TRACK REVIEW: Liam Gallagher - The River



Liam Gallagher

The River





The track, The River, is available via:




Manchester, U.K.


27th June, 2019


Warner Music UK Ltd.

The album, Why Me? Why Not, is available from 20th September. Pre-order here:


AS the excitement of Glastonbury…

 PHOTO CREDIT: Amy Sussman

continues to bubble and explode, there are countless highlight ahead. Yesterday’s performances were terrific and everyone will have their own favourites. Somewhere among the rabble, there would have been these sets that will live on: IDLES, Stormzy and Sheryl Crow are all getting huge reception from their turns. I will talk more about Glastonbury later but, when talking about Liam Gallagher (who is also at Glastonbury this year), I am compelled to remark on natural festival acts and showmen(women); idols and rebels in music and why the likes of Gallagher are both inspiring and rare; why Gallagher’s music is improving and how, as he is calming slightly, it brings out new sides; whether Rock can ever be truly seen as ‘dead’ – I will talk a bit about where Gallagher might head next. I think the best sets from festivals are those where there is a bit of energy and performance. I am not saying the slightly quieter sets are lacking but there is something about those big and bombastic sets that really get into the mind. Think about what Stormzy delivered yesterday and the reaction he is getting. He sort of tore up the stage and proved his headline status. It is remarkable seeing how artists step up when it comes to Glastonbury and how they deliver these remarkable performances. Liam Gallagher, as part of Oasis, is no stranger to the big stage. He, to me, is one of the most natural festival performers in the world. He has this natural way that can whip up the crowd; his singing is incredible and he always brings the swagger. As he has (slightly) aged, that physicality and showmanship has hardly alluded him. We do not have as many natural leaders and showmen in the music world as years before (I feel), but there are a few coming through. I do think a lot of the new breed takes their lead from the likes of Gallagher. Not only has the Mancunian artist created some of the best music of our generation but, in terms of the live performances, Gallagher has given us a lot of joy.

There is that argument as to whether Gallagher goes a bit too far at time – recent newspaper reports regarding possible domestic abuse cannot be ignored and written off as part of being a Rock star. When it comes to the music and the thrill of live performance, there are few as electric and scintillating as Liam Gallagher. He has this in-built energy and cheekiness that means the songs come alive. He can own the stage and, in his traditional pose – arms behind the bag, head forward and that masterful, fixed position – there are very few who have the same gravitas as him. Although the recorded music is key, I do love those artists who can take that material to new heights. We all love albums and singles but the live performance takes that material somewhere else. It connects with the audience and gives it an edge you cannot get from the original version. Liam Gallagher has been talking about past performances and, it seems, this year allows him to set the record straight. This article from NME finds Gallagher talking about his love of Glastonbury and how there was one aspect of performance that riled him a bit:

 “Gallagher told BBC 6 Music’s Matt Everitt: “I’ve always enjoyed Glastonbury. There’s only one that I didn’t and that was when I wore a white jacket. I didn’t enjoy that because that was when I’d first started using in ears [monitors to hear the music] and it’s spun me out for 15 years. I’ve only finally took them out so I’m kind of getting back to normal. I hated that gig, man.”

Gallagher added: “I started putting in-ears in as our kid wanted to go Slash, you know what I mean, and turn everything up. So I put them in for the sake of the band and my voice and all that, but I couldn’t get my head round it and then I carried on using them just because, apparently, they’re good for your voice and saves your voice. But I’m off them now, weaned myself off them, they’re horrible.

“You know what it is, with those in ear things you just feel like you’re in the studio, and you can’t have that. You need the interaction, you need the vibe, so yeah it was horrible, I didn’t like it. I mean I enjoyed myself after it because you soon put it to bed, you get off your head and all that and I enjoyed the vibe. But the gig, nah, wasn’t for me”.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Tom Jamieson

Linking into the subject of showmen(women) and why they are a rare breed, how many real idols and rebels do we have right now!? I guess IDLES, in a way, have a bit of Liam Gallagher to them. I can trace so many modern bands/artists to Oasis and what Liam Gallagher has given the music world. Back in the 1990s, Oasis lit up music and gave us some of the finest anthems of their day. Liam Gallagher was a superstar and someone who inspired the masses. Even now, Gallagher is this outspoken and always-cheeky artist who tells it like it is. He has been talking about knife violence in London and how he fears for his children living there. Gallagher knows politicians need to do more and, rather than hide his opinions away, he is always willing to share them and speak out. Some might say that lack of filter can lead to trouble but, as Gallagher has aged, he has become wiser and he is actually reformed in many ways. One of the worst aspects of Gallagher back in the day was the fighting and drinking; times when he took the Rock ‘n’ Roll idol thing too far and caused more destruction than positivity. Maybe that was part of the lifestyle but he has settled a bit – that is not to say his edge has evaded him! In fact, Gallagher is this always-ready idol who is compelling other artists in terms of their opinions, live performances and attitudes. I do think music is still pretty safe and soft, and so, seeing artists like Gallagher add a bit of spice into the mix is very satisfying. Whether rallying against politicians or taking a shot at his brother Noel, Gallagher is a refreshing breeze that needs to remain for as long as possible. Maybe his solo material is not quite as raw as some of Oasis’ biggest tunes but he has not done what a lot of his peers have done and softened his touch.

 PHOTO CREDIT: Q magazine

There is no doubt Liam Gallagher is an idol who has roused musicians into the industry; to take a stand and give us something thrilling and exhilarating. Being rebellious sounds like a bit of a hassle and, as I said, so many artists do not have that necessary swagger. I guess you need to be careful what you say and not cause too much trouble but, as bands like IDLES are showing, letting it all go and truly connecting with the crowd is awe-inspiring. Maybe they have not taken directly from Liam Gallagher but there is a link between them. The former Oasis man was never afraid to hold back and giving the music that unpredictable nature is bewitching. Now, as the established legend he is, he continues to make the news and turn heads. Rather than make the news constantly for getting into trouble – there was a period during Oasis’ heyday where that was a daily reality – Gallagher has grown a lot and knows that he needs to calm his head a bit. There is a new documentary out focusing on Liam Gallagher and, as the article below highlights, there is a vulnerable, sensitive side to Gallagher:

The viewer senses that the final missing piece in this tale of redemption is Noel. When Liam visits the Gallagher family home in Burnage, Manchester, he looks round the room he shared with his brother, happily explaining how their feud really began (he urinated on Noel’s stereo). When Liam is asked what he would do if they met after ten years of estrangement, he says he is unsure—that he might give Noel a “love bite”. Liam’s social-media provocations (“To all you [Noel Gallagher] fanboys I can and will sing any song he wrote bigger better than him even if I was kicked in the bollox by a wood pigeon”) and invitations (“...I forgive you now let’s get the BIG O back together and stop f***ing about the drinks are on me LG x”) are considered by the film’s talking-heads as child-like manifestations of love. He misses his brother, and, as explained by those closest to him, he wonders what Noel thinks when he releases new music. Indeed, Noel’s mark on the film goes beyond mere sentiment. After watching the film ahead of its premiere, he refused to allow any Oasis songs to feature”.

Before coming on to that age-old question as to whether Rock music is dead or not, I do feel like we need to address Gallagher’s musical development. His 2017 debut album, As You Were, got some great reviews and, although there was a lot of expectation regarding his capabilities as a solo artist, he turned in a great album. I actually reviewed the album when it came out and, although I liked some of the songs, I felt it lacked the best of him. Maybe it was the songwriting and lyrics or perhaps it was the production. There was something missing and it did trouble me a bit. There is no denying Gallagher’s talents as a performer and singer but, when it comes to the songwriting, has the secret ingredient been Noel Gallagher?  Maybe the fact Oasis seemed to capture a spirit of the times back in the 1990s was what made Gallagher pop. I was asking myself whether Gallagher would record another album and, with Why Me? Why Not out in the autumn, I can see improvements coming in. With the track, Shockwave, already out, he has brought us a new cut in the form of The River. In some ways, it is business as usual for the northern star. He has not strayed too far from his vocal style and patterns but, in terms of the songs themselves, there is a big step forward. The lyrics seem more original and they connect more freely. The compositions are deeper and more interesting and I think Gallagher’s voice has strengthened in the past couple of years. I still think the production is a bit too polished but, as I shall explore when reviewing his new single, Gallagher is at his most strident and striking when there is a bit of polish in the production. It is really challenging stepping away from a big band because everyone always associates you with them. Proving your worth in any other context takes time and some people are always going to have these huge expectations.


 PHOTO CREDIT: Neale Haynes

Liam Gallagher is a natural solo artist and shows he does not need Oasis to make him relevant. His solo album did get some great reviews and I think his sophomore album will fare even better. There is a bit more maturity this time around and the songwriting is sharper. Maybe it is the fact the world has moved on since 2017 in terms of politics and his personal situation. Things were pretty tense and shaky back in 2017 but the world has got even less sure since then and, in Gallagher’s life, there have been some changes and challenges. He seems to put all of this down on the page and his voice carries a certain hue. That said, the man has not lost his sense of light and energy and he manages to turn songs like The River into real gems. Gallagher is a stunning singer and I do not think he gets the credit he deserves. I love the fact that he is still making music decades after Oasis broke and I do hope he continues to craft great songs for many more years to come. I will conclude by indicating where Gallagher is heading next but it seems like he has the same love of music he did when he was in Oasis. Some artists phone it in a bit and you can tell they have lost some of that spark. That is not the case with Gallagher who is as invested and passionate as he always was! One only needs to listen to a few moments of The River and you can tell how much he loves what he does. I do feel there has been an improvement in terms of Gallagher’s material and he is a lot sharper and more nuanced than before. As You Were was a good album but I worry there was something lacking. Maybe it was the people writing the songs or something else but I felt more could have come through. Gallagher has definitely responded and he seems a lot stronger this time around.

I will review his latest track very soon but I want to respond to something I read in The Guardian where Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig claimed Rock is dead. He was talking about a lot of different things – including Glastonbury – but his observation definitely drew some criticism. Maybe we do not have the same bands as we did back in the 1990s or last decade but that is not to say Rock is dead. We always get this debate rising up regarding Rock and whether it has functionality in the modern day. Perhaps people are comparing today with the best of decades past but to say Rock is dead is quite short-sighted. I have already mentioned IDLES and there are other bands (such as black midi) that are showing Rock is developing and alive. Maybe Rock has changed through the years and we do not have the same raft of bands we once did. The solo artist has taken over to an extent but that is not to say bands lack clout. With some terrific acts coming through, I don’t think anyone can really say Rock is dead. It is not as loud as it once was but that is just a sign of the times. Music evolves and new tastes emerge but, as has been the case for decades and decades, Rock continues to appeal, influence and shout. Liam Gallagher should know because, back in the 1990s, he was surrounded by so many great Rock bands. He would claim they were inferior to Oasis (most of them were) but he exists in a world where Rock is still vital. Rather than retreat and adopt a new style, Gallagher continues to swagger, stride and generally give a bit of a finger to the establishment. Maybe he has some opinions on the modern breed but even he cannot say modern music lacks intensity and edge. I do wonder what compels the constant discussion around Rock and whether it has life anymore. Perhaps we all do get into this mindset that looks back rather than forward.

I am one of those people who loves the classics from the 1960s, 1970s and, especially, the 1990s but that does not mean I think modern music is irrelevant in comparison. Other genres have come onto the scene that are mixing alongside Rock. We have Post-Punk bands like IDLES and there are great new acts like Amyl and The Sniffers who are giving the world their own style of spit and attack. I would urge anyone who feels Rock is lame to have a look around and see what is shaping up at the moment. Yes, we will never see the wealth of Rock bands we had back in the 1960s and 1970s but that is because the times have changed. Music is a vast and open market and Rock still has a very big part to play. At a time when the world is divided and we are not too sure what is happening regarding international affairs, climate change and the like, I feel Rock is more relevant and needed than ever. I have nothing against other types of music but there is a collective tension and sense of anger that needs articulating in music. Artists are responding to this and I do believe there are a lot of underground artists ready to shine and emerge to the surface. Maybe the argument regarding Rock and its lifespan comes down to taste and whether people like Ezra Koenig feel the current crop is as strong as the older order. That is a personal thing but I do not think one can write off Rock and say that it is dead. Liam Gallagher, I am sure, would argue against the notion Rock is fading away because he is still rocking pretty hard. As a definite role model for so many modern artists, Gallagher continues to lead the way. He is an unfiltered, uncontrolled and natural rebel with a big heart; a man that has as much spirit as he did back in the 1990s and living proof that Rock has plenty of spark left in it!

The River kicks off with a definitely sense of purpose and grit. I remarked how Gallagher’s debut album was a little too polished and, on this track, there are not as many production layers. One can detect this vintage sound that harks back to the 1960s and 1970s. This means that, before a word is sung, you have this very welcomed sound that gives the music more atmosphere and oomph. The lyrics themselves, I feel, are sharper and more interesting than a lot of what was on his debut. In terms of the first verse, Gallagher talks about people going weak the knees; those afraid of the “thought police”. There is a sense of naivety and ignorance; maybe people writing off his/our generation and saying that we are forsaken. Gallagher acts as this preacher (albeit a calm one) who is asking for people to open their eyes and get this heads out of the “clouds of weed”; out of the “time machines” and to actually make a noise. It is clear that Gallagher wants change and knows that it is coming. Maybe he is striking against the Government and their ineptitude but he is calling for action. Maybe there are those who live in the past and live in a haze; those that are not standing up and, as the song goes, Gallagher is waiting down by the river and wants the water to fall. The imagery he projects is pretty epic and you get this nice mix of grand scenes and intimate details. There is plenty of tension and tautness in The River. Gallagher’s voice is both pressing and collected. He balances this angry-yet-considered approach where he knows things need to change but he is not going to lose his head. Against a lot of modern artists who are projecting intensity and outright anger, Gallagher has that same anger but he is not as overt and in-your-face as many. I think that is good because we have this contrast and, if Gallagher were to shout and scream his words, the song might lose some of its meaning.

I love the composition on The River and the fact that it has a life of its own – I did feel a lot of the compositions on As You Were were a bit samey and did not resonate. Here, I think things have changed and Gallagher is taking his music in new directions. We do not have the same guitar chops as Noel Gallagher on display but Liam Gallagher’s band is pretty tight and sound. As the second verse of The River comes into flow, the hero talks about the walls closing in and people’s eyes getting sore. Gallagher does not want people to believe celebrities and politicians: people whose motives are not straight and they will feed you all sorts of lies. Essentially, he is telling us to take action and believe the truth. It is hard to do that in a world filled with lies but we have reached a point where things have got bad. The people know there needs to be positive change and politicians are letting us down. Not only are The River’s lyrics relevant and memorable but there is room for the band to stand out. I love how you get as much imagery and impression from the composition as you do from Gallagher and the words. The River is a complete song that warrants a few spins. It is pretty catchy and strong when you first hear it but I do not think it loses anything if you give it a serious work-out! I also loved Shockwave and it seems that Gallagher is more interested in the wider world and the state of affairs rather than what is happening in his own life. I have complained that artists are still too fixated on their own hearts and do not spend enough time talking about the issues in the world. It is good to see Gallagher addressing this and I think The River is an effective and affecting song that will open eyes but can also be adapted by live crowds. The song has a definite sing-along quality and natural Gallagher spark that sets it apart from so many songs of the moment. Check it out if you can because, like me, you will definitely want to get hold of Why Me? Why Not when it comes out. Gallagher is in very fine and rude form.

Right now, Liam Gallagher is preparing for his turn on the Pyramid Stage (today) – in fact, he tweeted just over an hour ago. He has been playing some warm-up gigs to ready himself for a sweltering set and it will be wonderful seeing the masses come out and support Gallagher. Songs like The River will be in the set but I know there will be some Oasis classics in the mix – people would mutiny otherwise! Why Me? Why Not is Gallagher’s new Twitter sign-off (As You Were was the previous sign-off) and the legend is preparing to release his album in September. If you do not get to see him later at Glastonbury, you can watch it on the BBC and there will be highlights shown. Gallagher has had a bit of a love-hate relationship with Glastonbury and I feel he has not been 100% happy with all the performances he has given there. As a solo artist, he has all that pressure on his shoulders but I do not think that will hinder him at all. Gallagher is a supremely confident performer who has so many hits in his pocket. He connects with the crowd and can get people whipped up pretty easily! I am sure he will have a few choice things to say regarding politics and modern Britain. To be honest, we would be disappointed if Gallagher was to calm it and become a bit of a neutered house cat. The always-reliable Gallagher definitely has his cool and swagger - and that is never going to go away. It is going to be a busy year for him and, after Glastonbury ends, there is the business of getting his album out there. When it is released, I guess there will be more gigs until the end of the year. If his debut solo album indicated a sense of calm and acknowledgment - getting something off his chest before ordering people to carry on – this time around we have a Gallagher who is raising questions. Why Me? Why Not. What does that mean exactly? It is intriguing and I guess we will have to wait until September before all the puzzle pieces come together. Gallagher has famously signed off his tweets with ‘As You Were/As You Were x’ for a while now and, as he enters a new phase of his career, there are many of us who want him to remain…



AS he is!


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