The verdict on Liam’s first foray into a post-Oasis world
With so much hostility and hyperbole surrounding [a]Beady Eye[/a], half the music world getting ready to laugh, the other half expecting big things, [b]‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’[/b] is something of an anti-climax on first listen. Neither disaster nor classic, the album nevertheless has to be regarded as something of triumph, since it manages to put clear water between [a]Beady Eye[/a] and [a]Oasis[/a]. And the biggest surprise is that, away from Noel, Liam hasn’t just turned this group into the ultimate Faces-style lads’ band.
Instead, this album is, well, quite soft actually. Carefree too. Sunkissed. Sweet, even. Without that self-confessed control freak to please, it seems the pressure’s off. Sure, this means the quality control isn’t always there, but that weight of simply being [a]Oasis[/a], which made their latter albums quite tense listens, has been lifted. It allows this album to coast through even its dodgy moments and emerge as a loose and easy proposition.
To instantly undermine the above point, the opening track, [b]‘Four Letter Word’[/b], is as aggressive a song as anything Liam’s sung since [b]‘Bring It On Down’[/b]. We say ‘sung’, it’s more like he bites off chunks of lyrics and spits them out again. With sweeping John Barry strings adding drama, it’s one of those outpourings of inarticulate rage that yer man embodies. “[i]I don’t know what it is I’m feeling/A four letter word, well, you get my meaning[/i]”, puts it awkwardly, but it’s all in the delivery, and as he goes on, “[i]Nothing ever last FOREVER[/i]”, it’s obvious this is intended as a line drawn with the past.
With that done, Andy Bell’s [b]‘Millionaire’[/b] kicks back with a big dopey grin for an instantly loveable country song that’s very [b]‘Beggars Banquet’[/b]-era [b]Stones[/b], painted over by, well, Salvador Dalí. “[i]Sweet Salvador, the shadows painted and the light he saw/The way I see it now so clear, like diamonds on the water[/i]”. Liam’s always been a surrealist at heart, but still, him cooing about Dalí is unexpected. It neatly tees up Beady Eye’s obsession with dreaming, mind. Every song is ‘dream this, dream that’, all woozy production. It’s not surrealism, of course, it’s psychedelia, but a gentler kind than [b]‘Dig Out Your Soul’[/b].
[b]‘Wind Up Dream’[/b] is a ramped-up reworking of Lennon’s [b]‘I’m Only Sleeping’[/b], which has nice lyrical twists, a good bit of harp and even Liam doing a proper ‘Woo!’. Yes, a woo. Noel wouldn’t have let him do a woo. [b]‘For Anyone’[/b] is a West Coast love song with Liam singing at the top of his range, pledging he’ll be “[i]forever by your side[/i]”. Lovely. The psych peaks with the six-minute [b]‘Wigwam’[/b], about an early morning stumble home which surrounds its booze blues in an Eastern drone, but then lifts itself out of self-pity with a gospel climax that aims for Spiritualized heights of Hosanna and nearly damn gets there.
These are all fine songs, and really this album could have been, not [b]‘Definitely Maybe’[/b], but a more obvious triumph, were it not for a few duds. [b]‘The Roller’[/b] is a by-numbers lumpen rock song that reeks of [a]Stereophonics[/a]’ ass. [b]‘Three Ring Circus’[/b] works a little better, but again its uninspiring semi-anthemic rock is exactly what you’d expect from the ex-Oasis boys. But next to [b]‘Beatles And Stones’[/b], even that sounds like a classic. Ugh, this one is a careless, tasteless imitation of [b]‘My Generation’[/b], with Liam singing, “[i]I’m gonna stand the test of time like Beatles and Stones[/i]”.
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Bad times, which not even Liam’s consistently sensational delivery can save, but there’s more good stuff. [b]‘The Beat Goes On’[/b] is a big positive [b]‘All You Need Is A Lennon Songbook’[/b] number, which works as their [b]‘Champagne Supernova’[/b]. “I’m the last of a dying breed/And it’s not the end of the world/It’s not even the end of the day”, goes Liam, seemingly wistful for himself. Closer [b]‘The Morning Sun’[/b] is another hazy beach-bum song that works very nicely indeed.
But it’s that initial first hit of Beady Eye, [b]‘Bring the Light’[/b], that really elevates this album. It’s probably the one song that Oasis would never, ever have recorded, and in its breathless, spontaneous spirit is properly exhilarating. Piano is at the fore of the proper ’50s rock’n’roll production, but it’s not so much [b]Jerry Lee Lewis[/b] that Liam’s most channelling with his “c’mon”s, it’s Ike & Tina Turner. At its furious peak it justifies the creation of this band at a stroke.
What Noel will make of [b]‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’[/b] is anyone’s guess. How it’ll resonate with the public is a more immediate question. It remains to be seen how many people will be going to [a]Beady Eye[/a] gigs expecting [a]Oasis songs[/a], get disappointed and never return. But in taking on the tough task of establishing themselves as more than ‘Oasis Without The Decent Songwriter’, [a]Beady Eye[/a] have succeeded with some aplomb.