Liam Gallagher’s ‘Why Me? Why Not’ Surges Forward While Looking Back
With the help of songwriting heavyweights, the ex-Oasis member’s sophomore solo effort is a hook-laden ream of nostalgia
★ ★ ★ ½
It’s not surprising that Liam Gallagher has struggled to find his own creative voice in the decade since Oasis’ messy breakup. His attempt to form a new band with ex-members of Oasis minus his brother Noel was laughable for the simple fact that it was Noel who wrote all their songs (try to imagine a Who without Pete Townshend and you’ll get the picture.)
Half of Gallagher’s 2017 solo debut As You Were featured co-writing credits from big-time songwriters and producers Greg Kurstin and Andrew Wyatt, who have worked with everyone from Beck to Adele. Now, on his great new LP Why Me? Why Not, every single track is co-written by Kurstin and Wyatt, because as Gallagher himself has admitted, he’s not much of a songwriter. There may not be a “Wonderwall” or “Champagne Supernova” (even Noel hasn’t lived up to those classics) on the record, but hook-laden songs like “Once” and “Alright Now” stand up comfortably next to Oasis’ latter-day work.
The record opens with the scorching “Shockwave,” with Kurstin playing harmonica, tambourine, electric guitar, bass and drums, while Gallagher advises against making pretty beds and backstabbing friends. The overlying theme throughout the album is nostalgia; Gallagher even timed its release with the career-spanning documentary As It Was, a reflective look on his past and bitter breakup with Oasis. “You said we’d live forever/Who do you think you’re kiddin’?” he says in a nod to the Definitely Maybe track on “One of Us,” a heart-rendering highlight on the album. “You were only one of us in time.”
It wouldn’t be a Gallagher record without an ode to John Lennon, and Why Me? Why Not checks all the boxes. The album’s name is taken from the titles of two different Lennon drawings, while Gallagher describes title track — a groovy stomper with a searing riff — as resembling “Come Together.” The mournful melody of “Once” echoes Lennon’s “Jealous Guy,” with Gallagher sounding wiser than ever: “I think it’s true what they say that the dream is borrowed/You give it back tomorrow.”
After the fiery “The River,” the record closes with the aptly-titled “Gone,” a sparkling finale complete with a delicate string arrangement. “Oh I used to go away and come back another day,” he sings. “But now I don’t know how long I’m gonna be gone.” We hope it’s not long.