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Liam Gallagher and John Squire Album Review: Two Legends Enjoying the Ride on their Own Terms

Two of rock’s most iconic figures have joined forces for what promises to be one of the most anticipated albums in decades. Liam Gallagher, the brazen frontman who propelled Oasis to stratospheric fame in the ’90s, has partnered with John Squire, the Stone Roses’ inimitable guitarist who helped define the Madchester movement. With the legacies of their legendary bands in tow, the expectations for this collaboration are understandably sky-high. So can these two music legends recapture the singular songcraft that turned them into icons decades ago? Or is it only fool’s gold at the end of just another rainbow?

Gallagher and Squire’s storied careers cast a long shadow over this album, as their trademark swagger collides with a nagging desire to prove they’ve still got the magic after all these years post-Oasis and Stone Roses. But instead of going above and beyond like Cast did on their latest record, Gallagher and Squire seem more content coasting on old glories a lot of the time, stunting the album’s potential. The overuse of fade-out only adds to the overall impression that things lacked due care. Having said that, as Gallagher wryly reminds us on the ridiculously ironic Americana blues jam “I’m a Wheel”, why would these two icons want to try and reinvent the wheel with so much talent to spare? Oddly enough though, ‘Wheel’ also sees the duo showing their chemistry at full experimental flair.

This same sentiment of “Why break a record if it still works?” comes across in spades in the first two singles that happen to also be pretty much perfect harbingers of what was to be expected from the whole album. “Mars to Liverpool” channels the anthemic swagger of ‘60s rock through a distinctly ‘90s Britpop lens whilst ‘Just Another Rainbow” slides effortlessly into full-on Stone Roses mode, with Gallagher sliding into a laid back vocal style straight out of the Ian Brown playbook.

The duo open the album with a triumphant return Oasis’ defiant spirit with swaggering, anthemic rocker ‘Raise Your Hands’, overflowing with signature Gallagher attitude that is sure to whip crowds into a frenzy when taken on the road. The same is true for this reviewer’s personal favourite, ‘I’m so Bored’, an unapologetic mashup of “Paperback Writer” and Oasis’ own “Rock’n’Roll Star” that nobody knew they needed. Whilst lyrically dissonant from the rousing melody, the creative tension works a treat. Squire’s lilting guitar work dances playfully around drummer Joey Waronker’s (of Beck and R.E.M. fame) propulsive beats, creating what’s sure to become a live favorite too.

Things take a turn more for the ’60s with ‘One Day at a Time’ that could have been a hit for the Rolling Stones in their heyday with very laid-back verses that erupt into a wildly infectious chorus you never saw coming. Then, ‘Love You Forever’ returns to bluesy terrain, but with a more upbeat, rollicking energy than ‘I’m a Wheel’ reminiscent of Jimi Hendrix’s iconic “Fire” and “Purple Haze” whilst “You’re Not the Only One” is a honky-tonk barnburner where Squire’s lightning-fast guitar work gives Pete Townshend a run for his money.

In true Gallagher fashion, “Make It Up As You Go Along” adds a massive helping of teasing irony with its chorus “Thank you for your thoughts and prayers and fuck you too” that calls to mind Oasis’s classic “Married with Children”. While the song’s playful digs leave plenty of room for interpretation, one can’t help suspect that the song may contain a sly fraternal jab or two. 

The album ends on a downward shift in gear, but not quality, in the track that Gallagher says brings a tear to his eye, ‘Mother Nature’s Song.’ The amalgamation of different influences here are innumerable but imagine if Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles’ “Strawberry Fields” had a psychedelic lovechild, then raised it on a healthy diet of Mark Knopfler guitar licks and you get the idea. It’s an undeniably great curtain closer but serves as a bittersweet glimpse of the magic these two are really capable of – magic that does elevate the album as a whole but appears too sparingly.

At the end of the day, the duo’s chemistry works well – though perhaps not to the full extent fans may have hoped for. For once-in-a-generation talents like Gallagher and Squire, the record lacks the era-defining magic that once came so easily. But there’s no use looking back in anger. Best to just temper expectations and appreciate the album for what it is: two legends enjoying the ride on their own terms, even if the results are admittedly uneven.

Verdict:

Liam Gallagher John Squire releases this Friday and is available here.

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