The news of Oasis’ demise was met with two distinct reactions. One was a hearty rejoicing; the end of the Beatles wannabe, tabloid-baiting carnival. The other was of a regret that, despite their many faults, a great and memorable group had passed on. When it was revealed that Liam Gallagher and company had reformed under a different moniker and were in the midst of planning an album there was amusement all round. There was surprise that the otherwise reliable Gem Archer, Andy Bell and Chris Sharrock would side with Liam, a man whose reputation preceded him and who could be deemed responsible for Oasis’ more controversial moments.
Beady Eye has been awaited in some corners with a sense of rubbernecking voyeurism. For every listener hoping for a smooth and blitzing debut you could count on two others who would just love to see this project fail. It’s bad news for the latter this time, as Different Gear, Still Speeding is a fun, raucous and lovingly imperfect opening salvo.
With all of the attention being lavished on Liam, it’s easy to forget that Beady Eye is also comprised of three very able musicians. Guitarist Gem Archer and bassist Andy Bell plied their trade with indie stalwarts Heavy Stereo and Ride respectively and drummer Chris Sharrock is notable for his role in The La’s, one of Merseyside’s finest groups of the past few decades. Their experience and talent is put to good use here.
Opener “Four Letter Word” explodes with reckless abandon and sounds like a Bond theme in the making. Liam is on top form, declaring with spiteful glee that “nothing ever lasts forever.” It stands as both a clarion call and defining statement for Beady Eye. This is a group that, despite their wealth and experience, see themselves as underdogs and revel in that status. This idea of wealth is belittled in the following track “Millionaire”, with Liam mocking a character whose “faded glamour’s out of season” over a country-fried acoustic tune.
The Gallagher brothers always wore their influences on their sleeves and detractors used it as a stick to beat them with. They were regularly chided as derivative and unoriginal but Beady Eye have created a subtle mix of different flavours with liberal sprinklings of past and present styles. Their debut single “Bring The Light” is a joyful slice of 60s pop replete with honky-tonk piano, a heavenly chorus of backing singers and, some lame lyrics aside, is one of the album’s brightest moments.
“Beatles And Stones”, as well as name-checking two of the group’s more apparent influences, is unnervingly similar to “My Generation”. Liam quite confidently and arrogantly declares himself to be able to “stand the test of time like Beatles and Stones.” It’s the boldest of claims but on this evidence you can just about believe it to be true. However, if they continue to produce songs like the fey and uninspiring “For Anyone” with its sickly sweet summery vibe and the leaden “The Roller”, an obvious single yet still a bad choice due to its ambiguous lyrics and distinct lack of melody, then they might not be long for this earth. The album’s finale is the woozy, progressive and psychedelic ballad “The Morning Son.” Despite a grammatical howler (“The morning son has rose”) it’s a fitting end to an album that wouldn’t be right if it was flawless.
Cynics can say that Beady Eye are just playing Oasis’ B-list material and that there’s nothing new here. One listen to this album though and you come to realise that its Noel’s absence that has made it. His miserable and cynical attitude would have put paid to numbers like “Bring The Light” and “Four Letter Word” and whilst the album isn’t perfect, it retains an ideal of love, care and attention that Oasis had been missing for a good few years before their split.
With so much hostility and hyperbole surrounding Beady Eye, half the music world getting ready to laugh, the other half expecting big things, ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ 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 Beady Eye and Oasis. 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 Oasis, 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, ‘Four Letter Word’, is as aggressive a song as anything Liam’s sung since ‘Bring It On Down’. 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 don’t know what it is I’m feeling/A four letter word, well, you get my meaning”, puts it awkwardly, but it’s all in the delivery, and as he goes on, “Nothing ever last forever”, it’s obvious this is intended as a line drawn with the past.
With that done, Andy Bell’s ‘Millionaire’ kicks back with a big dopey grin for an instantly loveable country song that’s very ‘Beggars Banquet’-era Stones, painted over by, well, Salvador Dalí. “Sweet Salvador, the shadows painted and the light he saw/The way I see it now so clear, like diamonds on the water”. 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 ‘Dig Out Your Soul’.
‘Wind Up Dream’ is a ramped-up reworking of Lennon’s ‘I’m Only Sleeping’, 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. ‘For Anyone’ is a West Coast love song with Liam singing at the top of his range, pledging he’ll be “forever by your side”. Lovely. The psych peaks with the six-minute ‘Wigwam’, 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 ‘Definitely Maybe’, but a more obvious triumph, were it not for a few duds. ‘The Roller’ is a by-numbers lumpen rock song that reeks of Stereophonics’ ass. ‘Three Ring Circus’ 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 ‘Beatles And Stones’, even that sounds like a classic. Ugh, this one is a careless, tasteless imitation of ‘My Generation’, with Liam singing, “I’m gonna stand the test of time like Beatles and Stones”.
Bad times, which not even Liam’s consistently sensational delivery can save, but there’s more good stuff. ‘The Beat Goes On’ is a big positive ‘All You Need Is A Lennon Songbook’ number, which works as their ‘Champagne Supernova’. “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 ‘The Morning Sun’ is another hazy beach-bum song that works very nicely indeed.
But it’s that initial first hit of Beady Eye, ‘Bring the Light’, 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 Jerry Lee Lewis 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 ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ 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 Beady Eye gigs expecting Oasis songs, get disappointed and never return. But in taking on the tough task of establishing themselves as more than ‘Oasis Without The Decent Songwriter’, Beady Eye have succeeded with some aplomb.
The world has stopped in breathless anticipation of this album. At least that’s what Beady Eye – Oasis minus main songwriter Noel Gallagher – thinks.
The world actually didn’t stop, however, and the release of Different Gear, Still Speeding hasn’t really been the splash, let alone ripple, the band bragged it would be. Although it would have been disappointing if the band didn’t brag; a big part of Oasis’ non-mystique is how they brought the swagger back to rock music.
As seismic – again in their eyes – as Nietzsche declaring God dead, Beady Eye declaring Noel dead, and “rising” from those ashes, could potentially either be a bold act of defiance or the makings of one of the greatest punch lines in rock history
In all, Different Gear, Still Speeding has a freshness and intensity the last Oasis album – Dig Out Your Soul – was lacking. Chalk it up to Beady Eye having something to prove, or their vindictive need to crawl out from Noel’s shadow.
With the opener, “Four Letter Word,” this revived energy is palatable and carries through various other tracks, most notably “Standing on the Edge of Noise” and “Wind Up Dream.”
This renewed panache, however, stutter-steps when the requisite Beatles pastiche rears its head. Liam Gallagher is unabashedly derivative and without his older brother to butt heads with, he runs for comfort to both the ’60s and the Lennon/McCartney canon with mixed results.
For every catchy and capable song like “The Roller,” “For Anyone,” and “Three Ring Circus,” which reveal layers and depths to the songwriting, there is a shameful sister-track like “Wigwam,” the hideous “Bring the Light,” and blatantly daft “Beatles and Stones,” a poor choice of title given the similarly named, yet sublime House of Love single from 1990.
Robust egoism (and previously copious amounts of cocaine) was always a quality and consistency killer for Oasis, yet thankfully, Beady Eye are able to produce some accomplished and polished numbers, despite the self-love and ’60s simulacra, to produce an inconsistent debut that in the end reveals some promise.
After Noel Gallagher finally quit Oasis in August 2009, who’d have guessed that the rest of the band would side with his younger brother? Liam, after all, was the liability, the loose cannon, whose chief contribution was an edginess which constantly destabilised the ship. Noel, the songwriter, who made the whole world sing (in the early days, at least), surely would have been the more reliable meal ticket.
From day one, however, Noel ran Oasis on a “captain and crew” basis, keeping his charges on a tight, Beatles-embossed leash. At crunch time, the hirelings whom Noel himself had gradually cherry-picked from British indie-rock’s upper echelons to replace the original line‑up, doubtless shared the unreliable Gallagher’s thirst for liberty and stuck by him instead.
So it was that Beady Eye formed, and ever since this debut has been awaited with a rare mixture of car-crash voyeurism and cautious optimism. Wouldn’t Liam make a twit of himself, without big brother’s guidance? But then, wasn’t it really him, the beautiful nutcase, who always set Oasis’s vital energy a‑crackling?
The good news is that, from its amusingly headlong title down, Different Gear, Still Speeding feels a good deal less lumpy than the last few Oasis albums. The teaser track, Bring the Light, is everything one might have hoped for from Beady Eye – a piano-pounding rush of vintage rock & roll, which sets the listener’s fevered brain fizzing with thoughts of Little Richard and the Velvet Underground, rather than the same old Beatles references.
In interviews, Liam, Gem Archer (guitarist; ex-Heavy Stereo), Andy Bell (guitarist/bassist; ex-Ride) and Chris Sharrock (drummer, ex-La’s) have talked excitedly about the joys of collaborative writing, and there is an all-pervasive vibe of freshness, upbeat melody and commitment. Gallagher, throughout, sings like a man possessed.
Aside from another full-blooded, filth-and-fury rocker, Standing on the Edge of the Noise, the highlights are Millionaire and For Anyone, each recalling the breezy, skiffly Merseybeat of Sharrock’s erstwhile accomplices, the La’s. These stand out, for the simple reason that there was seldom room for prettiness within the Oasis brand.
Elsewhere, though, it is, disappointingly, business as usual – particularly on Four Letter Word, the trundling opener, which was presumably put there so as not to frighten the horses and Oasis’s staunch fan base.
It doesn’t take long for Beatles nods to pile up: The Roller so resembles John Lennon’s Instant Karma, one can almost picture Liam with long hair and little round specs singing it. There’s even a song called Beatles and Stones, although, with merciful perversity, it rips off the Who’s My Generation.
Fans will trawl the lyrics for veiled messages to Noel – “Life’s too short not to forgive/ I’m here if you wanna call”, from Kill For a Dream, should set the message boards chattering – but there is enough here to suggest that Beady Eye might take on a life of its own, especially with live gigs lined-up this month.
For now, though, the nagging feeling is that Different Gear isn’t quite different enough.
On his first album since the breakup of Oasis, the megapopular English band he led with his older brother Noel for nearly 20 years, Liam Gallagher seems unfazed by the challenge of living up to such global hits as “Wonderwall” and “Champagne Supernova.” Indeed, he’s hunting bigger game: “I’m gonna stand the test of time, like Beatles and Stones,” Gallagher sings not long into the song named for those legends on the Beady Eye debut, in which he’s joined by three recent Oasis alums: Andy Bell, Gem Archer and Chris Sharrock.
That “Beatles and Stones” rides a hurtling groove virtually indistinguishable from the one in “My Generation” by the Who provides some indication of Gallagher’s seriousness here. When it comes to carrying the torch for an earlier generation’s idea of rock ’n’ roll perfection, no one means as much business as Liam Gallagher.
Consider it a pleasant surprise, then, that “Different Gear, Still Speeding” — a late-model Oasis record in all but name — manages to sound as lively as it does. Opener “Four Letter Word” and “Bring the Light” bristle with punky irritation, while “Standing on the Edge of the Noise” lives up handily to its title. In the appealingly trippy “Wind Up Dream,” Gallagher even finds a suitable home for his uniformly dreadful refrigerator-magnet poetry.
Inevitably, things slow down in a handful of soggy ballads, including “Kill for a Dream,” in which Gallagher informs us, “Life’s too short not to forgive / You can carry regrets but they won’t let you live.”
But, hey, every guitar must eventually weep, right?
Expectations surrounding the arrival of Beady Eye were low in one respect but mega in two others: forget their record, because any incarnation of latter-day Oasis minus their chief songwriter was scarcely likely to ring the sonic changes; rather, first, what about the interviews?
Noel Gallagher was the sharper wit, but there was always something irresistible about his younger brother’s outbursts: by turns caustic and surreal, Liam succeeded in emulating his idol John Lennon when it came to giving journalists memorable quotes just as much as in any other respect. So given the opportunity to set up the release of his new band’s record in the wake of Oasis’s ugly split in August 2009, Liam, you felt, would come out of his corner snarling.
Instead, he’s sounded just a bit defensive, and while scarcely conciliatory towards “our kid”, neither has the Pretty Green fashionista minted anything quite so damning as his famous description of Noel’s “old man vibe… big woolly jumpers and cardigans… Terry Wogan, Val Doonican shit”. Nor has he been mouthing off about contemporary bands who might be seen as real rivals to Beady Eye, whereas Oasis could dish it out without recourse – even if few could resist the pop he did have recently at Radiohead: “Them writing a song about a fucking tree? Give me a fucking break! A thousand-year-old tree? Go fuck yourself!”
None the less, any concerns that the fight has gone out of Liam are quickly assuaged when you see Beady Eye live, the second treat that the idea of the band promised – partly because any audience chanting Liam’s name was always going to be prone to feistiness itself. So it proves at the Troxy in east London on the last night of the group’s first short UK tour, with the lads rucking down the front and, up on the balcony, blood spurting from someone’s lip one minute, before he puts his arm round the mate who’s punched him the next. The appeal of Oasis from the off was in no little part located in the licence they gave a generation to, well, rock’n’roll, following the indie wallflower years, and it wasn’t pretty, it wasn’t clever, but since they’ve been gone, no one – not Kasabian, not the Enemy, certainly not yet the Vaccines – has filled their boots. So why not Beady Eye, who, if you squint, look oh-so-very-much like Oasis?
One answer might be that the generation weaned on “Supersonic” and “Some Might Say” should surely have grown up by now, and mellowed. On “Lippy Kids” on Elbow’s new album, Guy Garvey sings of the charms of reckless youth; it’s a gentle, wistful song, in which he notes that he, for one, “never perfected the simian stroll”. But Liam is actually a year older at 38 than Guy, and he still walks that walk, exuding menace, leaning up and into his mic like he might butt it.
Nothing’s changed, except, and it’s in no way a reliable memory, when Oasis played Knebworth in 1996 and Liam wore a ridiculous chunky jumper very much in the style of T Wogan, I don’t remember seeing him from half a mile back sweat any then; too cool. But tonight, he refuses to take off his macintosh even as damp patches begin to spread across it. But that’s less a sign of his ageing than an indication that, once again, he really means it, maaan.
The wall of noise that the band produces is similarly both fierce and deeply comforting, constructed using some classic templates. Last year’s first single “Bring the Light” actually sounds quite novel, because it mines the barrelhouse boogie of Little Richard, rather than the fab sounds of the 1960s; they come, too, inevitably, and “The Roller” could scarcely be more Lennonesque, although they do a clever thing on “Beatles and Stones” – “I just want to rock’n’roll/I’m going to stand the test of time/Like Beatles and Stones” – because that one actually sounds just like the Who.
Subjected to this noise, faced with Liam as a frontman, that part of the brain that tells you that this is desperate stuff, devoid of originality (and just look at how the rest of the band are dressed, like they’re auditioning for a film of the Britpop years, a pastiche of a pastiche), shuts down, and “The Beat Goes On” actually does sound like the big Zippo lighter moment it so plainly wants to be. “Someday all the world will sing my song,” Liam sings, and heard live, it doesn’t sound a wholly absurd suggestion.
It’s not “Champagne Supernova”, never mind “Let It Be”; but there’s also the rather touching – from Liam! – acknowledgment that “I’m the last of a dying breed.” But then, back out on the streets afterwards, it turns out that it is still 2011 after all.