15 March, 2011

Album Review - Beady Eye, Different Gear, Still Speeding

Finally, I decide to tackle some music from 2011!  Getting with the times seemed appropriate after the many looks back into history that we’ve offered, and it seems unfair to keep adding so many older acts without looking at where we are now.  Also, it’s my way of appeasing you for being late with last week’s review. 

Let’s get this out of the way:  I love Oasis.  To me, they belong in the pantheon of the greatest rock bands.  It just makes you feel good when you hear their music, which is a quality not every band has, and their output during the 90’s was absolutely spot-on.  Yes, that includes Be Here Now, which is a criminally overlooked record and will one day be reviewed in greater detail here.  But for right now, Oasis no longer exists as a unit.  Noel Gallagher is holed away somewhere working on the album that’s going to show that he never needed his mates and “our kid” to fill out his vision.  This is going to be incredibly hard to do because the music of Beady Eye shows just how alive Liam Gallagher still sounds as he moves into his third decade(!) as one of rock’s most visceral frontmen, with the former rhythm section of Oasis filling out and making this an honest-to-God band.  Noel had better watch out when he finally releases his latest tribute to the Stones and the Stone Roses, because while Different Gear, Still Speeding isn’t the second coming of Oasis, it sounds more fun than the psychedelic Dig Out Your Soul does in terms of homage to British gods.  You may need a healthy helping of lager to really think that this is a classic, but you’ll have a good time no matter whether you listen to this sober or otherwise.  

In a way, both blogs that I’m releasing today (see the takedown of the Rolling Stones midpoint album Their Satanic Majesties Request here) deal with the Beatles, albeit in their absence.  What might be a more apt comparison would be the theme of moving on to newer sounds, away from your perceived competition and into your own skin.  The Stones were wearing their Beatles influence on their sleeves and it didn’t fit, so they shed their skin and went to a grittier sound that suited their songs.  Beady Eye doesn’t really eschew the influence of the Beatles or the Rolling Stones, but what they do is add a taste of 50’s-style Jerry Lee Lewis into their repertoire, especially during “Bring the Light.”  While it’s not their best song at all, Beady Eye sound happy here, which is more than what Noel has sounded like since Don’t Believe the Truth.  This isn’t music meant to make you think.  If you want that, Radiohead has released an amazing new album called The King of Limbs, so feel free to locate that one.  Instead, what Liam, Andy Bell, Gem Archer, and Chris Sharrock have created is the sound of a group of older musicians breaking out of their shells and laying the groundwork for a future of their own making, even if it hearkens back to the past a little too often.  

The album kicks off with the best song not being used for a James Bond soundtrack, the string-laden “Four Letter Word.”  When Liam sings the chorus, he puts some extra spit on the lyric, “Nothing lasts forever!”  You can’t help but feel that this is him putting his two fingers into the air towards Noel, and moving forward.  As far as rushes go, with the guitar and drums leading the charge, it’s hard to beat, and will probably get you speeding down the highway.  Yet you can’t help but wish that the next song would be more propulsive to match.  “Millionaire” is a fine track, but beyond the guitar lick there’s not much there. You won't be humming it to work, and you start to wonder if the boys have lost the plot already.

“The Roller” quickly remedies that problem, giving the listener a chorus that will stick in their brains as they walk to and from the tube station throughout the day.  How could it not?  It deliberately steals from “All You Need is Love” and “Instant Karma!”  But this is nothing new to the brothers Gallagher, as the Lennon-McCartney songwriting partnership was always their ideal sound and garden for their best songs.  Go back and listen to "Let There Be Love" if you don't believe me.  That’d be fine if they only did that briefly on the album, but Liam and Gem Archer take their love too far with the next track, an on-the-nose spot called “Beatles and Stones.”  Nothing sticks out here, nor in the next track “Wind Up Dream.”  Only when we start banging on the pianos for “Bring the Light” and hear Liam scream “Baby come on!” do we get that rush that came from hearing a top Oasis song on the radio. 

The second half of the album begins to deal with psychedelic sounds, which would suit this band well were it not for the freshness that comes from the top half of the album.  “Kill for a Dream” is a pretty compelling argument that the band is fine without Noel, and if this is the quality of the material that all of them composed during their time in Oasis, I’m hopeful that we’ll get a legitimate classic album from them in the next few years.  However, slower tracks like “Wigwam” and “Three Ring Circus” seem to place the band within the White Album period, which would suit the band fine were it not for the fact that it saps the energy from their playing.  This is a band best suited to raucous bangers, not sitting back and contemplating the day.  Didn’t you once say that you wondered how Radiohead could write a “fookin’ song about a fookin’ tree,” Liam?  You’re getting closer to that territory here.  

So, how best to review this record?  I’d say it’s pretty simple, with few modern flourishes that stand out as a work of progressive art.  Instead, Liam’s drive to retain a wild rock n’ roll spirit has given us a great energy, though not many with genuine hooks.  A good beginning, with hope for a better future, but a merely okay album for right now.

Let's talk a little bit about why the state of music in 2011 calls for the existence of Beady Eye.  The music industry is in a terrible spot these days, with record labels falling by the wayside and everybody unsure of what the best method for distribution is today.  Perhaps that’s the greatest danger for Beady Eye, and why the band may want to look to the future and try to craft another sound for themselves.  However, I see this not as a way of taking over the world, but rather Liam, Andy, and Gem to finally break out of the hold that Noel’s influence and songwriting placed on them.  No longer do they need to worry about crafting songs that sound like Oasis; rather, they can just make music and have it sound like fun.  Honestly, when was the last time that you heard that being done on the modern scene?  Maybe it won’t set the charts on fire, and there might be far fewer people that show up without an epic of “Champagne Supernova”-sized proportions, but you have to admit that singing along to “The Roller” will do well at a bar or in a friend’s car.  If that’s true, then Beady Eye has already done what Noel would always do, which was craft a song that would stick in your head for years at a time.  Maybe going back to the past is the only thing worth doing since the present and the future seems to suck for musicians.  And maybe that's what the industry is doing all along.  Retreating to former sounds and trying to recapture the glory of the past is what most bands do when they've been around the block awhile, but it almost never works out the same way twice.  So Beady Eye may be the world's greatest Beatles tribute band, but we live in a world where that may be necessary.

This week I've added the streaming album to the playlist, so listen in its entirety and see what you think about it:


But I know you, fine reader, and you’re probably going to stick with Oasis before you take on Beady Eye.  That’s fine, but you had better start appreciating just how good the band could be before they imploded.  Here’s a list of the Top Ten underrated Liam-sung Oasis songs, just so you can hear how necessary he was to the band.  Most people have Definitely Maybe or (What’s the Story)Morning Glory?, so I tried to avoid those albums and key into later singles, album tracks, or B-sides that really exemplify how effective he is as a frontman.

1.  My Big Mouth

2.  Let's All Make Believe
3.  Listen Up
4.  Roll It Over (just one of the best Oasis songs period, and their most overlooked track)

5.  Rockin' Chair
6.  I'm Outta Time
7.  Love Like a Bomb
8.  It's Gettin' Better (Man!)
9.  Stop Crying Your Heart Out
10. Fade In-Out (with Johnny Depp on slide guitar!  Don't ask me why...)

Now, after listening to that, why not give Beady Eye a try?  Don’t look back in anger, the future’s calling your name. 


Jake said...

(sorry, i just saw this. my bad.)

moody, at some point i'm sure you and i will agree on an album. unfortunately, today is not the day.

i would first like to start by saying i have an undying and unbridled hatred for oasis.

i hate the fact they have so many fans who love their music and shell out the bread to go to a show and they can't keep from fighting for two hours. they have ruined many, many shows because of their selfishness. you aren't there for yourselves, you are there to put on a show for the people who came to see your whiny asses.

i hate the way the way their music is so (can't think of a word for the condescending noises coming out of my mouth, so imagine a crying baby mixed with the sound of a duck being slowly ground up in a wood chipper). i just plain don't like them.

however, i put all that aside for the sake of objectivity and listened to this album. i think i've said this before, but in case i haven't, i will run the risk of repeating myself. i always listen to the albums being reviewed before reading said review. that way i form my own opinions first. so when i read your review you said many of the things i was thinking, but you took them as a positive. i did not.

this album is a cover album with different lyrics. the opener is 'live and let die.' the second track is a watered down 'with a little help from my friends.' jerry lee lewis should lay the wood for the abortion of 'bring the light.'

correct me if i am wrong, but you were very disparaging of the stones for ripping off the beatles. but here, you are praising oasis jr. for the same thing.

as far as the lyrics go, i was underwhelmed at the elementary content. there just wasn't a song you could sink your teeth into, or that sunk its teeth into you. none seemed to stand out or have a lasting effect.

maybe this review was doomed from the start. i say i tried to be objective, but some of my hatred for oasis seeped in. or, perhaps, your love of oasis seeped into your review. this is like me trying to be objective reviewing a springsteen album. never going to happen.

beady eye talked of its ability to stand the test the time in beatles and stones. i really, really hope that doesn't happen.

Jake said...

by the way, the blog tried to fuck me again. it said it couldn't process my request. luckily, learning from past mistakes, i copied the article before i tried to post it. this could get frustrating, however.

Moodicarus said...

Your framing of Oasis's behavior regarding live performances are actually a selling point for many people (okay, rock critics) because they seem to suggest that Oasis is more dangerous than they really are, particularly the threat of not appearing. Guns n'Roses still pull this crap but the current lineup still tours to millions of fans.

A cover album with different lyrics...again, I don't think that Oasis the 2nd ripping off the Beatles in 2011 is the same thing as the Stones ripping off Sgt. Pepper in '67 was. At least Beady Eye does it with panache, while the Stones sound like they just want to be done with the song so they can score. How you didn't like "Kill for a Dream" or "Four Letter Word" (which may bear some similarity to "Live and Let Die," admittedly) is beyond me. But I can say that I am normally drawn to passion in music, at least when it's done correctly. My Strokes blog takes the piss out of some of them, which is why a lot of people were shocked that I'd go that far. I can be objective about the band, but I don't think this album is worthy of critical disdain. It's a good, promising first album, but not a life-changer like Definitely Maybe or Morning Glory.