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Liam The Resurrection: Liam Gallagher John Squire Reviewed
JR Moores , February 20th, 2024 11:23

This demonic joining of forces between the former Oasis vocalist and Stone Roses guitarist doesn't irk JR Moores as much as it probably should

Neil Kulkarni would have hated this album. From the Melody Maker days to his more recent blog-based analyses, the late writer was one of Britpop's fiercest, funniest and most doggedly unforgiving critics.

Maybe he had a point: Oasis allowed Kula Shaker – the George Harrisons of the 1990s, or "scumcunt hippies", as Kulkarni pegged them – to happen. Their debut album, K, "[shat] itself in fear of the future (1973) and [stank] of living death" while containing material "so stomach-churningly repugnant you feel like strapping suicide bombs to your body and marching straight over to Jo Whiley's house". And now he's gone. Nobody writes like that anymore. Why not? Because market forces won't allow it and too few people care enough to challenge the tsunami of copy that's blander than Gregg Wallace's Harvester breakfast.

For Kulkarni, Oasis were a "deadly virus" that transmitted rapidly into a full-blown epidemic. Its symptoms, he said, included bucket hats and bigotry. It wasn't just the music of other bands and the publications that covered it but virtually all of British culture from 1994 onwards that was sucked into Oasis' gravitational pull. All those individuals who opened the CD case of the 'Shakermaker' maxi-single, wondering what the B-sides might sound like, were collectively unlocking the Pandora's Box of Cool Britannia bullshit. Out of it sprang the irrepressible popularity of lads mags; Chris Evans and his inner court of coked-up whoopers; the entirely unnecessary dual return of bit-part actor Keith Allen and the Union Jack as fashion accessory; the shit-flick repertoire of Guy "Quentin Taranti-not" Ritchie; the use of irony as a get-out clause for unreconstructed bullying; and compilation albums curated by the Nuts reader's connoisseur, Jamie Oliver.

As the myth tells us, the only thing left inside the box was hope. Sorry, did I say hope? I meant a live recording of 'Bring It On Down'. That's not enough.

Kulkarni's writing didn't mellow or soften with age. In his 2021 piece 'The Ten Most Overrated Albums In Pop History', seventh and eighth place were awarded jointly to The Stone Roses' self-titled debut and Definitely Maybe by Oasis. The latter had been made by unimaginative "dickheads" whose derivative retro-rock was "the most revoltingly lumpen, conservative sound in music" and this was lapped up by listeners who "must despise pop".

I can't speak for Kulkarni. I didn't know him personally. Like countless others, I devoured his words from afar and gazed in wonder as he eviscerated Radio 1's The Evening Session, eulogised Terry Hall in the most beautiful terms, applauded 1997's Re-Load as "peak form" Metallica (I don't think he was being sarcastic) and begged the world's greatest rap collective, Wu-Tang Clan, to "sort their live shit out". If only they had listened.

From that decades-long process, I gather he'd have considered a collaboration between Liam Gallagher and John Squire to be the kind of idea on par with tipping a can of petrol over one's head before getting off with Ghost Rider. And on the face of it, it's the unholiest alliance since studio execs introduced the Xenomorph from Alien to the bug-faced biped from Predator franchise, so they could form The Last Shadow Puppets.

Just a few days before his untimely death, Kulkarni was tweeting in horror at the simultaneous comeback of Shed Seven and Kula Shaker, with a link to The Flaming Lips' 'Evil Will Prevail'. Shed Seven! Number one in the album charts? In 2024?! The 1990s are as long ago now as the 1960s were in 1990s. This equals nostalgia squared. The Britpop Classical Tour featuring grim wanker Mark Morriss, John Power and Saffron. The long-awaited reformation of Rialto. On and on south of heaven.

Let's reiterate in case that news didn't sink in the first time. SHED SEVEN HAVE A NUMBER ONE ALBUM IN THE YEAR 2024. What's next? A knighthood for Black Grape's Kermit? A blue plaque positioned at the precise location where Alan McGee once signed Arnold? Ocean Colour Scene's Meltdown festival at the Barbican?

That said...

One of Kulkarni's rules for record reviewers was "NEVER LIE". So, as much as I'm loath to admit it, as gravely as it betrays everything that's written above, and however much it would have caused the great Kulkarni to shudder, like the apocryphal George Washington I cannot emit a porky. The unimaginatively titled album, Liam Gallagher John Squire, is... (whisper it)... not... that... bad.

That might be hard to believe for those who've only heard the lead single, 'Just Another Rainbow'. Promising less than a Labour Party manifesto, it resembled the most basic of AI-designed mash-ups. It was as if Peter Jackson's team of boffins had cobbled it together on a five-minute fag break with the same technology they'd used to fabricate last year's chart-topping hit by Jeff Lynne & The Necropomoptops.

The album's other weak moments include 'Make It Up As You Go Along', a bitter ballad with additional sweary lyrics which fail to make the formulaic song any more arresting and the final track, 'Mother Nature's Song' trumpeted as the only one of his songs to make Squire weep, is actually a ploddingly damp squib. Even so, taken as a whole, you could still say this record is the best thing either party has put to tape since the 1990s. That bar might be lower than Yoda's shinpads. A bar it is, nevertheless.

The opener, 'Raise Your Hands', places a dreamy-headed melody over a glam-stomp drumbeat. The chorus is fairly cheesy but it's tailor-made to rouse back into sentiency a middle-aged audience whose legs are already yearning for the sofa halfway into day one of Parklife Festival. On those narrow terms, it will succeed. Likewise, on 'You're Not The Only One' the duo and their producer have helpfully mapped out the precise piano part for their inevitable appearance on Later... "There you go, Jools. There's your bloody boogie-woogie section. HAPPY NOW?!" 'Mars To Liverpool' matches the singer's nasal whine to a Byrds-ish melody with aplomb that Cast could only dream of. (And which another of those curse-wording mellower tracks, 'One Day At A Time', does less successfully.)

'I'm A Wheel' recalls John Lennon in excavating-the-blues mode, after requesting additional licks from that bellyaching racist, Eric Clapton. There is something artful in the way Squire has kept the tempo ever so slow. 'Love You Forever' is a defiant call of devotion and it could have slotted neatly onto either of The Stone Roses' albums. Perhaps the second one, if we're being honest. 'I'm So Bored', with its line "I'm so bored of this song", invites critics to take a swing but it's hard to decide whether the song is juvenile ennui or postmodern genius. I suppose those two things aren't mutually exclusive.

For the project, the contributors' names have been arranged alphabetically rather than giving precedence, as in the case of Simon and Garfunkel, to the bloke who's put the most sweat into the enterprise. Squire wrote all of the album's music and lyrics while Gallagher simply rocked up to the recording session just in time to squash his nostrils against the vocal mic. If that makes the latter look lazy, there is something to be said for the way the singer – who instigated this project despite not coming across as a cultural mastermind in the traditional sense – surrounds himself with the right kind of people at the right kind of time. This is a talent in itself. The appointment of Dave Sitek as producer helped to make a more adventurous second album for Beady Eye, the group Liam formed with fellow ex-members of Oasis, after brother Noel's departure left them "slung on the skip". His solo career enlisted songwriters from the glitzy world of chart pop; a commercially calculated adjustment with results that were a bit stiff. The singer is less burdened by such concerns on this latest project and both parties sound like they're having fun. The guitarist toys playfully with his repertoire of licks and riffs, avoiding preciousness while his foil seems to relish singing for a writer with a talent he genuinely admires... which at this point is not something that can be said about his brother. There is the undeniable whiff of rejuvenation.

One of the best things about this album is that Ian Brown isn't singing on it. It's unlikely Squire will ever work again with that tone-deaf, nunchaku-wielding prannock who occasionally emerges from his conspiracy rabbit hole to charge £40-a-ticket for karaoke routines less tuneful than Jim Royle's anal wind. Gallagher requested "guitar-heavy" material from Squire, and the result is admittedly lighter and prettier than Oasis' early recordings, but compared to The Stone Roses' two feeble comeback singles, Liam Gallagher John Squire is edgier than a dodecahedron.

Neil Kulkarni didn't hate The Stone Roses as much as he despised Oasis. The former group's guitarist drew from a "good library" of licks and his style was "just the right side of wanky". Their route-one reference points were worn squarely on sleeves. Still, he wrote, "it's listening that's been absorbed, amplified, attempted at with a unique slant and spirit". The Stone Roses' first album, he admitted, had a handful of good songs on it.

This one has, more or less, that many too. In that respect at least, both albums are on a par. Liam Gallagher and John Squire's new album is as good as The Stone Roses' debut! Put that quote on the promo stickers and paste it on a billboard in fifty-foot letters directly opposite the window of Noel Gallagher's boudoir. The ball's back in his court now. He'll be slagging off Sadiq Khan too loudly to hear this gauntlet hit the floor.