Album Review: Liam Gallagher - 'C'mon You Know'
Few artists in the history of rock music have been as consistently, relentlessly themselves as Liam Gallagher. This is not to say that the music he creates is inherently generic – in the latter days of Oasis, when he was a fully-vested secondary songwriter alongside brother Noel, Liam’s songs were acclaimed by critics and fans as every bit the equal of the latest Noel tunes. Liam-penned singles like “Songbird” and “I’m Outta Time” hold up as among Oasis’s post-prime highlights. But he has always been a man who likes what he likes: the Beatles, John Lennon, Manchester City FC, fighting with his brother, John Lennon, a devoutly retro sense of style and musical inspiration, the Stone Roses and some more John Lennon sprinkled in for flavor.
Liam, who turns 50 later this year, has made it a point of personal and professional pride to not grow up – with Oasis, Beady Eye and in his solo career, his music has always been more about vibes than any songwriting craft. In Oasis and his High Flying Birds endeavors, Noel takes pronounced swings and misses, while Liam’s output is more consistently perfectly fine. Noel is the equivalent of a hulking baseball slugger, while Liam is closer to a slap hitter, who rarely makes mistakes, and even if in the end, their production is objectively about the same, it’s easy to have an aesthetic preference.
As with “As You Were” and “Why Me? Why Not.,” Liam’s third solo album, “C’mon You Know,” is titled in a fashion that is unmistakably, aggressively him – it’s the kind of off-handed, somewhat meaningless phrase he has long interjected into his vocals as a personal trademark. They are typically used in a hippie context – combined with Liam’s Johnny Rotten-esque growl, this has long allowed him to pull off the rare trick of splitting the difference between 1970s, peace-and-love Lennon and early 1960s, pre-Beatles, angry-young-hooligan Lennon. Tragically, the world never got to see what a John Lennon-well-into-his-40s record would sound like, and perhaps “C’mon You Know” offers a glimpse – that of a guy who wants to keep making the kind of music he likes and is indifferent to whether anyone else is along for the ride.
This likely marks the starkest contradiction of Liam Gallagher – he doesn’t care about what anybody else thinks, but he also writes songs where the entire message is about unity and being in this together. He sees himself as a spokesman for a generation, which seems like a contradiction given that, while his work has generally been well-received, he hasn’t been truly at the center of culture for a quarter-century. But just as his mid-1990s ego compelled him to believe that Oasis would be bigger and better than the Beatles, fueling a band that was objectively neither, but certainly came much closer than it had any right to be, his self-belief allows him to consistently seem in his comfort zone.
The album’s lead track, “More Power,” is as on-the-nose of a Lennon nod as the album has, filled with predictable lyrics and an even more predictable melody. Fortunately, the next cut (and the album’s fourth single), “Diamond in the Dark,” while not quite experimental music, sounds considerably more contemporary, armed with a riff reminiscent of the funk rock of Arctic Monkeys’ “Why’d You Only Call Me When You’re High?” (of course, this is still a nearly decade-old song from a band that itself does not shy away from retro influences, so it probably doesn’t merit getting that excited about Liam finding a new musical direction).
The lead single, co-written by Dave Grohl among others, “Everything’s Electric,” hardly breaks new ground, but the raw, Rolling Stones-ness of it all is closer to the lane around which Liam built his career. Despite Oasis’s constant allusions to the Beatles, “Wonderwall” aside, their finest early moments sounded much closer to vintage Stones than the Fab Four. A song like “Everything’s Electric” also gives him an opportunity to be himself on the mic – aggressive, barking and sounding like the frontman of a cool rock and roll band rather than an aspiring deity.
On “Better Days,” where Liam boasts yet another unlikely co-writer (Tove Lo), he most effectively conjures Lennon, with light psychedelia and drum beats reminiscent of the Beatles’ “Rain.” The song proves further that the album’s strongest moments come from the singles.
Again, this is well-traveled territory, and by Liam himself, but the LP makes for a pleasant listening experience, as I would argue every album he has ever made is. But his continued fascination with the same handful of influences also gives his work a ceiling.
“C’mon You Know” is an album I would happily recommend to fans of Liam Gallagher’s work to stream, to listen to once, to let linger in the background. But will the songs, even the songs that were particularly enjoyable one time, linger within listeners beyond the initial, perfectly pleasant first go-around? I suspect not. Calling this album a middling collection of rock songs, while accurate, arguably sounds like more of an insult than it is – “middling,” by definition, makes a song adequate. But for somebody whose entire career is built around wanting to be transcendent and aspiring to extraordinarily significance, this would likely be viewed as a disappointment.