LIAM GALLAGHER: Come on, you know (Warner)
Verdict: Still supersonic
DEF LEPPARD: Diamond Star Halos (Mercury)
Verdict: sparkling return
When Liam Gallagher began planning his third solo album in 2019, he immediately started talking about it as a fast and furious affair in the style of rock and roll hellraiser Iggy Pop.
True to his reputation as Britpop’s enfant terrible, he vowed to turn up the guitars and stay away from ballads.
Three years and a pandemic later, C’mon You Know is finally here… and the reality is somewhat different. The old brandon Oasis has changed the dial, but it’s towards something less combustible and more reflective. “Mom, I admit I’ve been angry for too long,” he sighs on More Power. “I’m sick of acting like I’m tough,” he adds on the title track.
So, is Gallagher, 49, softening? Not enough. Just this week he was embroiled in a rude argument on Twitter with football pundit Jamie Carragher.
His next series of outdoor concerts are guaranteed to be among the loudest of the summer, confirming his stature as the greatest leader of his time. But the promised fire and brimstone don’t quite materialize here.
Reformed Hellraiser: Liam Gallagher reduced the rock in favor of a more considered approach
And those ridiculed ballads? Well, they weren’t exactly dumped. His songwriting is still swayed by the Beatles and Rolling Stones – sometimes too heavily – but there are also surprising detours to psychedelia, acoustic folk and even (whisper it) reggae.
As with his two previous solo albums, C’mon You Know is collaborative. Andrew Wyatt returns as producer and co-lead writer, and The New Yorker has brought some of alternative rock’s leading figures with him. There are cameos from Dave Grohl, Vampire Weekend vocalist Ezra Koenig and Yeah Yeah Yeahs guitarist Nick Zinner.
It’s Liam’s voice that carries the day, though. Simple arrangements are suited to its raspy timbre and it still impressively achieves those distinctive top notes. Some songs might not be bad, but that’s how he sings them.
It starts with a curveball. More Power opens with a school choir, reminiscent of You Can’t Always Get What You Want by the Stones.
There’s another nod to Mick Jagger and company on Everything’s Electric, with Grohl’s thundering drums at the heart of a song that sounds like Gimme Shelter.
It’s not long before the first Beatles reference creeps in, with Diamond In The Dark shamelessly plundering the line “now I know how many holes it takes to…” from A Day In The Life.
Despite its initial reluctance, there are beautiful ballads. Too Good For Giving Up borders on country, thanks to the presence of pedal steel magician BJ Cole, and Oh Sweet Children is a tenderly sung pastiche of John Lennon.
track of the week
This Hell by Rina Sawayama
“Let’s go girls”, orders the British-Japanese singer Rina Sawayama, launching her latest single by taking off her cap at Shania Twain’s Man! I feel like a woman! It’s a Lady Gaga banger with tongue-in-cheek lyrics. A new album will follow in September. you
Given its title, the Moscow Rules are more problematic. Co-written with Koenig, the song is a delicate piece about loneliness and not an endorsement of Russian aggression. Liam conceded that his timing is poor, although physical copies of the album had already been made before the invasion of Ukraine, leaving him no time to change the lyrics.
Elsewhere, there are experiments. World’s In Need is a harmonica sea shanty, and Better Days a swirling rocker that features a snippet of Bad Days by Tove Lo and psychedelic guitar by Zinner.
The only miss is I’m Free, which oscillates between boosted rock and, yes, reggae. At its most confessional moments, C’mon You Know is Liam like we’ve never heard him before. At other times, it’s business as usual.
However, as an introduction to the biggest shows of his solo career, it does get things going nicely.
n DEF LEPPARD vocalist Joe Elliott has expressed his displeasure at the lack of critical respect given to his band, despite their huge success.
But while the Sheffield quintet have never been as hip as their more alternative peers, they know how to play to their strengths – and their first new album in seven years is a hard rock blast.
Named after a line from the glamorous T. Rex classic Get It On, Diamond Star Halos features throwbacks to 1970s idols Marc Bolan, David Bowie and Mott The Hoople. Take What You Want is rich in riffs and melodious. The kick is a gorgeous late addition to the running order, just as the band’s signature song, For Some Sugar On Me, was a last-minute inclusion on 1987’s Hysteria, which sold 25 million copies.
Elliott’s love for Bowie extends to two ballads featuring Mike Garson, the New York jazz pianist whose avant-garde passages figured prominently in Bowie’s Aladdin Sane.
There are also two duets with bluegrass star Alison Krauss, who shines on the country trek Lifeless before kicking things into high gear on This Guitar, a ballad in the style of Guns N’ Roses’ November Rain.
If Elliott and Krauss seem unlikely musical companions, it should be remembered that she has already worked with Robert Plant (twice); while Def Leppard once played a full show with Taylor Swift.
Mike Garson? Alison Kraus? At this rate, Def Leppard is going to end up being cool.
Liam Gallagher kicks off a tour at the Etihad Stadium in Manchester on Wednesday (livenation.co.uk).
Van Morrison used last year’s final record project, Volume 1, to express his frustration with the lockdown. Whether you agree with his skepticism — he urged musicians to combat the “pseudo-science” surrounding Covid-19 — his dissenting opinions were at least timely. Now that the world is opening up again, another long sermon feels unnecessarily heavy.
What’s it gonna take? again finds him railing against “the new normal.” What’s odd is that his grievances are paired with music so uplifting that in small doses, it’s an eminently listenable record.
His voice is in great shape, and the arrangements, sprinkled with his elegant saxophone work, are a joy. It’s just his shocking words.