"He [Liam] is rude, arrogant, intimidating and lazy. He's the angriest man you'll ever meet. He's like a man with a fork in a world of soup." - Noel Gallagher, 2009.
There are a few different ways to look at the two brothers from Manchester, Noel and Liam, who led the popular 90s band Oasis. One man is talented at writing catchy songs, while the other is one of the best British rock 'n' roll frontmen of our times. One has a round face, whose contribution to the band was literally doing all the creative things that made the band work but has a slightly less mellifluous voice than his brother, who has a narrower face and a nicer singing voice. One is kind of a tedious dipshit but knows a good tune when he nicks it and occasionally spouts funny nonsense, and one is a staggeringly tiresome imbecile with few discernible talents.
Personal opinions on the latter man's abilities as a musician aside, it is an undeniable fact that Liam Gallagher is one of the preeminent wildmen of the musical world. Whether he's dishing on politics or addressing a "dickhead" who threw a fish at him mid-concert, Gallagher seems to talk trash as well as he can make music - which is what makes the new documentary about him, 'Liam Gallagher: As It Was', such an exciting prospect for fans of his particular brand of vitriol.
As spectacles go, Oasis was phenomenal. Noel and Liam, who went from a hardscrabble working-class existence to the top of the pop world in a matter of months, were like baking soda and vinegar, but as if those two ingredients were forced to walk onto stages and in front of TV cameras together every day and pretend like they weren't constantly on the verge of a violent chemical reaction. And when they weren't fighting with each other, they were fighting with the rest of the world. It was a wonder to behold.
But what often seemed like a publicity-driven sibling rivalry between Liam and Noel - Oasis' guitarist and primary songwriter - came to a head in 2009 when Noel quit the band just before they were about to take the stage in Paris. Of the breakup, Liam says: "It's all a bit like I'm taking my ball home and fuck the lot of youse, y'know what I mean? And I don't think you that with family, y'know what I mean?"
Liam tried to reclaim some fame with his post-Oasis band, Beady Eye, which failed to spark much in the way of music or sales. This was roughly timed with a high-profile divorce that left him broke enough that he asked his brother for a money-grab Oasis reunion (Noel never responded).
The documentary touches on the "band family" concept - that making music with other people creates an authentic bond that can't be formed in any other way. With the dissolution of his relationship with Noel, Oasis and then Beady Eye and his second marriage to Nicole Appleton, Liam found himself alone and aimless. The film includes footage of him on vacation shortly after the divorce. "Day one ... off me coconut," he croaks while sipping the contents of a coconut through a straw, clearly attempting to bury his problems using booze.
These scenes are fascinating and genuinely absorbing, as they show a vulnerable side of Liam that is rarely seen in public. Unfortunately, this documentary from longtime Gallagher friend and companion Charlie Lightening morphs into a full-blown hagiography from there, as Liam finds love and acclaim in rapid succession. It's a surprising shift until you realise that 'As It Was' was co-directed by Gavin Fitzgerald, whose last documentary, 'Conor McGregor: Notorious', suffered from similar issues.
The documentary touches on the "band family" concept - that making music with other people creates an authentic bond that can't be formed in any other way.
Liam fusses over his girlfriend, Debbie Gwyther, who's also his manager. He regains his enjoyment for music at a pub in Ireland: "Before you know it, you're thirty Guinnesses in, someone gets the guitar out and you think you can play." He realises that if he hires a bunch of studio musicians and songwriters, his recording sessions won't turn into a familial brawl. His solo album does well enough that Gallagher becomes weary of touring again, after earlier complaining about the small venues he was playing with Beady Eye. He begins jogging and enjoying sunsets, as well as hanging out with his teenage sons. "I know when it's time to go to bed now," he muses. Gallagher meanderingly monologues about everyone who expected him to be dead by 2019 - "I don't think it's going to happen, lads, I think I'm gonna stick it out" - and notes that "I'm not doing this to be more famous, I'm fucking famous enough, you know what I mean."
'As It Was' doesn't ask any particularly hard questions about Liam. His divorces and affairs are never explored. Molly, his 20-year-old daughter, pops up suddenly with no backstory - it wasn't until 2018 that father and daughter met for the first time (according to a Google search, he has another daughter who he has never met and isn't mentioned).
Instead of trying to capture the explosive aspect of the man's charm or exploring the fractured relationship of the Gallagher brothers (Mat Whitecross' documentary 'Oasis: Supersonic' is far superior), the majority of 'As It Was' feels more like a promotion for his new album. It trips over itself to reassure us that Liam has calmed down and allows him to launch endless barbs at Noel - although even Liam will admit that he hasn't mellowed that much: "A lot of people go, 'Oh, Noel's grown up and he's changed!' Whatever. He's changed into a massive cunt. I'm still a cunt... I'm not a massive cunt".
While 'As It Was' will be of value to fans of Oasis, to paraphrase a quote from Bob Fosse's film 'Star 80': "I can take a bragging Liam Gallagher. I can take a conniving Liam Gallagher... I just can't stomach a sentimental Liam Gallagher."