revisiting, and without the major name recognition it already has, probably wouldn’t even be worth giving the time of day the first time.
For fans of: Oasis, Jake Bugg, Richard Ashcroft
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Why Me? Why Not.’ by Liam Gallagher is out now on Warner Records.