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I am the resurrection: the rebirth of Liam Gallagher

In an age of anodyne pop stars, he speaks in a voice that is unmistakably his own.

Two years ago, Liam Gallagher, a man who had seemed a stranger to self-doubt, had lost his swagger. His once euphoric life had become a wearying cycle of divorce and child support hearings. The dissolution of his band Beady Eye – an inferior Oasis – in 2014 had left him musically homeless. Gallagher would be accosted daily by fans chanting the name of his old outfit – a gnawing reminder of former glories. “I was just living in a ghoul world,” he recently recalled.

Faced with the possibility of permanent decline, Gallagher contemplated retreating abroad. Interviewers who inquired about a potential solo career were usually met with a fusillade of expletives.

The frontman must be thankful that he revised his opinion. On 13 October, his debut solo album, As You Were, entered the UK charts at number one after selling 103,000 copies. Its 12 songs may be the finest that Gallagher has put his voice to since Oasis’s 1995 album, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, ranging from raucous punk (“Greedy Soul”) to elegiac ballads (“For What It’s Worth”).

Mindful of his limitations as a songwriter, the singer sought the aid of co-writers, including the super-producer Greg Kurstin (Adele, Beck, Foo Fighters).

Gallagher attributes his personal revival to morning runs on Hampstead Heath (he rises at 5am in order to evade fans) and to a settled domestic life. After splitting from the All Saints singer Nicole Appleton in 2013, Gallagher moved in with his former personal assistant Debbie Gwyther, 34, of whom he speaks with teenage-like affection. He has four children with four different mothers: Lennon, 18 (with his ex-wife, Patsy Kensit); Gene, 16 (Appleton); Molly, 19 (the singer Lisa Moorish); and Gemma, four (the US journalist Liza Ghorbani).

Gallagher’s commercial revival has been aided by his boisterous Twitter presence. He has 2.4 million followers and uses the site to lampoon his elder brother, Noel (“potato”), and most of the music industry, and to share idiosyncratic ramblings (“Im walking on sunshiiiiiiiiiiiiiiine”).

Gallagher’s appeal has something in common with that of politicians such as Donald Trump and Jeremy Corbyn. In an age of anodyne pop stars, he speaks in a voice that is unmistakably his own and, like an untamed animal, acts according to instinct.

William John Paul Gallagher was born on 21 September 1972 in Burnage, Manchester, to working-class Irish parents. His father was an abusive alcoholic. “That’s where my anger is and that’s what makes me fucking attack that mic when it’s there,” Gallagher said in 2007.

When, in 1991, Noel, five years his senior, heard that Liam was singing with a band named the Rain, he was initially incredulous. “Let me write your songs and I’ll take you to superstardom, or else you’ll rot here in Manchester,” the elder Gallagher told the nascent Oasis.

Noel’s instantly timeless – and timelessly instant – songs were a necessary condition for the band’s success, but not a sufficient one. It was Liam’s voice, occupying the raw terrain between John Lennon and John Lydon, that elevated Oasis above their peers. His onstage pose – hands clasped behind his back, neck craned towards the mic – made him recognisable by his silhouette alone.

A proletarian work ethic and a dizzying run of singles (“Live Forever”, “Wonderwall”, “Don’t Look Back in Anger”) propelled Oasis to heights no rock band has attained since. Morning Glory is the fifth biggest-selling UK album of all time (4.7 million copies). More than 2.6 million people (one in 20 of Britain’s population at the time) applied for tickets to their 1996 Knebworth gigs.

But like an overheated economy, Oasis could not maintain their form. Their 1997 album, Be Here Now, was a bloated behemoth (“cocaine set to music” in Q magazine’s description). Though Noel Gallagher still crafted fine singles (“Stop Crying Your Heart Out”, “Lyla”), the group’s subsequent four albums did not enjoy the ubiquity of their predecessors.

Oasis’s gigs, though, were reliably well attended by fans akin to football supporters in their devotion. At such mass gatherings, one alternated between dodging bottles of urine and raucously bellowing choruses (aged 13, I attended their second Wembley Stadium gig on 22 July 2000).

Touring, however, imposed an intolerable strain on the Gallaghers’ combustible relationship. On 28 August 2009 in Paris, after a dressing-room fight during which Liam allegedly armed himself with a guitar and a plum, Noel formally left the band.

Liam has rarely disguised his sadness at Oasis’s demise, but Noel, who eased into a successful independent career (his third album with his band High Flying Birds, Who Built the Moon?, will be released on 24 November), has exhibited little desire to reunite.

“We need each other,” sang the elder Gallagher in the chorus of Oasis’s “Acquiesce”, his ode to fraternal love. The two thriving states that have been carved from the old empire suggest that the brothers may not. 

George Eaton is political editor of the New Statesman.

This article first appeared in the 19 October 2017 issue of the New Statesman, Russia’s century of revolutions

Marc Brenner
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Carey Mulligan is oddly unemotional in Dennis Kelly’s powerful new play, Girls & Boys

If you intend to see Girls & Boys, don’t read this review.

If you intend to see Girls & Boys, then you should do two things. First, come back to this review: it’s a production best seen with no preconceptions. Second: have a child.

Still here? Good, because there is no way to discuss this play without spoiling its big reveal. It opens with Carey Mulligan centre stage, in orange shirt and red trousers, against set designer Es Devlin’s boxy backdrop of purest cyan. It’s a palette favoured by Hollywood posters, because the contrast is so striking. (Van Gogh once used it on a still life of crabs.) Mulligan’s unnamed narrator tells us how she met her husband, who is only ever “he”. Her monologue starts off funny – “Paris? Call that a world city? It’s Leeds with wider streets” – and sexually frank, but it’s also cleverly disconcerting.

She met him in an Easyjet queue and “took an instant dislike to the man”. Why? Because he was obliviously buried in a book – or because of his interaction with two models, who tried to queuejump by feigning sexual interest to stand next to him? (“And he’s just like, well of course… but I get to sleep with one of you, right?”) One of the models snottily tells him that she would never sleep with a Normal like him, and he acknowledges the truth of this. Then he calls them “bitches” for playing with his feelings, makes a chivalrous speech about the transcendence of loving sex, and suggests that sleeping with them would be “necrophilia… wanking into a pretty dress”. The temptation is to cheer – he put those stuck-up cows in their place! – and I wondered if my disquiet was evidence I’ve gone full Millie Tant. (Beware men who think there are some women to whom it’s OK to be sexist.)

But no. The husband is indeed a wrong ‘un. Mulligan’s monologues are interspersed with role-plays against another pure-cyan set; a living room, with details – a sippy cup, a blanket – again picked out in orange. She chides her children, Leanne and Danny, talking to the empty air about their petty squabbles. And then, halfway through the 90-minute running time, comes the punch: “I know they’re not here by the way. My children… I know they’re dead.” My mind went instantly to a routine by Louis CK. “A woman saying yes to a date with a man is literally insane,” the comedian says. “Globally and historically, we’re the number one cause of injury and mayhem to women. If you’re a guy, imagine you could only date a half-bear-half-lion.”

The narrator’s story, of a relationship going sour, is achingly familiar. Her burgeoning career, and growing confidence; the failure of his business, and his consequent loss of status. She asks for a divorce. He tells her: “There will never come a time when you have my kids and I don’t.” One night, he sweet-talks his way past the babysitter and twists a knife into little Danny’s heart, guiding it in with his thumbnail, before stabbing Leanne eight times. (Mulligan marks each wound on her body.) He tries to kill himself.

My friends with kids tell me that giving birth rewired them, leaving them reluctant to watch any drama with children in peril. To me, Mulligan seemed oddly unemotional in recounting these horrors; but perhaps a parent’s imagination would supply all the horror required.

Is it a coincidence that this play had its premiere at the Royal Court, where artistic director Vicky Featherstone has led the theatre world’s response to a reckoning with sexual harassment? Her code of conduct outlines potentially abusive behaviour, from the obvious – “physical force or threat of force, for sexual action” – to the situational: “staring, meaningful glances”. Yet Dennis Kelly’s script, which depicts one poison drop of sexism blossoming into a manifestation of the most extreme masculine rage, shows how difficult such behaviour is to police. When should the narrator have seen the danger? How can women sort the good from the bad?

In an industry convulsed by a feminist reckoning, I was left wondering if a female playwright would have dared to write lines as starkly confrontational as the narrator’s conclusion: “We didn’t create society for men. We created it to stop men.”

Girls & Boys runs until 17 March.

Helen Lewis is deputy editor of the New Statesman. She regularly appears on BBC Radio 4’s Week in Westminster and the News Quiz, and BBC1’s Sunday Politics. 

This article first appeared in the 22 February 2018 issue of the New Statesman, Sunni vs Shia