When it manages to sidestep Oasis's lumpen blueprint, the debut album of Liam Gallagher's new band, Beady Eye, impresses.
Life after Oasis
Different Gear, Still Speeding
(Beady Eye Records)
When Noel Gallagher quit Oasis in August 2009 citing verbal intimidation from his brother Liam, few believed the rift would last. A long catalogue of sibling spats had left the band bruised but intact, but this time it was different. "He didn't like people standing up to him," said Liam of Noel, giving his side of the story to The Guardian at the time.
When the dust cleared, people were surprised to see Liam emerge with Beady Eye. Comprising himself, guitarists Andy Bell and Gem Archer, and drummer Chris Sharrock, the group is effectively Oasis, sans Noel.
The elder Gallagher brother has cried betrayal, but in truth it's easy to see why Bell and co are backing Liam. Firstly, the democracy that is Beady Eye will afford them a greater share of the writing royalties than they had at Noel's Oasis, but more than that, Different Gear, Still Speeding bears testament to Gallagher the younger's astonishing appetite for a new campaign. While Noel has reportedly put music on hold to spend time with his young family, Liam is still "mad fer it". Indeed his voice - a thoroughbred amalgam of John Lydon's irreverent sneer and John Lennon's gutsy roar - remains one of rock 'n' roll's most incendiary devices.
That said, Gallagher also employs other, sometimes surprisingly subtle colours here, and it's when deviating from Oasis's lumpen, Beatles-by-numbers blueprint that Beady Eye's debut impresses most. The sweet, succinct For Anyone is a winning nod to Sharrock's former band The La's and the poppiest song Liam has ever sung, while the fabulous Bring the Light, replete with soul review-style female backing vocals, is built on a pummelling Jerry-Lee Lewis-style piano riff. Both these songs constitute a promising departure for Gallagher's mob, but sadly much of DGSS treads overly familiar terrain.
Consequently, when Gallagher sings "You're blinded by what you idolise" on the interminable closer The Morning Son, it seems like an inadvertent admission, especially as earlier tracks The Roller (think John Lennon's Instant Karma) and Beatles and Stones (confusingly, think The Who's My Generation) are obvious references to songs that are hard, nay impossible, acts to follow. Kill for a Dream, though, fares better, Gallagher suggesting "Life's too short not to forgive… I'm here if you want to call." It's the kind of gently insistent, lighters-aloft anthem his brother, presumably the target for that message, might approve of in different circumstances.
Ultimately, Liam Gallagher's utter commitment and lairy charisma are Beady Eye's saving grace. Props are also due to Sharrock, by far the most musical and imaginative drummer either Gallagher brother has ever employed. Somewhere down the line, one can imagine Oasis getting back together under more democratic, mutually respectful terms. Whether that turns out to be Beady Eye's raison d'être we don't yet know, but they've certainly done enough to shake Noel out of any complacency. His response, due on a solo album he says will arrive "later, rather than sooner", should be fascinating.