Classic Rock Review

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Beady Eye Be (2013)

2013BeadyEyeBe600G160413From NME

The problem with Beady Eye is they were born with a point to prove – but only to their lead singer. The band’s debut album ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ matched or exceeded most people’s tempered expectations for it, but only Liam Gallagher ever seriously entertained the notion that they would become “bigger than Oasis”, and only Liam would have been surprised when Noel’s record outstripped their own, critically and commercially.

Clearly, when you’ve spent all of your adult life in one of the biggest bands in the world, the indignity of being in Just Another One takes some getting used to.

In interviews, Liam’s defiance in the face of dissenting opinion has been replaced with out-of-character admissions about ‘DGSS’’s shortcomings and hints that he might call it a day if he’s “barking up the wrong tree” with its follow-up.

The subtext seems to be that he doesn’t need to do this. He could happily retire to a life of designing desert boots and riding dogs around pubs until the inexorable Oasis reunion of 2018. Coming from a man who once claimed to be possessed by the spirit of John Lennon, however, we have to wonder: since when does he care which tree he’s barking up?

On their second album, Beady Eye have attempted to do what their old band never could: evolve. When it came to producers, Oasis hired craftsmen, not visionaries, because their comfort zone was exactly where their fans liked having them. Beady Eye, not having that luxury, have turned to TV On The Radio’s Dave Sitek, a sonic maverick who surely numbers among the least likely candidates for the task.

Sitek’s presence on ‘BE’ goes beyond mere stunt casting, and when the band fully submit to his whims the results are extraordinary. ‘Flick Of The Finger’, with its dreadnought horns and propulsive swagger, is the best thing they’ve ever recorded, and the glam-soul strut of ‘Second Bite Of The Apple’ isn’t far behind. Sitek is all over both, cranking the levers and steering them into the areas of the map marked Here Be No Beatles.

Yet while he adds much-needed texture and detail, Sitek is too often constrained by the material he’s given to work with. Once again Beady Eye have promised a balls-out rock’n’roll record, and once again they’ve delivered something top-heavy with sweet, slight acoustic whimsy. Much will be read into the lyrics to ‘Don’t Brother Me’, Liam’s passive-aggressive olive branch to you-know-who, which oscillates between gentle mockery, accusatory finger-pointing and grudging placation, but the music is dull, and bears an unwelcome resemblance to ‘Little James’.

‘Ballroom Figured’ and ‘Start Anew’, meanwhile, may be pleasant in their own right, but on a record that’s supposed to be about challenging themselves, they’re the sound of a band only pushing things as far as the first hurdle.

Shame, because the infrequent glimpses of what Beady Eye could be are tantalising. ‘Shine A Light’ is surprisingly effective, cheekily appropriating the riff to The Stooges’ ‘1969’ and refashioning it into a demented semi-acoustic raga, thick with menace and excessive piano breaks. ‘Iz Rite’ is more straightforward, a hippyish meditation on some unspecified cosmic bollocks which coasts along on sheer infectiousness. It also boasts what is by far the album’s best “SHEEEIIIINE” moment, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Is it enough? Well, just about. ‘BE’ is certainly an improvement on ‘Different Gear…’, but it’s more of a tentative step in the right direction than a great leap forward. There’s a sense Beady Eye are unwilling or unable to abandon the old fallbacks, and so you end up with a song like ‘I’m Just Saying’, which seems to pride itself on sounding like ‘Morning Glory’, ‘Hello’ and ‘The Swamp Song’ all at once.

There’s a future for this band that needn’t end with reliving their past. They just have to want it.

June 17, 2013 Posted by | Beady Eye Be | , | Leave a comment

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2011)


When Britpop’s leading group Oasis imploded in 2009 following one final blow-up between eternally quarreling siblings Noel and Liam Gallagher, it was somewhat surprising that bandmates Gem Archer and Andy Bell would elect to throw their lot in with the latter of the two to form Beady Eye. Of the pair, Liam is the more volatile: easy to rankle, quick to anger, and infamous for resorting to physical violence to settle disputes. Regardless of whatever the cause of the break might have been or who may have been at fault, the aftermath left Noel, Oasis’s lead guitarist and primary songwriter, without an outlet for his material.

Considering this is a man who has incessantly boasted for close to two decades about his songwriting prowess, it was inevitable that Noel Gallagher would find a way to get his latest batch of songs out there in some fashion. It would be reasonable to say that the public (in Britain, at least), concurs with Gallagher’s self-assessment. Evidently viewing him as the true talent from Oasis compared to his little brother and his old sidemen, British consumers have responded accordingly at the sales counters. Noel’s debut solo LP has noticeably emerged to a better reception than Beady Eye has mustered with its output so far, topping the UK Albums Chart upon release and already spinning off two Top 20 pop singles. Given the reception, it looks like Liam’s floated idea for a 2015 Oasis reunion to commemorate the 20th anniversary of (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? isn’t something Noel will be attentively mulling over any time soon.

The clumsily titled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is only half-heartedly positioned as more than a mere solo project. There’s no question that the man is firmly in charge here, freed up from having to share top billing with his singing sibling. Eschewing the sort of heads-down, group shout-along rock ‘n’ roll anthems Oasis (Liam in particular) always favored, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds focuses on the songwriter’s other well-trod creative stomping areas, bouncy psychedelic pop and balmy balladry. Bolstered by full-bodied and warm production that suggests Gallagher’s legendary self-confidence has not been diminished one iota in the two years since his group’s demise, these ten songs are augmented with loads of strings, brass, and backing singers wherever possible, with touches of electronica production tricks that suggest a newfound sense of experimentalism.

Well, experimental for Noel Gallagher. Though Gallagher has expressed adoration for everything from grunge to Krautrock to trip-hop over the years, Oasis’ repertoire was strictly defined by extremely catholic classic rock reference points. If there was no guitar, no hook, and no giant chorus, the band didn’t give a toss. Gallagher continues to follow a musical gameplan dictated by the very rigid parameters of what the songwriter considers to be emblematic of great rock music. So as in past offerings, the album is built upon sing-song melodies reliant on repetitive two- or four-bar phrases, simplistic rhyme schemes (“If I had the time / I’d stop the world and make you mine”) that aim for universality over profound meaning, and plodding, strident rhythms that exhibit a dearth of syncopation. The most bounce you get is in the rootsy shuffles found in the likes of “The Death of You and Me”, but that tune is just aping the more baroque side of the Kinks and the Beatles, two of Gallagher’s chief idols and most transparent influences (not to mention owning a more direct debt to the verses from Oasis’ “The Importance of Being Idle”). Song structures follow predictable verse/chorus formats, and bridges like that in “(I Wanna Live in a Dream in My) Record Machine” only ratchet up linear emotional sensation instead of veering into new directions. “Stop the Clocks”, a scrapped Oasis tune that Gallagher has resurrected for his new project, at least throws in prechoruses that lead to satisfying explosions of blatantly psychedelia-redolent soloing.

True, it’s not like anyone should be anticipating any new tricks from the proudly formalist Gallagher at this stage. Observers have known not to expect him to deviate too much from his formula ever since the overcooked Be Here Now (1997) proved to even Oasis’ most optimistic advocates that the band’s idea of a sonically ambitious record involved little more than making all the songs over five minutes long and adding unnecessarily excessive amounts of guitar overdubs. However, this record won’t dispel the popular notion that Noel’s Midas touch was depleted writing the first two Oasis albums. The next “Live Forever” or “Wonderwall” certainly isn’t found here, but you do get “AKA… Broken Arrow”, a song that heavily trades on “Wonderwall” for ideas. “(Stranded on) The Wrong Beach” is another glaring example of how limited Noel’s bag of tricks is as it cribs the lapping waves tide sound effect from “Champagne Supernova” for its conclusion. Even when he’s trying to experiment, Gallagher can only stretch so far. Noel spoke in a Quietus interview of trying to evoke acid house in the single “AKA… What a Life!”, his acceptable stab at indie dance, but filtered through his sensibilities the track ends up more akin to an offering by Oasis-worshipping Brit rock group Kasabian.

Even with all the bells and whistles, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds is not much more than what one would expect given the name on the artwork—and sure, that will suit many potential purchasers perfectly fine. Beneath the shiny new ear candy, the album pedles the same sort of passable exercises in Gallagher’s patented populist songcraft that have populated the last decade’s worth of Oasis LPs, with the main difference being the boorish laddishness embodied by Liam is totally absent (one of the album’s virtues is that it reminds listeners that Noel has a fine if undistinguished singing voice, a talent that was understandably underutilized in Oasis in favor of his brother’s grittier and more expressive vocal abilities). It’s a slight departure from Noel’s usual pub and football terrace-friendly fare, but only just, and absence of Liam in front of the microphone instantly leaves the potential of the material to surpass its average nature untapped, since it was his cocksure delivery that often made latter-day Oasis any interesting. Long-starved Oasis fans can take solace in the notion that although there’s no chance of Gallagher returning to his mid-’90s creative peak, he’s maintaining his brand with a sincere stab at variance at least.

June 5, 2013 Posted by | Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds | , | Leave a comment

Oasis (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? (1995)


Review When Oasis released their album “Definitely Maybe” in 1994, no one thought that one year later, they would become the most significant and important British band since the Beatles. 1995 was a whirlwind year for Oasis, and their release of the album “(What’s The Story) Morning Glory” was the focal point. This is more than an album – it’s part of 90’s popular culture. A true classic that spoke to a whole generation of fat and lazy middle-aged men. The album sold by the truck load – in the UK, it is the second biggest selling record of all time, with only the Beatles’ “Sgt. Peppers” standing in its way. The songs on this album are classics – iconic songs that will stand the test of time.

The album starts with the infectious “Hello.” Crunching guitar solos and brilliant vocals make this an excellent opener – it’s short, but sweet. The song starts with the tune of “Wonderwall,” but quickly changes to this all-out rock anthem. “Roll With It” was a big hit for the boys in August 1995, when the song peaked at No.2 in the UK. It has a brilliant melody, and the strained vocals from Liam Gallagher enhance the song’s quality. Up next we have two undeniable classics. Firstly, “Wonderwall” has to be one of the greatest songs ever written. Amazingly, the song didn’t make No.1, but charted at No.2 in the UK. This was the anthem that millions sung in 1995, and was played on the radio literally millions of times. “Don’t Look Back In Anger” is even more of an iconic classic. It gave the boys their second UK No.1 hit in the UK in March 1996, and pushed sales of this album even further beyond what seemed possible. The wonderful similarity of John Lennon’s “Imagine” at the beginning is genius. Everything about the song is perfect – vocals, lyrics, guitar, piano, drums. It’s the works.

“Hey Now!” is one of my favourites on the album. A lot of people dislike this song for reasons I really cannot see, because everything about it is perfect. The guitars and the drums are amazing, and the vocal arrangement is particularly interesting. A short interlude follows, before we move on to the amazing “Some Might Say.” This wonderful classic gave Oasis their first UK No.1 hit single in May 1995. Once again, wonderful guitar melodies are blended with wonderful vocals. The lyrics are well written, but in a way that encompasses all those who listen to it. “Cast No Shadow” is the album’s true chill out track. The boys release wonderful harmonies and beautiful melodies that relax the listener. A true masterpiece, said to be influenced by the Verve’s Richard Ashcroft.

“She’s Electric” is one of Oasis’ few humorous songs. The lyrics are wonderful, and very ironic of life amongst a jilted generation of slobs. It’s the song you heard on the radio all the time as a teenager, and knew all the lyrics off by heart. “Morning Glory,” the album’s title track, is a song that will stay in your head for years to come – possibly all your life. More wonderful guitar solos, and marvellous lyrics make for another album highlight. A song that reveals a dirty side to the band. Another short instrumental interlude follows, which is followed by the epic finale “Champagne Supernova.” This is one of the most beautiful and memorable songs that Oasis ever had the opportunity to churn out. Wonderful lyrics, excellent vocals and excellent melodies are all encased in seven and a half minutes of pure Britpop class.

This is not only an essential album for anyone interested in Oasis, but an essential album for those who witnessed the 1990’s – and the impact that this band had on the music scene. I was just eight years old at the time this CD was released, but I still remember all the songs that played endlessly on the radio for years. I hated them as a band but there’s no denying that these songs are amazing. Liam’s attitude is a bit vulgar and over-the-top, but that’s all part of their image. A handful of critics once said that Oasis were more important than the Beatles – I have to disagree, but they’re pretty damn close!

Review It’s quite obvious that over the last 8 years Oasis have produced some of the best music in recent memory and have established themselves as heroes of modern day rock n roll and have reached the height of success that such artists as The Rolling Stones, The Police, Led Zeppelin, Elton John, and The Beatles have been graced with. Morning Glory remains to be the one album that defined the true essence of oasis, thanks to the songs’ author and composer Noel Gallagher who stands today on the shoulder of giants. over the 8 years that have passed, however, their 1995 mega epic Morning Glory is still their best outing.

The entire album is outrageous and it still sounds pure when I put it in my disc player and play it from start to finish. beginning with “Hello” and ending with a Champagne Supernova in the sky, one goes through 1000 different emotions in the duration of less than an hour. You jump and cheer and roll with “Roll With It”, you get butterflies in your stomach with “Wonderwall”, you remember your past and dare to look back in anger with “Don’t Look Back In Anger”, you feel a sudden rush, a pump of warm blood running through your veins with every tone of Liam’s voice singing “Hey Now”, you dread on the bad pop music you’ve been hearing for ages and hope the song never ends when you hear “Some Might Say”, you sigh, sob or cry when you face the sun and “Cast No Shadow”, you get all electric and shine and sing along happily to “She’s Electric”, you then get another sudden rush like a shot of adrenaline that was just pumped into your veins and you walk to the sound of the favourite tune called “Morning Glory”, and finally you get back to your senses and mellow out to a conclusion that seems at that moment long awaited, and it seems that it’s coming to you faster than a cannonball but slowly walking down the hall of your mind with a “Champagne Supernova” in the sky. What art! What beauty! Genuine. Magnificent, spectacular, moving, slick, cool. You play it again and again and again and you never say stop!

This is the best album of the nineties. Oasis are to be recognized forever as kings of cool Britannica, the honourable embassadors of the 90’s generation rock n roll.

Whether the critics decide to keep on pounding them artistically or give ’em a break, Morning Glory will come out and shout out straight in their faces the words “today is the day that all the world will see”. The world will still see and hope that today will last forever.

May 11, 2013 Posted by | Oasis (What's The Story) Morning Glory? | | Leave a comment

Oasis The Masterplan (1998)


Review Everybody’s wondering why songs like “Underneath The Sky” and (especially) “Acquiesce” weren’t on an actual Oasis album. Everybody’s thinking it’s a coincidence of some sort that so many great songs can be disregarded and doomed to merely be: b-sides. Stop and think about the title of this collection though… it’s called ‘The Masterplan’, which could mean a predetermined ‘plan’ that is meant to be ‘masterful’. Is it not conceivable to think that Noel and the gang had this deviant scheme to hide away a bunch of choice tracks on singles (nobody buys singles in the USA) in order to later release the greatest b-side collection ever? Even now, over six years since The Masterplan came out, it still has to be one of, if not thee most talked-about b-side compilation on the planet. So, yeah, I think The Masterplan was a set-up. But that’s enough of that; take what you will from my speculations and opinions. What’s really important here is the music.

Yes, “Acquiesce” is an astonishing song–my personal favorite Oasis track, as I’m sure it is many other’s. The other track here I was equally taken aback by was “Headshrinker”, which boasts smidgens of a punk-rock feeling and an almost irritated sound in Noel’s voice that can’t be ignored when he’s shouting ‘I hope you don’t regret today/for the rest of your lives’. But the sleeper track here has to be “Half The World Away”, which is as relaxed as I recall Oasis ever being in a song. It’s beautiful, it’s smart (‘my body feels young but my mind is very old’) and possesses the single greatest handclapping performance in the history of music. I clap along every time I hear it; and I get the chills every time I hear it. “Underneath The Sky” seems to be another favorite. That makes sense considering it’s short, sweet and has that infamous part about the suitcase. That makes me chuckle every time. “Rockin’ Chair” takes a lot of the same ideas and tones as “Half The World Away”, which is why it’s not as impressive (though still great).

It’s said in the booklet that The Beatles never performed “Walrus” live; so it makes perfect sense that Oasis would cover it–and they do a superb job. Goo goo g’joob, indeed. “Talk Tonight” draws more comparisons to “Half The World Away”. It’s very, very good but again falls just short of the top slow track. “Stay Young” and “Listen Up” sound most like they came from actual albums, and the fact they didn’t make the cut seems unapparent. “(It’s Good) To Be Free”, sadly, is one I tend to skip. We all know it’s good to be free, anyway. I’m never a huge fan of instrumental tracks unless they blow me away. And “The Swamp Song” didn’t blow me anywhere. “Going Nowhere” is genius, pure genius. The way Noel rolls the word ‘Jaguar’ off his tongue is most notable. “Fade Away” is my least favorite track on The Masterplan. It comes off as a second-rate “Headshrinker” with comparable lyrics but poor sound quality. Finally, “The Masterplan”… seems to be in a league of its own. Either you love it or you don’t. It’s dazzling–the perfect closer for such an album. Oh, I mean… for such a ‘compilation’. Whatever. If this were an album, it would easily be Oasis’ best album. But I guess we instead have to call it, simply, their best CD.

Review Finally, we’re saved. After the over-the-top drug-fuelled mess that was Be Here Now, comes this heroic CD of redemption from that Manchester band, faith in whom we all seem to have lost. Here we have B-sides. No, don’t ignore it on the strength of that – Oasis are well known for putting care into B-sides. I guarantee, if you heard Acquiese or the title track, you’d never in a million years guess they played second fiddle to their respective singles.

Acquiese is fantastic. In about 4 minutes of soaring, harmonious rock, we’ve forgotten that Be Here Now ever happened. Suddenly we’re listening to Definitely Maybe again… they’re proving that they can and will really do it. And we believe them.

Underneath the Sky is a little odd, but I like it. Then Talk Tonight, which isn’t bad, but I would have prefered to have Sad Song or D’Yer Wanna Be A Spaceman take it’s place. Going Nowhere is the second classic here after Acquiese – sophisticated and Bacharac-like, with Noel singing worried words from before the band were signed. It’s fantastic stuff.

Fade Away is amazing. Ditched in favour of Slide Away on Definitely Maybe, it would have proved the spark of life for a lesser album… there again, boasting Columbia, Supersonic and Cigarettes & Alcohol, DM needed anything but more livening. So here it is, finally achieving album status. “While we’re living, the dreams we have as children fade away.” A harsh truth, belted out with such energy we don’t care.
Then the Swamp Song. The strange little instrumental that probably mystified folks in it’s respective slots on …Morning Glory, it’s a riotous party-starter. Guitars and harmonica’s link to perfection. For those few minutes, you feel like you’re in the front row listening to Oasis wow-ing the crowd. This is them at their most raw and un-diluted.

The I Am The Walrus cover is the only one I don’t think much of, purely because it sounds a little out of place – probably because it’s not an Oasis song anyway. Still, it’s entertaining enough, and sufficient padding until Listen Up, which begins with a Supersonic-sounding intro, but developing into it’s own song. Then Rockin’ Chair, “I’m older than I wish to be, this town holds no more for me.” Odd how most of Noel’s more reflective lyrics ended up in B-Sides… and a pity, too.

Half The World Away is the next classic after Going Nowhere. Cruelly never released, it got it’s fame by becoming the Royle Family theme. Still, I’d rather have seen this calm little acoustic achieve single status. Next, depressing (It’s Good) To Be Free… written in turbulent times for the band, performed well. Still, can’t hold a candle to Stay Young. There’s one the band hate, yet the fans love. It’s upbeat, if somewhat irrelevant (well they’re not young are they). Headshrinker is raw live material, and the show stops with the Masterplan. Easily one of the finest Oasis songs, it is sophisticated in Whatever style. Truly beautiful, perfect sounding… and the mind boggles as to why it’s a B-Side. I’d easily prefer it to Wonderwall.

All in all, Oasis are redeemed. This is what they’re all about, how they started and why they’re here, all in 14 tracks. These songs have as much right to be here as any, despite their status. The album stands second only to Definitely Maybe. It’s not a careless mistake, like Be Here Now. And it’s not good but not quite perfect, like …Morning Glory. Frankly anyone who doesn’t consider it an official album probably hasn’t listened properly enough. If it weren’t for this one, I doubt anyone would care about Oasis anymore. 5 Stars? Damned right.

Review Oasis were untouchable in the mid 1990’s. At a time when Britpop was at its creative peak, bands like Oasis, Blur, Pulp, Suede, Radiohead and the Verve dominated the UK charts while achieving some moderate success in the USA. Yet Oasis stood head and shoulders above the rest at the time because of their ability to craft gorgeous pop melodies that recalled the Beatles and ferocious rockers that were just as thrilling as the Sex Pistols and T.Rex. No doubt Oasis’ legacy is cemented with Definitely Maybe and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?. With those two albums, the band merged the best of British rock into two stellar, comprehensive packages, wielding out brutal rockers (“Rock N Roll Star”, “Cigarettes and Alcohol”, “Some Might Say”, “Morning Glory”), lovely ballads (“Slide Away”, “Wonderwall”, “Cast No Shadow”), life-affirming anthems (“Live Forever”, “Supersonic”, “Don’t Look Back at Anger”) and masterful epics with virtuoso guitar solos (“Columbia”, “Champagne Supernova”).

Yet many fans fail to notice that they had an even greater selection of brilliant songs that went unheard of, most which were relegated to B-sides to a single. Like their idols the Smiths and the Stone Roses, Oasis released songs on B-sides that wound up surpassing the material from their two albums. Fewer songs rocked as viciously “Fade Away”, “Headshrinker”, “(It’s Good) to be Free” and the Noel/Liam duet “Acquiesce”; fewer songs were as melodic as “Stay Young” and “Rockin’ Chair”; and fewer ballads were as gentle, sweet and beautiful as “Talk Tonight” and “Half the World Away” (both sang by Noel).

All these songs can be found in THE MASTERPLAN, which collects most of the B-sides that were released during the band’s early years, plus a whopping live cover version of The Beatles’ “I Am the Walrus”. All these songs are so intoxicating to listen to that it is frustrating that Noel did not consider releasing them on the actual studio albums. With the exception of “Swamp Song”, which is a muddle instrumental, there is not a weak track on the album and any of them could have been used for an upcoming third album.

Unfortunately, Oasis opted to release a single-disc compilation of the B-sides, thus negating some of their more essential tracks off the list. Many of these songs including “I Will Believe”, “Cloudburst”, “Do You Wanna Be a Spaceman?”, “Take Me Away”, “It’s Better People”, “Step Out”, “Round Are Way”, “(I’ve) Got a Fever”, “My Sister Lover”, “Flashbax” and the cover of Slade’s “Cum On Feel the Noize” and the Stones’ “Street Fighting Man” are greatly missed. Indeed, a two-disc compilation would have truly some these problems.

Still, for all its flaws, The masterplan is a great purchase and a must-have, not only for Oasis fans but for music fans who crave for the best that 90’s rock had to offer. Indeed, 90’s hard rock does not get any better or more thrilling than this.

April 30, 2013 Posted by | Oasis The Masterplan | | Leave a comment

Oasis The Masterplan (1998)


The Masterplan? Part of Noels ‘master-plan’ was that Oasis would be perceived as a great singles act in addition to a generally great albums band. All the groups he admired ( The Jam, The Smiths, The Stone Roses, The Beatles ) had wonderful b-sides. Noel forgot one thing though.

Even though all the aforementioned acts DID have great b-sides, these b-sides were very rarely better than either the a-sides or songs picked to go onto the albums. Noel tossed away so many songs as b-sides to prove how great his Oasis band was. Too many good songs ended up as b-sides to the general detriment of the regular albums. Fortunately for us, they decided to release this b-sides compilation! ‘Acquiesce’ is a sheer thing of splendorous wonder. Menace, rocking guitars, a great lead from Liam and effective counterpoint vocals from Noel in the chorus. Brilliant.

‘Going Nowhere’ appeared on the b-side of ‘Stand By Me’ from ‘Be Here Now’. Its rather lovely…..far better than at least half of what appeared on that album. Its quiet, un-ambitious, full of melody, tender effective vocals….

All of the ballads here are top-notch, affecting songs. We have ‘Talk Tonight’ which is Noel plus guitar and a few handclaps. That’s all. It’s refreshing to hear Oasis this way. For me, they sound so much more effective when they aren’t trying to bludgeon you round the head! ‘Half The World Away’ will be familiar to fans of English TV show ‘The Royle Family’. Brush-stroked drums and again, a stripped back and sympathetic production. ‘Rockin Chair’ appeared on the b-side to ‘Roll With It’ – lovely lilting melodies, an astutely judged vocal performance from Liam.

An absolute highlight on this set of alternative Oasis. ‘Listen Up’, ‘Stay Young’ but especially the very raw ‘Fade Away’ work as the highlights of the rockier songs. ‘Fade Away’ in particular has an addictive melody and impassioned but not over the top vocal performance. Some of the other songs here are merely OK, but none fail to offer at least a little to the listener.

I could have done without ‘I Am The Walrus’ but there you go. With their love of The Beatles, it was inevitable really.

April 20, 2013 Posted by | Oasis The Masterplan | | Leave a comment

Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds (2011)

noel_gallagher_high_flying_birds_album_cover_location_beverly_hillsFrom Uncut

What’s Noel Gallagher’s problem? Fabulously wealthy and finally shot of his brother, he’s surely now free to make the self-indulgent, critic-pleasing album displaying all the wit and taste he’s previously reserved for his interviews. Following in the footsteps of his heroes, like Weller after The Jam, like Marr after The Smiths, like Ian Brown after the Stone Roses, he could reveal the restless, questing free-ranging spirit that was fettered by the dopey conservatism of his old group.

But that sibling rivalry runs deep. Following Beady Eye’s goofily enjoyable debut earlier this year, is he content to let Liam claim the mantle of Continuity Oasis and swagger off with the rump of their old audience, leaving him with the cold comfort of a couple of extra stars from broadsheet reviewers? What’s a Britpop boy to do?

Well, you could try to have it both ways. As the promo campaign ahead of his solo debut is a bit too eager to point out, High Flying Birds is just the first of two Noel Gallagher albums, and will be followed in 2012 by his collaboration with pie-eyed psychonauts Amorphous Androgynous (who previously cooked up an epic reworking of the final Oasis single, “Falling Down”). The Amorphous Androgynous album is, according to Noel, “far fucking out”. Very much in contrast to High Flying Birds, then.

An unkind critic might note that the highest flying birds are generally vultures, wanting to scope out the largest possible territory for rotting carcasses to scavenge. Noel’s Birds stick pretty close to his favourite hunting grounds, however. The first single “The Death Of You And Me” is by far the best thing here, folksy fingerpicking, spooky organ and an oddly affecting, ominous lyric elevating what would otherwise seem an obvious airgun marriage of The Lovin’ Spoonful’s “Summer In The City” and The Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon”.

The Kinks-fix that Noel has been on since at least “The Importance Of Being Idle” hangs heavy all over High Flying Birds. The looming dread of “Dream On” (“Oh me, oh my, I’m running out of batteries…”) owes something to “Dead End Street”, “Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks” refers to “all the people on the village green” and by the time of “(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach” you get the feeling he could knock out one of these well-turned, doomy, descending bass line ditties in his sleep, like a craftsman knocking out reproduction furniture. On the final Oasis album a track like “Falling Down” seemed novel, enlivened by a sudden midlife sense of mortality. Here that feeling has gone stale, with songs that settle into humdrum strums and occasionally struggle to rouse themselves from their torpor with comedy brass codas.

Elsewhere, he sticks even closer to home: the first couple of Oasis albums. Both “If I Had A Gun” and “Broken Arrow” labour vainly to escape the long shadow of “Wonderwall”. The cumulative effect of all this mid-tempo moodiness is that High Flying Birds feels awfully plodding – particularly in comparison to the unexpected zip and zest of Beady Eye’s Different Gear, Still Speeding. It’s not until the sixth track, “What A Life”, that the pace picks up, but it’s too little, too late.

The closing “Stop The Clocks” was written for Oasis’ Don’t Believe The Truth [2004] but mysteriously left off the album at the last minute, going on, in its continuing absence, to provide the title for the 2006 greatest hits comp. After all this time you might reasonably imagine it was some rare jewel Noel was sensibly stockpiling for his solo career. But despite the dimly psychedelic gesture of some “Lucy In the Sky…” keyboards and a laborious closing wig-out, it can’t help but close the album with a sense of lumbering anti climax. “What if I’m already dead/How would I know?” he sings, offering an open goal that’s difficult to resist.

It’s hard to escape the feeling that High Flying Birds is a half-hearted failure of nerve, an attempt to play to the base more characteristic of a hedging politician than a truly reckless rock ’n’ roll star. The end of Oasis was never going to be the end of the battling Gallagher’s, and after the first round of the solo careers, the score is indubitably Liam 1, Noel 0. If nothing else, High Flying Birds has upped the stakes for the return leg.

April 18, 2013 Posted by | Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds | , | Leave a comment

Oasis FamiliarTo Millions DVD (2001)


Surprisingly, Oasis has been knocking around for over ten years now, since the release of their first album, Definitely Maybe, back in 1994. They became worldwide superstars after the release of their second album (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, which reached #4 on the American Billboard charts, and also spawned two #1 singles. The band has managed to remain in the public eye, thanks to their infamous off-stage antics, involving feuds between the Gallagher brothers, as well as their much publicized drug and alcohol abuse. The band managed to stay out of the public eye for the next few years, amid rumors of a break-up, but resurfaced again in 1997, on the heals of their third album Be Here Now.

Familiar To Millions was recorded during the first night, of a two night stop, at London’s Wembley Stadium, during Oasis’ 2000 world tour, in support of their latest album, Standing On The Shoulder Of Giants. It is a wonder that the band ever completed the 2000 tour, as the Oasis train was nearly derailed by personal problems – the most obvious being Noel Gallagher’s decision to skip many of the European dates, and Liam Gallagher being dumped by his wife, actress Patsy Kensit, only a few days before the Wembley shows. Liam was a drunken mess during this performance, stumbling around the stage, tossing F-bombs at the crowd between every song, and just being his usual annoying self. It is no wonder his brother Noel has contemplated giving it all up, out of frustration with his brother. I may be way off here, since I don’t closely follow the Oasis soap opera, but from what little I’ve seen, this guy Liam comes across as one of the most pretentious, egotistical, assholes I have ever seen. “Sir, I have met John Lennon, and you sir, are no John Lennon!”. Do these guys really think they are the next coming of The Beatles? Have another lager there Liam.

As little regard I have for these egomaniacal, imbeciles (Noel may not fall into that category), I have enjoyed a lot of their music. Oasis definitely-maybe had tons of potential until they practically imploded due to Liam’s hooliganism. Definitely Maybe certainly had a couple of good songs, and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? is outstanding. These Gallagher brothers certainly know how to write some interesting melodies and very catchy hooks, but it looks like they might have shot their entire load already, considering the rather weak material they have put out since. I did love the hell out of that song “You Know What I Mean” though. I played that thing every night on the jukebox, back in ’97, when as I was throwing darts at my favourite Spanish pub. Too bad the rest of the album, Be Here Now, was so terrible.

This spectacular looking Wembley stadium concert begins with “F***in’ in the Bushes” blaring over the PA system as the band takes the stage. It was still light out through the first half of the concert, so you did not really get the full magnitude of their stage show just yet. The band launches into “Go Let It Out”, to get things started and wisely stick to songs mostly from their first two albums for the rest of the show. Liam is obviously a drunken, mess during this show, and he barely manages to slur and stumble his was through a half-assed performance. His between song banter with the audience consists primarily of “fookin” this, and “fookin” that – you know, the usual charming small talk. Who knows, he could have been giving some brilliant anti-war speech, or providing the formula for the cure for cancer, but you would never have known, because it sure is hell wasn’t English this bloke was speaking. Holy shit, them Gallagher boys have one thick accent. And I even spent three years in the Scotland! Talk about your unintelligible accents.

Anyways, the overall performance was a huge disappointment for me. Liam’s vocals were horrendous sounding throughout most of the concert, and he looked like he didn’t even want to be up there. He’s got this “I’m so cool” style of leaning into the microphone with his hands held behind his back, the whole time he sings. Noel made a valiant attempt to keep things from falling apart, and put on a good show for the 70,000 rabid fans in attendance, but his annoyance with his brother seemed overwhelming at times. There were a few notably good performances, that even weak vocals couldn’t ruin. “Hey Hey My My”, featured Noel handling the lead vocals on this Neil Young classic, and was played back to back with “Champaign Supernova”, their psychedelic, powerhouse anthem, which featured some of Noel’s tastiest guitar work. Too bad this was all at the end of the concert.

To make matters worse, the Dolby 5.0 surround audio track sounded absolutely terrible. The volume level was extremely low, there was virtually no instrument separation, and everything was drenched in tons of echo and reverb. It literally sounded as if you were listening to the concert from the stadium parking lot. Using the PCM stereo option provided a slight improvement in the overall sound, but then you totally lost any type of stadium concert vibe, which ruined it. The video quality was decent, but the picture was not very sharp. The Oasis stage show was mammoth, and provided a very exciting and magnificent looking experience for those in attendance. This was captured brilliantly by the camera crew using wide-angle shots from above the stadium, and swooping down in front of the stage. The camera angle changes came way too quick though, as the director tried too hard to capture everything that was going on in the stadium, at the same time. The director often used various blurry, colourful, psychedelic effects, during many of the songs, which were handled well enough as not to be too distracting. Those who were tripping on acid probably didn’t appreciate it too much though.

I haven’t yet witnessed the other DVD’s that Oasis have released, and after this, I don’t know if I want to. Hopefully for all of the die-hard Oasis fans out there, they are better than this “fookin” dog.

April 16, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Familiar To Millions DVD | , | Leave a comment

Oasis Familiar To Millions (2001)


Probably one of the most notorious “love ‘em/hate ‘em” bands of the past ten years, Oasis tended to either inspire or enrage as they gradually took control of the popular music scene in the mid-1990s. Often pegged as a mere Beatles knock-off, I personally have always appreciated much of their work. 1994’s Definitely Maybe and 1995’s What’s the Story (Morning Glory)? were chockfull of refreshingly rich and tuneful guitar-drive melodies, inherently uplifting lyrics, and an irrepressible vocal snarl, all of which was frequently overshadowed by the band’s off-stage antics.

However, 1997’s Be Here Now, a monumental mess of over-production, and 2000’s Standing on the Shoulders of Giants, a primarily limp attempt at a comeback, failed to live up to lofty expectations and match their predecessors. Consequently, the band’s global popularity has tumbled dramatically, which makes the release of Familiar to Millions quite perplexing.

This double live album, 18 songs total, 17 of which were recorded July 21, 2000 at England’s Wembley Stadium (“Helter Skelter,” the final track, was culled from an April 16, 2000 show in Milwaukee), is representative of the band’s much-hyped 2000 world tour. Unfortunately, it seems that Oasis really should have released a live album four years ago when the band’s skill and notoriety were at a pinnacle. At the same time, Familiar to Millions hardly functions as a greatest hits collection, considering that five songs are collected from Standing on the Shoulders… and two others are dull and messy covers. So, why put out this album now? The answer is basically because Oasis can.

They really do not care about their current status in the music industry, and it goes along perfectly with the unabashed, arrogant confidence that the band has always assumed, which also ultimately led to the sharp divide between love and hate for them. This album is not called “Live at Wembley” for a reason: it boasts itself as being “Familiar to Millions.” However, familiarity does not translate into quality.

The biggest problem with this live recording is lead singer Liam Gallagher. Though his voice leaps off earlier records with an unavoidable edge of enthusiasm and power, here his voice sounds hoarse and lifeless; Liam is apparently remarkably disinterested in having 70,000 people chant his name. This lack of vigor is a sharp contrast to the musicianship and production, which is mostly tight, sharp, and energetic.

As a result of this disparity, the vast majority of the songs come off flat, with Liam listlessly dragging a fairly excited band through an array of hits like “Wonderwall,” “Champagne Supernova,” and “Live Forever,” all of which are both intriguing and moving in their original studio versions; the musicianship essentially fails to overcome Liam’s boredom throughout much of Familiar to Millions.

Nonetheless, there are select moments when everything seems to come together, and nostalgia for 1995 blooms. Of course in a live context, these moments occur when Noel’s vibrant vocals take lead, as on “Don’t Look Back in Anger,” “Step Out,” and the chorus of “Acquiesce,” which especially captures the carefree, “live for the moment” attitude that once made Oasis so wonderful. Noel seems genuinely interested in sincerely and properly performing these songs, which are completely composed by him anyway. Liam cannot seem to manage the same.

As for the covers, one of Neil Young’s “Hey Hey, My My {Into the Black)” and the other of The Beatles’s “Helter Skelter,” Noel cannot vocally save what amounts to some annoyingly uninspired arrangements; Oasis is clearly better at using the influence of The Beatles for their own creative means than outright playing one of their songs.

Great live albums should stand on their own as alternatives to studio recordings and examples of how a band can work effectively in two mediums. In the end, there is really no reason to listen to Familiar to Millions instead of Definitely Maybe or What’s the Story (Morning Glory)?. Though they once did have something interesting and vital to contribute, it certainly appears that now Oasis’s current work will not “live forever.”

April 15, 2013 Posted by | Oasis Familiar To Millions | | Leave a comment

Beady Eye Different Gear, Still Speeding (2011)


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.

April 14, 2013 Posted by | Beady Eye Different Gear Still Speeding | , | Leave a comment

Oasis The Masterplan (1998)


‘The Masterplan’ was Oasis’ fourth album. All songs on this album are b-sides, because it hasn’t always been easy to hear Oasis’ ‘b’ sides outside Britain. There are b-sides of some of Oasis’ greatest hits, like ‘Some Might Say’, ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’. The opening track, ‘Acquiesce’, which is the b-side of ‘Some Might Say’ is backed by the main lyrics of ‘Morning Glory’ at the beginning. It contained an awesome, blazing guitar riff and it should’ve been an ‘a’ side.

Liam sings the verse for this one, but Noel sings the chorus, because Liam couldn’t reach the high notes. The next track, ‘Underneath The Sky’, had a happy-wanderer feel and was all sung by Liam. It was the ‘b’ side to ‘Don’t Look Back In Anger’. The next track, ‘Talk Tonight’, is an acoustic, beautifully tender song and made up the ‘b’ side to ‘Some Might Say’. But track four, ‘Going Nowhere’, is the oldest song on this album. It was written around 1990, but wasn’t recorded until after their third album ‘Be Here Now’.

Noel and drummer Alan White are the only Oasis members involved, with piano, brass and horn players to bring a vaguely Burt Bacharach atmosphere. The ‘a’ side to this song is ‘Stand By Me’. Track five, ‘Fade Away’, was a punk-rock song which made up the ‘b’ side to ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol. Paul Weller (lead guitarist out of The Jam) turned up to play ‘Champagne Supernova’ with Oasis which features on their second album ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’ He has turned up again, playing the wordless ‘The Swamp Song’.

It is constant guitar solos and thunderous drumming, which made up the b-side to the legendary ‘Wonderwall’. The next track, ‘I am The Walrus’, was played live and written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. It was played live because The Beatles had never performed this song live. The a-side was ‘Cigarettes & Alcohol’. Another b-side to ‘Cigaretts & Alcohol’ was ‘Listen Up’, it used to boast a solo much longer than the one you hear in this version, but Liam wanted it shorter. Noel disagreed, but four years, Liam got his own way.

‘Rockin Chair’ was the b-side to ‘Roll With It’, and it actually sounded familiar to it’s a-side. Paul Weller’s favourite Oasis track is the acoustic ‘Half The World Away’ which made up the b-side to the acoustic ‘Whatever’. Another b-side to ‘Whatever’ was ‘(It’s Good) To Be Free’, which contained more fierce guitars than the previous track. Another b-side that should’ve been an a-side is named ‘Stay Young’.

Noel disliked the b-side to ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’ The Thin Lizzy influenced ‘Headshrinker’ was the b-side of ‘Some Might Say’ in 1995 and it was written about three years earlier, during the band’s punkier phase. Lastly, the best track on this album is the same name as this album, ‘The Masterplan’. This acoustic song contained smooth bass-lines and Noel sung this one. No guesses what the a-side to this song is, it’s ‘Wonderwall’. The sound was amazing, and it was only b-sides!

If you thought Noel’s song writing was great, just wait until you buy this album. Okay, it might only be b-sides, but whenever Noel writes a new song, everyone will expect that song to be great. Credit to Noel for his song writing, but credit to Liam for singing most of them. His voice suits the music well. But there are arguments about which Gallagher sings better. I’m not really sure, they are as good as each other.

Each ‘b’ sides were of the highest quality. Technically, this is a b-album, and just like ‘Definitely Maybe’ and ‘(What’s The Story) Morning Glory?’, this album is phenomenal. The most impressive songs on this album are ‘The Swamp Song’, ‘Headshrinker’ and ‘The Masterplan’. What I love about this album was that Oasis had put a lot of thought into their b-sides. I don’t hate anything about this album. If this album got stolen/lost, I might consider buying it again. To end this review, ‘The Masterplan’ contains superb b-sides which also makes this album superb.

April 13, 2013 Posted by | Oasis The Masterplan | | Leave a comment