You all know the story well enough by now. After 18 years of noise and confusion, Oasis came to a shambolic, messy, demise backstage at a gig in Paris in 2009. Following Noel Gallagher‘s departure it came as no surprise that brother Liam and the remaining members of the band decided to carry on without him. Despite being on the wrong side of 30, Liam remains ‘mad for it’ and has not wasted much time in rounding up his comrades to bash out an album under their new name Beady Eye. ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding‘ is the debut LP, but does it live up to its telling title and the expectation Liam has bestowed upon it?
Any clued up fan of Liam Gallagher will know that much of his grandiose warblings in the press are to be taken with not so much a pinch of salt, but rather a truckload of the stuff, the particular quote in question on this occasion is his description of Beady Eye’s album being “better than ‘Definitely Maybe‘”, which somewhat unsurprisingly it is not. Beady Eye’s debut album should be judged on its own merits, however unavoidable the Oasis comparisons are. It’s a solid effort that may surprise as many as it disappoints. Either way it is going to make people take notice and dig it out to make their own minds up on how Liam fairs up without his older brother.
The album opens with ‘Four Letter Word‘ – a kick in the balls, volcanic explosion of menacing confidence and sneering brilliance. Its earth shattering, dramatic synths of Kasabian-esque proportions make this the album’s perfect statement of intent. Laden with hooks and lyrics that only Liam can deliver with such attitude, this track sets the bar and is surprisingly one of the albums few heavier moments. “Nothing ever lasts forever” stands out as a particularly poignant lyric, regardless of who or what the song is about.
‘Millionaire‘ follows and is a stark contrast to the album’s opener, awash with acoustic guitars and a gently vocal delivery. Its their nod to The La‘s and should not be left off your summer BBQ iPod playlist. Only two tracks into the album it is evident that this is hinting toward being one of variety and free of any uniformed set of songs or strict theme. ‘The Roller‘, a song title that had been knocking around in the Oasis camp since 2001 is ‘Instant Karma‘ meets ‘All You Need Is Love‘ topped off with an incredibly catchy chorus of nonsensical lyrics that somehow work. On an album full of cheeky steals it is perhaps the most obvious one. It doesn’t really convince on the first listen, however, after a few plays you warm to a track that certainly benefits from Liam’s fantastic vocal that elevates the song from mediocrity to ‘quite good’.
‘Beatles and Stones‘ is the song that initially sparked grave concerns when the album’s tracklisting was published. The fear was there that Liam had written a song that would mention all of his favourite Beatles and Stones songs, something which Noel alleges he did about Oasis and was thankfully never recorded. Thank God the nightmare was not released and it is actually a good stab at writing an old school mod rocker song. Whilst it isn’t the best tune on the album, it does bounce along very similarly to The Who‘s ‘My Generation‘ and showcases a bluesy side to the band which pops up all over the record.
The next three tracks highlight a weaker spot of what is overall a good album. ‘Wind Up Dream‘s versus are impressive and have a likable groove about them, but it doesn’t seem to fulfill its potential. ‘Bring The Light‘, the first release from the album, is a joyous fifties influenced rock n’ roll song, beaming pianos and female backing vocals, yet it still seems to be missing something to take it to that next level. ‘For Anyone‘ is nice enough, but is much like the one who came to the party that nobody the next day could even remember showing up. Again, Liam continues to impress with his vocals, demonstrating an ability to go places with his voice that for whatever reason he hasn’t done in years.
‘Kill For a Dream‘ stands up head and shoulders above many of the previous songs in the first half of the record, with shades of ‘All The Young Dudes‘ complete with “na na na’s”, that no LP involving Liam is complete without. The bands love for The Beatles can be heard all over ‘Different Gear Still Speeding‘ and is strikingly evident on the chorus for guitarist Gem Archer‘s, ‘Standing On The Edge Of The Noise‘ – a rocker that mirrors ‘Get Back‘ and will no doubt be an absolute monster in the live set. ‘Wigwam‘? Now we’re talking. The second half of the album veers into a mellow direction that is more ambitious, and if you’ll excuse the pun, a different gear. It’s the album’s spaced out moment of psychedelia, floating along until it builds up to an unexpected drum break that concludes with a huge climax with Liam in falsetto repeatedly singing “I’m coming up.” Spine tingling doesn’t even come close. It is truly something special, and is a turning point on the record.
Producer Steve Lilywhite has done an absolutely fantastic job in bringing out the best in Liam’s voice. He has brought his vocals to the forefront and as Liam has mentioned in interviews, he has been singing without a band behind him. No longer is he shouting over the guitars to be heard. With this new approach to his delivery he is able to increase his range and get more out of his voice, avoiding that old rasp and tackling the ballads better than he has done since the mid-Nineties. This can make an average song into a good one, and again highlights the importance of Liam’s vocals above any other talent in the band.
The last of the heavier moments on ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding‘ is ‘Three Ring Circus‘ – another bluesy number with a catchy chorus. Within the context of the LP it fits perfectly and should have the crowd punching the air or at least raising an overpriced pint. It gives the album a welcome slap in the face after the atmospheric ‘Wigwam‘ and allows the band to indulge in some rousing guitar licks.
Beady Eye save the big guns for the end, with two closing tracks that will separate the men from the boys. ‘The Beat Goes On‘ is arguably the best track on the album and is the closest they get to an anthem. It’s got The Beatles all over it, plodding along akin to ‘Free As a Bird‘, and is Liam’s finest vocal on the entire record. The backing vocals are chillingly good and add another layer to the song which makes it that extra bit special. Its melody is a testament to the unlocked genius of Andy Bell, who’s responsible for the best songs on the record. ‘The Morning Son‘ echoes The Jam‘s classic love song, ‘English Rose‘. One thing you can say about this band is that they choose the best to pinch from. Lyrically, this without question points towards Noel. “You’re blinded by what you idolise”, and “he’s in my mind, he’s in my soul, he’s even in my rock 'n' roll” leave little to the imagination. Starting off with a very stripped down sound, just Liam and an acoustic guitar, it keeps going until its epic finale of crashing drums and strings over the “morning son has rose” refrain. Few bands these days get this idea right, Elbow being one of them.
Steve Lilywhite has succeeded in bringing out the best in every member of the band and using that for the benefit of the greater good. This collaborative dynamic within Beady Eye bodes well for their future and means that a shortage of songs should never be a problem for them. Beady Eye probably won’t be as big or successful as Oasis. Yet on the basis of ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding‘, there are signs of a band who will go on to make great records, and that’s all we can ask of them.