Friday 25 March 2011

Beady Eye "Different Gear, Still Speeding" (2011) (Revised Review 2015)

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Beady Eye “Different Gear, Still Speeding” (2011)

Four Letter Word/Millionaire/The Roller/Beatles and Stones/Wind-Up Dream/Bring The Light/For Anyone/Kill For A Dream/Standing On The Edge Of The Noise/Wigwam/Three-Ring Circus/The Beat Goes On/The Morning Son

'It's not the end of the world, oh no - it's not even the end of the day'

Before the tangerine (or satsuma? Actually one recent interview has suggested it was a plum...) had even hit its target backstage in Paris at what turned out to be Oasis' last gig, Liam was hatching plans for a new band. The Gallagher brothers had becoming more and more tense around each other, even by their standards, with tempers flaring often during the making of their last album 'Dig Out Your Soul' and the surrounding tour. Though Gem tried to pull his two friends apart (and Andy kept as far out of it as possible in the hope the row would fizzle out) all four realised that Oasis was probably over at this point, with one flare too many. Noel beat his comrades and new drummer Chris Sharrock (who replaced Zak Starkey for that last tour, another largely innocent victim of the Gallagher fights) by announcing in the press that he could never work with Liam again and intended to go solo; by then 'Beady Eye' were already rehearsing in private, determined to finish Oasis' mission to keep real music by real musicians in the charts where real people could hear it. Given that most Oasis records had taken the better part of three or four years to make, they were bouncing back remarkably quickly too, without even a year gone before this album's release (helped by the fact that one or two songs had been written for the last Oasis album but left off for space reasons). 'Different Gear, Still Speeding' both did and didn't sound like Oasis' natural inheritance - and did and didn't move fans the same way.
 That's their history, now ours: Alan's Album Archives has been going through difficult times recently, what with the job centre trying to shut it down, a slowing hit rate and some mouldy old comments (editor's note: and that goes for the 2011 original and this revised review in 2015, written after a particularly harrowing day at the jobcentre when all hell broke loose though, luckily, no fruit was thrown my end- what is it with this album?!) One of the key reasons I've fought so hard and so unreasonably to keep this site going, other than stubborn-ness and stupidity,  is so that as well as discussing which disappointing Beach Boys and Moody Blues albums just about trump each other, or how great a record that never made the charts in 1967 might be, I can alert fellow fans to new releases like this one which have been ignored because of fashions and history, not music or power. Sadly this fantastic album is currently under the radar at the moment (top 10 for one week only at a peak of only #3) because Oasis and guitar groups in general just aren't what people think constitutes good music in 2011 (and, my later friends reading this a few years on, because 'Noel' has been judged to be the group's 'talent', with his records getting the bigger sales and almost all the applause for reasons that escape me). Had the cleverly titled 'Different Gear, Still Speeding' come out in 1996, at the height of the band’s fame, it would have been applauded as the perfect mix of modern music and old, the sort of timeless hybrid we love here at Alan’s Album Archives and keep asking our artists for, celebrated for taking Oasis' old sound with a dash of mellow melancholy and a bag full of surprises. Had Liam and co come out wearing a bunch of nonsense bandanas and baseball caps and sang nonsense rap-pop songs using some noisy incessant drum machine like every other band of 2011, doubtless that would have sold just as well too. But beady ears will surely resurrect this album in years to come as one of the 'lost gems' of our times, confusing future historians as to how anyone missed their obvious worth when their contemporary albums rot away for being too close to their time zones, rather than being timeless (the way that 'The Village Green Preservation Society' and The Who's Quadrophenia and even, yes 'Standing On The Shoulders Of Giants' are becoming accepted as career peaks rather than as out-of-tune-with-their-time failures) (2015 me again: I will stake Max The Singing Dog's hat on the fact that hardly anybody will still be playing 'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' in another fifty years, but somebody somewhere might just be playing 'Different Gear' for the same reasons: Noel's album sold so well because it sounds vaguely like everything else around in 2012 - and in a few years' time, trust me, that won't be seen as a good thing).

In fact, it’s exactly the sort of album we urged Oasis to make during our review for their last album ‘Dig Out Your Soul’ and it’s so much better than that curiously lumpy and tired CD. The band have got mellow, without going weak; their work has become thoughtful without losing any of the old enthusiasm; the 1960s and 70s influences are now worn with much more pride without the band plundering any line, riff or idea quite so obviously off the Beatles' clothes lines. The songs are intelligent and thoughtful, full of concepts like guilt shame and apology that were so rare (though not completely alien) to Oasis, still rinsed through with touches of the same old arrogance (even Oasis never claimed 'we'll stand the test of time, like Beatles and Stones!') The 'wall of noise' guitar sound, which was so central to Oasis' career but was at risk of keeping them firmly stuck in the past, is now finally gone in the biggest shake up of the band member's sound since day 'Giants' (apart from two slightly dodgy repeats) replaced by recordings that are either ear-catchingly sparse or mind-numbingly epic. Perhaps the biggest difference compared to 'Soul', though, is the optimism, something long missing from the old Oasis sound ('Be Here Now'?!) Instead of sounding like another old door shutting for good, as per that angry snarling farewell, this is a four and twenty corridors of possibilities being explored little bit by little bit, the band racing each other to find out who can add a new element to the band's sound first.

Despite all the sense of 'new' about this album, though, next comes the inevitable Beatles comparison. Liam was asked what he'd been listening to while making this album and snarled that none of recent music had caught his ear at all (no surprises there), before remembering that the last records he'd really got into were the deluxe Paul McCartney releases, albums he'd never heard before and which had got him interested in hearing the others and which he'd enjoyed with the rest of the band (this despite the fact that Noel can be seen clutching a copy of 'Red Rose Speedway' at their local Sifters' record shop in the music video for 'Shakermaker', so that's at least one he'd have heard!) Liam was particularly fond of 'Ram', but gave a 'thumbs up' for 'McCartney' and 'McCartney II' as well as the inevitable 'Band On The Run'  ('Ram' hadn't even come out in the series at this point). As ever the fab four make for the perfect analogy: the early McCartney solo albums were lampooned by critics then though actually rather respected now, more for the fact that 'he' broke up the Beatles (even though revelations later made it clear he was backed into a corner and had no choice; if anyone broke up The Beatles it was manager Allen Klien and if any Beatle broke up The Beatles it was Lennon, the first to ask for a 'divorce'; similarly, though Liam broke his brother's guitar, it seems from most accounts that his brother lashed out with a bowl of fruit first and if Liam was really as impossible to work with as all that it seems funny the rest of Beady Eye were so eager to take the younger brother's side and form a band with him; a band that, like 'Wings', were more of a band than Lennon's Plastic Ono Band/High Flying Birds ever were even if the press only ever seemed to want to talk to the 'star'). Though Lennon got all the attention and the early album sales, as well as all the media attention for his band-baiting songs, McCartney's records were quieter and kinder, though still with bite. There's a song on 'Ram' named 'Three Legs' that seems to have been the template for most of the record: sneery and sarcastic but in a very different way to the Oasis sneers of old; there's even one song 'Three Ring Circus' that sounds like a dead copy of it (the original McCartney song was about how the other Beatles could never re-form without him as the press wanted - the idea being that a greyhound who has only three legs can never run as fast as even a mutt with four; Beady Eye's is about how they have three attractions now rather than just one, a comment either on Noel's status as the lone star of his band or his preference for hogging the credits). Sadly Liam doesn't seem to have gotten to 'Wings Wildlife' yet, but if he does then he might recognise a lot of this album's similarity to that record's closer 'Dear Friend', written as an outstretched hand of peace to Lennon to stop the fighting; what impressed me even more than the changes in musical style and consistency on this album is the amount of songs where the band try to make amends in song. 'Kill For A Dream' is a very similar song by Andy Bell about how life is too short for regrets, Gem's The Beat Goes On' is about trying to mend the burning bridges behind the band and Liam's own 'The Morning Son' is about never escaping a large influence whose shadow seems to have a monogrammed eyebrow ('He's in my heart, he's in my soul, he's even in my rock and roll').

Fans have been spotting all sorts of references on this album to Oasis events past and present – oddly most of them kind. Liam may start off cackling in ‘Four Letter Word’ about how the end of the band was getting him down and sounds downright happy that ‘nothing lasts forever’ before moving on to ‘3-Ring Circus’ which joins in the laughter but is more about the excitement at starting again than bitter regrets about the past and ‘Wind-Up Dream’ sounds like a band in denial about breaking up, unwilling to think about what comes next, a glorious adrenalin rush on a come-down. However ‘Kill For A Dream’ sounds genuinely concerned about what happens to Noel, Andy saying that he’s making the first move to reconciliation as a 'dream rebounds' in a most spectacular way and that 'I'm here if you want to call'. It's worth adding a bit of background here: though the lack of communication between the brothers is no surprise and Gem has managed to stay friends with both camps, Andy and Noel appear to have not spoken since the split. Noel, for his part, was fuming at the way Bell stayed out of the fight without picking sides (though from what he's said it seem Andy sensed the band's unhappiness and need for a catalyst to get things into the open and allow the brothers to go their separate ways on 'equal' terms), though there seems little the bassist could have done - for his part he must have been sick of the fighting too.  The fact Andy is the first to offer a pace branch though (and one that Liam sings to boot) speaks volumes about the band's most sensitive soul and the effect losing his 'day job' and best pals had on him (this is not the sound of a man who doesn't care for an argument, rather one who cares too much). The same for Liam to some extent: though ‘Wigwam’ is more ambiguous it too is a fascinating song about trying to take back arguments and make your peace with someone; ‘The Beat Goes On’ tries to make sense of a problem and decides that ‘in the eye of the storm there’s no right or wrong’, a surprisingly mature statement from a band that’s always been fragile and yet has only split comparatively recently; finally the closing track ‘Morning Son’ is about facing up to responsibility and telling someone you genuinely love that you can’t be with them anymore, that you’re travelling separate paths. When heard together the lyrics on this album are fascinating, with a depth and thought we never usually hear on Oasis albums for such an extended period of time. We’ve also never had such an extended ‘discussion’ of one idea before, with so many songs based around the themes of renewal and starting over again: almost all the tracks deal with the theme somewhere or another and for all their wide-spanning variety each one 'sounds' like it belongs on this album somehow. Admittedly it's not quite perfect: though there's less 'Oasis polish' across this album, there's still just that little bit too much for a band who sound at their best aggressive and live, with the 'Live At Abbey Road' TV performances of three of this album's songs the definitive way of hearing them (alongside a few nicely rough and ready radio sessions: something Oasis never really did after taking off so suddenly back in 1994, but have been the making of the new band recently). Only two tracks really don’t work – the most Oasis sounding songs here – and I wish the band had replaced 'Four Letter Word' and 'Edge Of The Noise'  with the two superlative tracks from their recent CD EP (free with the ‘News of The World’) which would have added even more strings to their bow: a storming cover of ‘Sons Of The Stage’ (a far more thought out and subtle rocker hat's as hard hitting as either of these lesser songs)) and the simple tender ballad ‘The World Outside My Room’, which sounds so like an early Noel ballad circa 1995 it’s hard to believe it’s Liam singing, with less 'sneer' in his voice than ever before.

Yes we miss Noel’s presence, which was toweringly huge in the band’s early days, but to be honest Liam’s been filling in the song-writing gap quite nicely on the band’s past few albums and other Oasis members Gem and Andy were coming along nicely too, especially the latter who is often the quiet ‘star’ on the band’s last three records. In an impressive display of band solidarity missing from most of the 'old' group's career, there aren't even credits for the individual writers: instead Liam, Gem and Andy have grown to the point where they're 'free' of the need to play out their respective roles (Gem the traditionalist, Andy the moody introvert and Liam ping-ponging from the punkiest rockers to the tenderest ballads). With more democracy than the last two albums (when Noel wrote more, despite having less to say with each passing album) Andy and Gem get four songs each and Liam five - and I'll bet on first listening that you can't guess who wrote which (spoiler: it's not common knowledge so if you're already on your second listen or more here's the score: Andy wrote the Oasisy opener 'Four Letter Word', the cute mid-60s bopper 'Millionaire', the wistful 'Kill For A Dream' (so similar to 'I Will Keep The Dream Alive', the highlight of 2005 Oasis record 'Don't Believe The Truth'). Gem wrote the album's catchiest pop song 'The Roller', the funky 'Wind Up Dream', the other Oasisy song 'Standing On The Edge Of The Noise' and the snarling 'Three Ring Circus'. Liam weighs in with the self-aggarndising 60s rocker 'Beatles and Stones', Jerry Lee Lewis style retro rocker 'Bring The Light', the folky 'Songbird' like 'For Anyone', the gorgeous epic 'Wigwam' (which, talking of Paul McCartney, is a salute/rip-off of one of his greatest songs 'Coming Up' on the lovely 'Hey Jude' like fade) and the tripped out run down finale 'The Morning Son'.

Most of the reviews I’ve seen grudgingly give Beady Eye the thumbs up, say there’s hardly anything bad on it and plenty of good stuff and then simply gives the band three stars out of habit (the last time Oasis got a unanimously good review was in 1995 when they were still on the road to stardom, something that says more about our media than the band themselves), sometimes even two. Some of them attack this record without actually saying what they're attacking it for, except for not being 'Oasis' enough (the same reason they attacked the last three band albums). Not for the first or last time on this list, don’t listen to the critics. ‘Beady Eye’ is the best Oasis-related release since at least ‘Heathen Chemistry’ in 2002, perhaps even ‘The Masterplan’, because like all good releases it’s growing on me the more I play it and even the first time round it felt like I was listening to a long-lost friend. Beady Eye might never have the same impact that Oasis did, it’s hard to imagine any band in our splintered modern day reflecting the world the way the Gallagher brothers did. As a quick reminder, the band came along at a similar time to now, when rock was dead in a world of synthesisers and about as unpopular as The Spice Girls are now. The band weren’t alone in re-shaping music in the 1990s but they were the loudest about doing what they did and  - despite all the kicking the band got from 1997 onwards – every band even vaguely related to rock music during the past 15 years owes them something, from stolen guitar riffs to attitudes to a nod for breaking the door down for them to step into. Beady Eye are in a curiously similar position to Oasis in 1994, much hyped and with much resting on what they have to prove – the band have really taken a gamble releasing an album so unlike everything else being made in today’s Glee-filled High School Musical climate, with only two examples that really match the stomp of the Oasis days of old (the worst two songs, in fact).

Reviewers with faulty ears say this album merely carries on the same Oasis sound as before – but they’re clearly deaf, suffering memory loss and/or been spending too long reviewing solo Spice Girls singles, because one of the greatest things about this album is how well the music fits that title: that the band have most definitely marched further down their long and winding road, without switching direction entirely and losing what made their old sound great. Noel’s songs, even his noisiest, are primarily about melody, with tunes that sound like they’ve been around for generations. Liam’s work, as well as the other two to some extent, are all about rhythm, with the chord changes, melody and lyrics fitted around the strutting tempo of each track. It’s been fascinating to me on the past few Oasis albums how different the two Gallagher brother’s style are – the two brothers are only five years apart in age and had very similar musical influences growing up - although the last few Oasis albums have slowly had Liam morphing into Noel ('Songbird' 'Born On A Different Cloud' 'I'm Outta Time') and Noel inching into Liam ('Part Of The Queue' 'Waiting For The Rapture'). I can’t wait to see what direction Noel’s going to go in with his first album (allegedly recorded already but delayed till at least the end of the year so that people don’t compare the Gallagher’s albums directly) but I bet it will sound very different to this one and indeed quite different to any of his Oasis work (2015 editor's note: yes, that's a prediction we actually got right - for once - and 'High Flying Birds' and especially 'Chasing Yesterday's are very much based around the rhythms; that's why the four Oasis outtakes on Noel's first record stand out so much because they're still all about the melody primarily).

Most people were expecting Beady Eye to continue the snarling aggressive style of 'Dig Out Your Soul' but actually the band have gone in the opposite direction: the calm after the storm. One other point worth raising is how few rockers there are on this album – only five out of thirteen; two of them oddball 1950s/early 60s throwbacks, one a sneering song more like Paul McCartney’s early work and just two traditional all-out Oasis type rockers. And, interestingly, it’s these two songs that work least well on this album – the further down the road of a folky 60s flavour the band go, the better the results for me and the bigger they push the boat out past the old Oasis 'wham bam' approach the better the tracks sound. For instance the epic four minute Hey Jude-like reprise on the end of ‘Wigwam’ is completely utterly different to anything Liam’s ever been involved with before and it follows one of the bleakest, gut-wrenching lyrics of his career, staying with the song long enough to pick the narrator up from the gutter to the heights of ecstasy across seven glorious minutes. Though not every track is quite as colossally great as this one (best Oasis-related song since...'Little By Little?') and the cover art is pretty awful (fake Victoriana, presumably based around the 'Three Ring Circus' motif and the 'real' reason many curious fans decided not to buy this record, which only features one grainy out-of-focus shot of the band), the other album 'epics' are ever so nearly as good: 'Kill For A Dream' is a truly poignant haunting ballad, 'Three Ring Circus' a clever stomp made special via glorious swirling harmonies, the slinky 'Wind Up Dream' is the first understated Oasis song that actually works and just to remind us the band can still party in sunglasses 'Beatles and Stones' is one last glorious return to the old days, reminding us this band are 'going to stand the test of time, like Beatles and Stones'. And how! Forget the name of the last band record: suffused through with energy and intensity (even the ballads, in their own way), full of real emotion no longer hidden behind metaphor or surrealist imagery) and played by a band almost live (though they could have been 'liver' if you know what I mean) this is the album where three members of the band at least 'Dig out their soul'. Back in 2008, when that last album came out and even before we knew it was 'the end', I'd have killed for Oasis to find that 'dream' again that made them start this life in the first place. Thank goodness than that Beady Eye have found it again (and lost it, splitting up just two years and one more album later - disgruntled editor's note).

Alas Beady Eye have chosen one of their two sludgy old-sounding songs to launch the record. When I first heard ‘Four Letter Word’ – as the first track on the ‘Live at Abbey Road special’ we mentioned in our news column a few weeks back – I groaned. You see, it sounds like people who don’t know Oasis that well imagine all Oasis tracks sound. It’s noisy, uncontrolled and sounds aggressive without good reason (unless you know the ins and outs of the Oasis story) and sounds far too similar to ‘Dig Out Your Soul’s similarly uninspiring opening track ‘Bag It Up’. To be fair, Liam sings this song like he means it and this track about being let down and watching a good thing collapse is clearly a way for the band to vent their confusion over Oasis’ premature end. After all, it’s easy to forget but Oasis isn’t just a job but family for Liam – the split isn’t a casual one between musicians but a big family argument. Basically, Liam’s narrator is too confused to know whether he’s angry, sad or relieved that some unknown something has come to an end and in truth is probably a little bit of all three (the ‘four letter word’ is the closest he can come to summing up his mood – although intriguingly Liam doesn’t actually swear here as he does on so many past Oasis tracks). The lyrics to this song are interesting too, with Liam shouting about what a battle it’s going to be trying to sell gigs and albums without the band name and his annoyance at working with an un-named someone with ‘deadened eyes’ (presumably Noel). The highlight of the song, though, isn’t Liam’s screaming vocal but Gem’s career best guitar solo, a screeching blend of anger, sadness and madness that underpins the uncertainty at the heart of the song. Intriguingly, new drummer Chris Sharrock sounds more at home here than he does at the rest of the album, with just the right mix of Keith Moon-inspired chaos and typically Oasisy tight drumming grooves, suggesting that Oasis hired him to fill the giant hole that first Alan White and then Zak Starkey left in the band’s sound before finding their songs taking them in a new direction entirely.  It’s easy to imagine this song being recorded at the first post-Oasis get together for Liam, Gem and Andy, then, but for all its plus points this song just sounds wrong when you get to know the album as a whole. This is the past being spoken about here, in more ways than one, and it doesn’t represent the future like the rest of the album does and compared to the other tracks here it sounds like business as usual only not quite as good.

 ‘Millionaire’ is our first glimpse at what the de facto Beady Eye sound will be and regular readers will know that when I tell you that it sounds like a cross between the Kinks and the Small Faces circa 1966/67 that’s one of the biggest compliments I can give. Folk-rock played a negligible part in Oasis’ band sound and yet Beady Eye already sound deeply at home here, with even Liam’s sawdust voice fitting in well to the new surroundings. The lyrics, interestingly, sound more like Noel’s last burst of creativity in the mid-00s, a story song in ‘Lyla’ mould about a lover trying to get his partner to believe in herself and their partnership more and that if they act ‘like a millionaire’ they might become millionaires. Yet there’s another layer going on in this song too – the narrator wakes up knowing his life has changed without being quite able to work out why, only to be overwhelmed by the ‘light’ shining from his loved one’s house. It’s suddenly clear to the narrator what he needs to do, with sudden certainty replacing the confusion he’s felt in the past and that excitement spills forward into the song, with Liam barely taking a breath between delivering his quite complex and wordy verses. The mention of money, too, is clearly just a distraction – the new inspiration the narrator feels is clearly priceless for him and his dreams of becoming a millionaire don’t matter now that he’s found something better. The tight eight-part guitar riff, played here by acoustic and electric guitar as well as piano is a good one, keeping the song moving without getting stale and the song ends bravely by leaving it’s chord change unresolved (an old Beatles trick, that), with the audience left hanging in mid-air for the end of a story that never comes. If nothing else, what’s left of Oasis have at last pulled off the trick of making something sound understated and yet still important at the same time. You simply can’t imagine this track appearing on any Oasis album and, for the debut of a new band trying to launch its own way, that’s a bold decision that Beady Eye pull off well. 

‘The Roller’ is, at the time of writing, the latest Beady Eye single and not surprisingly it’s making a bigger impact than either ‘Four Letter Word’ or ‘Bring The Light’. A catchy pop piano song firmly in ‘Instant Karma’ mould with a hint of ‘I Am The Walrus’, this song still manages to add a few inventive touches to make up a song that’s far more than the sum of its parts. Lyrically, this is another song about the new excitement the band members feel and their determination to keep ‘rolling’ on whatever happens. There’s a few lines about what happened to Oasis in the late 90s, when the band was almost lost to ‘an alcoholic haze’, but rather than dismissing his past as a ‘mistake’, Liam’s narrator accepts that ‘everything is real’ and that his bad experiences are as important to where he is now as his good ones. The chorus is, to be honest, pretty bad lyrically (rhymes for ‘roller’ ‘know yer’ and ‘mould yer’) but the tune is strong enough to keep you singing along and has enough sudden chord changes to keep you guessing. This song isn’t the best on this album by any means – it doesn’t have the depth of most of the tracks coming on – but it’s a pretty good mix at being catchy and deep, still recognisably Oasis but slightly further on down the road. As I write, the single isn’t doing that well – to be fair, none of the last batch of Oasis singles did anything chart-wise either – but it is drawing a lot more attention than the album and deservedly so. Oddly enough, Noel liked this one and wanted it for the 'Soul' sessions, claiming it a 'certain #1'; Beady Eye's version peaked t #31.

‘Beatles and Stones’ sounds like it should be another great 60s sounding track, but in truth this song is more like the no-holds-barred unsophisticated rock of the 1950s than the more lyrical and tuneful decade after it. Lyrically this is the band at their arrogant best again, promising the world their work and their critics that they will ‘stand the test of time, like Beatles and Stones’. To be honest, this track doesn’t sound like either band, it’s more like a Jerry Lee Lewis track played on guitar instead of piano or Little Richard sung with a snarl and this new sounds doesn’t suit the band quite as well the others on this album. Perhaps if the band really had sung this as a full-throttle rocker (a la the glorious Oasis b-side ‘Headshrinker’, one of the best rock songs ever made by anybody) it might have worked better – as it is the harmony chorus, the guitar sound effects and the tinkling piano distract the ear. There’s an uncomfortable sudden stop at the end of the song here too – I think I get what the band were doing here, trying to catch our attention and scream to a sudden ‘crash’ of a full stop, but alas they stop the track in the wrong place, right at the point where it’s beginning to get boring. For all that, though, the lyrics are fascinating once again, with the narrator ‘getting back to what’s mine’ and Beady Eye’s attempts to be as great as our Alan’s Album Archives greats are laudable. Still, it’s songs like ‘Wigwam’ and ‘Kill For A Dream’ that are the real Beatlesy songs on this album and ‘3 Ring Circus’ a dead ringer for the Stones circa 1969 – this track just sounds a bit confused and is trying too hard to be honest. 

‘Wind-Up Dream’ is more casual about drawing attention to itself but it’s far more rewarding in terms of lyrics and it’s slow and slinky groove is another good ‘un, again so unlike Oasis in the verses that it’s hard to believe it’s by members of the same band (even if the chorus is pure ‘Wonderwall’). There’s even a mouthorgan here, for the first time since the band’s Liam-less ‘Unplugged’ appearance way back in 1996 that personally I loved – full marks to the band for treading new ground (and sounding like they’ve been making tracks like these all their lives). Whilst the others songs on this album are hard to pin down, this sounds like an Andy Bell song to me, whatever the credits, with lots of hypnotic criss-crossing harmonies and a more subtle, nervy vibe than the typical Oasis fare. Even here, though, the lyrics are clearly about the band: ‘let’s take it out for one last lap, if yesterdays is all we got we tie our bones in one big knot, squeeze it out till every drop is all gone, come on’ goes the mantra from the record company – but the narrator doesn’t want to know, he hears how great this new band can be in his head and doesn’t want to open his eyes in case the ‘dream’ disappears. It’s a bit like ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’s best track ‘Keep The Dream Alive’ (a song that now looks positively prophetic after the split), but a lot more sarcastic, a role Liam obviously delights in. If nothing else, this song’s sheer uncaringness – it’s slow tempo, sudden switches in pace and it’s sometimes awkward line scans – makes it sound like the hippest thing in the world, opening up a new world of possibilities that the record company ‘wringing the last drop’ from a broken band couldn’t imagine. In fact, it sounds not unlike Pete Townshend’s fed-up ‘I’ve-got-nothing-to-say’ albums for The Who and solo in the second half of the 1970s, albums of such beauty and fresh ideas whatever the hurt lyrics tell us and that’s so not the sound of the usually strutting Oasis. Fascinatingly different.

‘Bring The Light’ is another curiously retro rocker and even features the piano centre stage instead of the guitar (the band must have been listening to a lot of Little Richard and Jerry Lee Lewis!) Lyrically, though, this song’s closest cousin is ‘Twist and Shout’, with a similar structure that tries to make one of the band’s simplest lyrics of all time sound like the  most important thing in the world and a frenzied chorus of ‘cmon, c’mon, c’mon’s’  (a phrase that’s clearly the Beady Eye mantra, seeing as it appears on almost half of the songs on this album). Liam’s vocal is superb, nasty and yet thrilling all at the same time, while Gem once again turns in a classy guitar solo that finally breaks the tension in the second half – only for Liam and a  chorus of girl voices to hit the minor key and build everything right up again). Actually, on second thoughts, Beady Eye have been listening to a lot of Stones from the ‘Exile On Main Street’ era (there was a lot of fuss about it last year, after all), what with the use of girl voices for the first time on an Oasis-linked record, a trick that works well, the voodoo-ish swampy sound quality and the urgent simplicity. I wasn’t that keen on this song at first, not least because it repeats most of the ideas from ‘Millionaire’ about an un-named person offering up ‘light’ and inspiration, but it’s really grown on me with repeated listens. In fact the mesmerising ending, with a bucket-load of ‘come ons’ building the song up to an almost unbearable degree, is the single highlight of the record barring the similarly rousing end to the forthcoming ‘Wigwam’. One last point though – who plays the piano on the song? Is it the mystery figure who played it un-credited during the band’s ‘Abbey Road’ performance last month or one of the band members themselves (who are only credited with ‘drums’ ’guitars’ or ‘vocals’). Whoever he is, add him to the band line-up and give him a raise for goodness sake, his playing is amazing!

‘For Anyone’ is another simple ballad of the sort we heard from Andy Bell on ‘Heathen Chemistry’ and ‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ and gives Liam a welcome opportunity to show off the softer side of his singing (forget what unkind critics have been saying – you don’t deliver vocals like ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Songbird’ if all you know how to do is scream’). This isn’t so much a song as a kind of interlude between the two heavier tracks on either side of it, a simple love song with a difference – the difference being that’s it a love song to the band’s fans. Sweetly, this song tells us that the band are going to fight on, that ‘it’s all going to be alright’ and that, in some way shape or form, ‘we’ll always be by your side’. For listeners like me who’ve been with the band through thick and thin since 1994 (I was impressed by the band’s first two singles and then knew they were something special when they released the third, long before Oasis hit the truly big time) this is moving stuff and, simple as it is, one of the best lyrics on the album. There’s a neat chord change going into the chorus, too, that knocks our feet from under us as the narrator stops daydreaming about how great he wants things to be and actually sets about doing something about it. Very short but oh so sweet. More like this please, guys.

The theme of ‘dreams’ just keeps on coming with ‘Kill For A Dream’, which is clearly the successor to Andy’s gorgeous ‘Keep The Dream Alive’ from 2005 (it’s not for nothing the band print the words ‘the dreamer of dreams’ on the front cover- there’s a lot of imagery about picturing what you want life to be like on this album). For me, this track is one of the real highlights of the record. The opening mellotron riff is one which the Moody Blues would be proud to have written and the classy opening verses, offering a hand of friendship out to an un-named someone (whose clearly Noel) are impressive indeed. The last days of Oasis are pictures here as a ‘dream rebound’, as if the band’s attempts at perfection were delayed and they have to start again. Intriguingly in 2005 Liam admitted that he was only the ‘singer’ on that first track, that he didn’t know what Andy meant and that, for him, the dream has ‘always been alive’. He doesn’t sound so sure either on this track or on his recent interviews but, truly, Liam and the rest of the band don’t need to worry if they keep making quality material like this. Alas the song does rather give way in the second half – the ,most moving part of ‘Keep The Dream Alive’ was the way it kept swelling back up from nothing – but no matter, those opening two verses and chorus are as strong as any Oasis song written by any member of the band. There’s even the greatest Oasisy line for some time with the classic observation ‘It’s a beautiful world – if you know who you are’. The fact that we hear such a line in what might well be the most troubled and unsure song here, rather than the strutting peacocks of ‘Bring The Light’ and ‘Beatles and Stones’ speaks volumes about this album’s aura of confusion and need for direction. Glorious. Let’s hope Noel listens carefully, both because this song is like one of his early tracks and because this is Beady Eye quite deliberately sending out an olive branch to their former partner, even if ironically they do so on the song that best demonstrates that they don’t need him any more.

Alas, ‘Standing On The Edge Of The Noise’ is the second clunker on the album, a noisy mess that tries to ape the old Oasis sound unsuccessfully whilst playing around with the sound effects on Liam’s voice. There’s a curious counterpoint rhythm going on here, with the guitar overdubs cutting over both the basic track and the vocals, as if Oasis have ‘forgotten’ how to record their famous ‘wall of noise’ sound. As if that wasn’t bad, there’s a horrible stop-starty type rhythm going on here that throws you even when you know the track well (OK, then, this album’s only been out for 3 weeks but I feel as if I know it well). The lyrics aren’t that good either, really, about somebody ‘missing out’ on something the narrator understands instinctively – and if this is yet another song about Oasis members past and present then it’s ironic that Liam gloats about being ‘on the edge of the noise’ on one of only two tracks on the album that could truly be called ‘noisy’. To be fair, this track would sound even better without that horrible sound effect on Liam’s voice which is really distracting - he’s clearly having a great time with this lyric and is up to his rock star strutting best - and it’s still a song that’s arguably better than a good half of ‘Dig Out Your Soul’. But ‘Noise’ sounds woefully out of place on this thoughtful, sensitive album, a relic of the past that already sounds like it comes from a lifetime ago.   
‘Wigwam’, however, is nothing of the sort, a quietly spoken song about rebellion similar to Oasis B-side ‘The Quiet Ones’ in the way it realises that you don’t have to shout to change the system which swells and grows with each verse. Stylistically this is a true 1960-s protest song, even down to the familiar chord changes on the middle eight, but played in a very 1980s sounding landscape where Liam’s usually howling vocal becomes a ghostly entity and the band’s excellent guitar work becomes simply one of many noises competing for our attention. I love the lyrics to this song’s first half: ‘you think you know me’ says the narrator, ‘but you’ll never really know me’, almost chortling with the delight that a strong album means he’ll be proving every single critic (except me) wrong with this album. The song starts low and weary, the drunken narrator walking back to a home he doesn't want to go 'sick of life and it's demands'. Though Liam talks about 'making it up to the wife', he was suffering a painful split with wife Nicola Appleton in this period: though they'd been together since 2001 they only married in 2008 and were divorced by 2013: this song resembles 'Talk Tonight' in the way it finds solace not at home where responsibilities lie but in the freedom and support of somewhere else (probably the pub).  Liam revealed in 2012 when asked about his religion that 'I thought I talked with God once - it was in a boozer'; though taken as a joke, it might not be merely the joke we thought after listening to this son again: some sort of spiritual redemption is taking place here as the curiously titled 'Wigwam'  spirals higher and higher in search of something which, gloriously, it finds just as it seems to be about to stop, switching gears as it were to a celebration rather than commiseration of life (to throw us off the scent? Many of Oasis' most open songs tend to have the most obtuse titles - 'Wonderwall' for a start). Liam's most rounded and perhaps greatest song yet (though I still love 'Born On A Different Cloud'), this is a also a song about reconciliation, about the fact that sometimes you have to ‘say you’re wrong when you’re right’, simply to put the past behind you and move on to a new stage in your life. Far from being down and out, Liam and co are ‘looking beyond the stars’, reaching as far as they can with the new opportunity the death of Oasis has given them. The song then segues into it’s second half via a glorious guitar solo that circles the ‘stars’ higher and higher, before flowering onto a glorious ringing note that signals some beautiful synth works (and no, for once that’s not a contradiction in terms) and a glorious Hey Jude-like sing along as Liam realises that the opportunities before him are endless. ‘I’m coming up!’ he sings, in exactly the same way Paul McCartney did in 1980 on his career-best single, repeating the phrase over and over, singing it in every possible style he can to emphasise how many directions he can see from his tree-top (‘I’m coming up! I’m coming u-u-u-u-u-u-u-u-p! I’m coming Up! I-m-m-m-m-m-m-m coming up!’) This passage of the song, with all four band members joining in on the chorus and adding every instrument they can find to the mix bit by bit, is gloriously cathartic, all of the aggression of 'Dig Out Your Soul' and the timidity of parts of this album swapped for a powerful statement of unity, brotherhood and that old Oasis stalwart, hope. Not since 'Go Let It Out' (another, similar, 'starting again' song) have part of Oasis sounded more like their original confident selves and the track is all the more powerful for having started at rock bottom, with a hangover. From such a simple, humble beginning this track has flowered from self-doubt into confidence - not the arrogance of old, mark you, but something much harder fought-for -  and the sound of Beady Eye realising that they have got a future and that this isn’t the end of their musical careers is exhilarating, breathlessly exciting, downright moving stuff. I’m still not entirely sure why this song is called ‘Wigwam’ (is it the old Indian peace sign of a ‘broken arrow’ so beloved of Neil Young?) but under any name this is fabulous and easily the best Oasis-linked song in six years. If Beady Eye head in this direction for good then they won’t just match Oasis’ great achievements, they’ll eclipse them. They’re coming up indeed! Glorious.

‘Three-Ring Circus’ can’t match the last song, but it’s another strong one that in true Oasis style seems to contradict the messages of brotherly love heard in the last track! A mischievous song that sounds like a sinister version of The Beatles’ ‘Lovely Rita’ mixed with Ram's 'Three Legs'. Unlike the Beatles' perambulating puppy, however, this time around Liam’s the one with three members in his band and it’s Noel whose left with just the one circus tent to work with – the band even add in a mocking pastiche of Noel’s usual guitar style near the end of the song as if to show him they can do ‘his’ style too (oddly, this song is written by Gem, the band member closest to Noel and the one who traditionally tried to patch up disagreements within the band, not start them as here). Thankfully the band put their songs in this order so that we hear the reconciliation before the fallout and know how things turn out, so heard in context this song isn’t as harsh as it might have been. Better still is yet another key lyric about the Oasis split in general and formation of Beady Eye: ‘Could have won, should have lost, change of mind, change of line’. Liam’s written better songs in his time (if indeed this is one of his) but there’s still some good lyrical ideas here and a cracking riff that somehow manages to sound jokey and sinister all at the same time, backed up by some excellent harmony work which is something I’ve been calling on Oasis to develop for years, so I’m happy. Noel probably isn’t though.

From hereon in the album gets a bit, well – ordinary seems a bit harsh given the strength of the songs here but it’s probably fair to say the last two songs aren’t as involving as the others. ‘The Beat Goes On’ is a lyrical nod of the head to both a 60s phrase and a record label and yet it’s lyrics about picking yourself up and starting again aren’t a patch on others on the same subject elsewhere on the album. The chorus is irritatingly twee too – the way it neatly ties up the hanging unresolved chords just so and moves on to the beginning again is far more clinical than we’ve heard Oasis be in the past and the lyrics about everybody ‘singing our song’ don’t help much either. But, like many a track on this album, it sounds better every time I hear it, with a poetic turn of phrase and a sweet mellotron lick that’s too easy to overlook. If only Liam had sung it with his normal venom and passion I would have been impressed but somehow this track sounds too trivial and too unfinished to belong on this album (it speaks volumes that ‘Beat’ is one of only three songs on this album to use a fade rather than a full ending).

‘The Morning Son’ is more original and yet just as strangely detached as the last track. It’s a quiet ballad that’s quite Oasisy in its chord changes and feel (think ‘Let There Be Love’, the default Oasis style ballad) but played on acoustic guitar-with-mellotron in stark contrast to most piano-led Oasis ballads. The song doesn’t really go anywhere but that’s kind of the point – the narrator is left staring at the sky, wondering whether to continue or not and letting his surroundings wash over him, returning to nature in an attempt to find the answer. By the end of the song Liam’s narrator does seem to have found some kind of answer (‘we’ll never know unless we try’) and - despite being afraid of having to compete with past successes  - is willing to give Beady Eye a go (‘you’re blinded by what you idolise’). Lyrically, too, I’m tempted to see Liam in this song explaining his side of the Oasis story to the Gallagher’s mother - along with John’s Aunt Mimi one of the best known and important guardian figures in rock – with himself as the ‘morning’ to Noel’s ‘night’, adding that his turn to get acclaim. Just a thought – I can’t work out any other reason for the spelling of ‘son’ in the title unless, of course, Liam’s been busy nicking my song titles again (see the ‘Alan’s Song’ page for my version, written as long ago as 2001). The song then lurches to an unsure full stop, with a slowed down tempo and some unusually chaotic drumming from Chris Sharrock (whose playing has been excellent throughout the rest of the album) plus some squeaky synthesiser sound effects that rather ruin the peaceful mood the song has built up. It’s clear Beady Eye is going for a ‘big’ ending to their album here, but they’ve plainly gone for the wrong song here as ‘Morning Son’ would work much better as a quiet ballad. If only Beady Eye had closed the album with either of the two songs from the ‘News of the World’ freebie CD (a cover of the funky and very Oasisy ‘Sons of the Stage’ which is thematically very close in spirit to this album, with it’s tale of musicians putting their differences aside once they hit the stage and start playing and the simple acoustic original ‘World Outside My Room’, which sounds like a Small Faces/Humble Pie-type spoof of a hallucinating patient realising that the world he imagines outside his window is no stranger than the one inside his house).

But even with a bit of a let-down at the end, ‘Different Gear, Still Speeding’ does exactly what is says on the sleeve, offering up all the highs and energy of old with some new ideas that for the most part work out very well.; I’m curious as to what other Oasis fans will think of this record (please do send in your comments on this and all other albums we review). You see, that recognisable voice aside, it really doesn’t sound much like Oasis at all or at least it does only on parts – and parts that really don’t sit well next to the other songs here. Unkind critics will say that it’s about time Oasis grew up and stopped acting like teenagers now they’re in their 40s, etc, but the mature and reflective style on this album has been poking it’s head through the ‘wall of noise’ since the band’s very beginning (there are shades of ‘Married with Children’ ‘Cast No Shadow’ and lots of the band’s early acoustic b-sides here– but this is the first time there haven’t been that many ‘characteristic’ rockers to split up the mood. Personally, I love it – it’s like all my favourite tracks from the past 10 years of Oasis stuck together with only a few tracks I want to skip and ‘Different Gear’ is the album we pleaded for during our review of ‘Dig Out Your Soul’, an album with a burning purpose that really does take the band’s sound in a new direction rather than a cul-de-sac, with enough immediate moments to keep you interested and enough slow-burning growing-on-you ideas to keep the album fresh on repeated listening. Like all good records, it sounds like I’ve been listening to these songs already on some level for years and I’m just grateful that at last they’re down on tape so I don’t have to imagine them anymore. Full marks, Beady Eye, let’s hope that this is the start of a whole new chapter in the life of Oasis – and that Noel Gallagher is similarly inspired to make the cracking album we know he’s capable of. Definitely worth keeping your beady eyes on to see what they do next (a second album is already in the works as I write, a good sign of inspiration and all that, so let’s hope it’s finished soon). Different gear, still first class. Well, well, well, who’d have thought after the sorry state of the last Oasis album?

Other Oasis related articles from this website you might be interested in reading:

'Be Here Now' (1997)

‘Heathen Chemistry’ (2002)

‘Don’t Believe The Truth’ (2005)

'Dig Out Your Soul' (2008)  (a revised version coming soon!)

'Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds' (2011) 

'Chasing Yesterdays' (Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds) (2015)

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