Breaking with the past was never really an issue for Oasis, a band built on the faith that the standards of rock developed by the Beatles in the ’60s didn’t need to be changed, only honorably upheld. Sure, it was impossible to repeat the past exactly. Mancunians like the members of Oasis aren’t Liverpudlians like the Beatles, you can maybe feel a stray gust of shoegaze on their debut Definitely Maybe, and there’s a bite in Liam Gallagher’s lyrics that owed its force to a class background decidedly less prosperous than Lennon, McCartney & Co. But ultimately the similarities were too marked for the Gallagher brothers not to equate the two acts. Liverpool and Manchester aren’t that far from each other, after all: Oasis’s sophomore LP What’s the Story, Morning Glory? was as deft and dedicated an exercise in Beatles cosplay as has ever been committed to compact disc, the band going so far as to duplicate the piano in John Lennon’s “Imagine” for the intro to “Don’t Look Back in Anger.” There was no doubt, for them, that the best way to become a classic (and “Don’t Look Back in Anger” became a classic song extremely quickly) was to imitate the old masters.
Oasis didn’t break with the past, but that didn’t keep them from breaking with each other. The centrifugal force of celebrity (and cocaine) drove the Gallaghers further and further apart: What once was amicable, easily resolved fraternal jostling swelled into an intractable feud that blew the band apart, Noel leaving to eventually helm a band entirely his own (Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds) while Liam and the rest of Oasis limped along as Beady Eye before disbanding outright in 2014. Now, at last, in 2017, Liam’s solo career is set to take off: As the lead singles and music videos for his debut album, As You Were, indicate, whether wandering, wondering, or divided, Liam’s on his lonesome, which is new.
Still, the past catches up to everyone, and it doesn’t have far to go to catch up with those already loyal to it. The title of As You Were suggests a certain passive-aggression, but mostly it exudes a sense of retrospection, perhaps even regret. It’s a sense forcibly underlined by “For What It’s Worth,” its latest single, a song that sounds as much like “Don’t Look Back in Anger” as What’s the Story, Morning Glory? sounded like the Beatles. Like “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” “For What It’s Worth” is composed in C major, and the chords of the two songs are uncannily similar. The pacing is all but identical, the lyrical development very nearly parallel: It’s like it’s 1995 (1995 acting like it’s 1967) all over again.
Liam is literally not looking back in anger: For all the profane insolence he’s become known for in interviews, his tone in “For What It’s Worth” is profoundly conciliatory: “I’m sorry for the hurt, I’ll be the first to say I made my own mistakes.” Hardly innovative but a lovely listen nonetheless, the song is guaranteed to summon memories of less divisive days. Whether it helps patch things up between the Gallaghers, though, is a question for the future, not the past.