Photo Credit: Rankin
Oasis first arrived in the mid ‘90s and transformed the British music scene virtually overnight, giving the U.K. (and beyond), a new, focused musical identity after years of so much studio-only pop and divisive rock sub-genres. While there are probably fewer bands since the ‘60s who’re not influenced in some way by the Beatles than are, Oasis mirrored the Fab Four’s sound and general aura so brazenly (their first single “Supersonic” refers to a “yellow submarine” just for starters) and without apology, that nobody even expected one.
The Gallagher brothers who helmed Oasis – front man Liam and guitarist/songwriter Noel – made it clear from the get-go that, like reality show competitors, they were there to win, not to make friends. While public feuds between musicians have always made for entertaining PR in England, Oasis went beyond targeting peers like Blur and the Verve, instead talking crap publicly about damn near everyone (even individual Beatles). This also internalized, as the Gallaghers were frequently at each other’s throats, ultimately causing Oasis to disband in 2009.
There’s little question that there have been times in the past twenty-five years when it’s been easy to dislike Liam Gallagher (even by association). However, it may prove a bit harder to dislike Gallagher’s second solo album Why Me? Why Not. The album is a solid, spry and addictively listenable collection of original songs, on which the ‘60s and ‘70s influence continues to dominate – just as it did in Oasis – but here the younger Gallagher makes the sound his own.
“Shockwave” opens the album with a jolt, offering up a Rolling Stone-like guitar riff and bluesy harmonica along with a Beatles hook (no surprise) and a nod to the type of crowd-chant made famous in Gary Glitter’s “Rock and Roll Part II” (a bit more of a surprise). The infectiously catchy “One of Us” echoes pre-disco Bee Gees with a bit of ELO, complete with the string session along with a ‘70s MOR instrumental break that takes on a life of its own. “Once” introduces itself as the album’s mid-tempo acoustic entry (plus more strings, a la “Yesterday”). “But oh, I remember how you used to shine back then,” Gallagher sings, “When the dawn came up you felt inspired to do it again // But you only get to do it once.” Just a bit ironic, given that the song is obviously Why Me?’s answer to “Wonderwall”.
“Once” is also one of numerous tracks on the record on which the sentiments could (and probably will) be interpreted as being about the other Gallagher brother, including the aforementioned “Shockwave” (“You’re a snake, you’re a weasel, you’re a pebble in the sea… “). While that should prove to be hours of fun for lyric theorists, luckily the whole album doesn’t stand in the shadow of Noel or even Oasis. The title track, despite the grunge-era indifference and self-doubt suggested by the title, actually emerges as the album’s potential arena anthem and is peppered by George Harrison-esque guitar solo. “The River,” (no connection to the Springsteen album/song) balances a T. Rex-type stomp with a production and approach more similar to grandiose late-‘70s AOR rock. Staying in roughly the same era, the influence of Ian Hunter – particularly songs like Mott the Hoople’s “All the Way from Memphis” and his solo track “Cleveland Rocks” – clearly dominates the piano-heavy rocker “Halo.”
Gallagher’s singing sounds pretty much as it always has, driven by unmistakable determination, even if that’s not accompanied by the rock’s widest vocal range or most distinction voice. This has always sort of corresponded with the singer’s lack of movement on stage. Gallagher defended his lack of movement on stage by stating that he should be able to retain the physical ability to do it well into his senior years. This suggests that Liam Gallagher plans to be around for some time to come, and Why Me? Why Not. certainly indicates that he’s planted the seeds for his own potential longevity.. Why Liam Gallagher? Listen to the record.
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