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Wednesday, January 26, 2011
Different Gear, Still Speeding - Review
Beady Eye - Different Gear, Still Speeding ****
Liam Gallagher strikes first blow as post Oasis years begin.......
Be honest. If you were the gambling type, whose chances did you favour following the bitter dissolution of Oasis in August 2009? Was it Noel, band gaffer with the anthemic Midas touch now facing what seemed an inevitable transition to Weller-esque solo Britpop godhead? Or was it Liam, voted the greatest frontman of all time by Q, yet potentially one now fronting thin air if severed from his big brother's masterplan? The safe wager seemed to be Noel, even if 18 months on we're still waiting for him to fulfil those expectations and make the crucial next move. Whereas to back Liam's bid for Noel-less glory felt at best blindly optimistic, at worst laughably imprudent.
Consider the odds. Liam has the "The Voice", but while his sporadic songwriting has matured considerably since 2000's much-derided Little James, his ability to pen a whole album is ominously unproven. The same applies to his faithful ex-Oasis right-hand men Gem Archer and Andy Bell, both of whom have borne due critical flak for supplying the band's weakest album filler since 2002's Heathen Chemistry. Not great omens, and that is before they handicap themselves with the preposterous real ale-worthy name of Beady Eye, exacerbated by Liam's typically outrageous hyperbole that they were "going to be bigger" than Oasis and Noel "will come crawling back". On paper, the story was already writing itself, all elements in place for what promised to be the most embarrassing rock folly this side of Tin Machine.
So by virtue of circumstance, his post-Oasis moment of truth, Beady Eye's Different Gear, Still Speeding was always going to be one of the most important records Liam Gallagher would ever make. The gobsmacking reality is that it's also among the best. Which isn't to say that Oasis-loathing cynics won't find fish in its barrel to keep themselves trigger happy. No surprise that, yes, a lot of it sounds like The Beatles, the lyrics are no threat to Morrissey and, as in Oasis, musically speaking nobody here is reinventing the wheel. But such mean-spirited nit-picking evaporates in the face of an album which awes in its consistency, melody, determination and, perhaps most surprisingly, positivity; as was never the case with every Oasis album after 1995's (What's the Story) Morning Glory?, making this, however unlikely it sounds, the strongest record Liam's made since.
This do-or-die sense of purpose is evident from the first wah-wah smack of Four Letter Word, akin to Spencer Davis Group's I'm A Man as played by The Stooges yet still familiarly Oasis-esque not to scare the horses. It's an opposite setting for Liam's opening war cry, "Sleepwalk your life away if that turns you on," followed by the first of the album's many allusions to the Gallagher sibling soap opera; "the battle's on and the song is the prize", or its snarling moral "nothing ever lasts FOREVER!" A necessarily cathartic overture, perhaps, it's rock'n'roll gusto sets the bar for at least half of Different Gear.....: from Bring the Light, a romping Jerry Lee Lewis homage manic enough to overcome its banal "baby, c'mon" vocal to the free blues rock chug of Three Ring Circus and the Plastic Ono jam Standing On The Edge Of The Noise. Most ravishingly raucous is Beatles and Stones, Gallagher's mission statement that he's "gonna stand the test of time" like its titular icons over a garage rock stomp twitching between The Who's My Generation and Failure by The La's.
If Beady Eye were merely a balls-to-the-wall one-trick pony this would be a passable debut. That it's above and beyond so is thanks to the majority which chooses melodic beauty over sonic boisterousness, much credit due to the clarity of producer Steve Lillywhite's touch extracting Liam's brightest vocals in aeons. Both Millionaire, a gem of '70s slide-guitar glam, and the deliriously romantic For Anyone show a sublime pop sensibility. But the big guns here are all epic ballads, lighters first rising aloft on Kill For A Dream, the wistful alternative to Four Letter Word's post-split autopsy, which just might reduce grown Oasis fans to tears. "Life's too short not to forgive," sings Liam, "I'm here if you wanna call." Its scarf-waving outro is soon eclipsed by the soulful Wigwam climaxing after six minutes in a gospel chorus with Liam "coming up" from the depths of despair.
The best, however, is saved till last. The Beat Goes On is an ELO fairytale of a tune, Liam pondering his own death and his heavenly reception by an angel's choir in Beady Eye's equivalent to Don't Look Back in Anger. "It's not the end of the world/It's not even the end of the day." It seems unsurpassable until The Morning Son ripples in on the tide of Champagne Supernova, just Liam, acoustic guitar and a tsunami of poignancy: "I stand alone/Nobody knows/ The morning son has rose." It's a shudder-inducing stroke of genius, Gallagher effectively serenading his own rebirth as the music softly explodes towards a frantic finale again reminiscent of Lillywhite's La's debit and its comparable closer Looking Glass. Breathtaking, in fact.
If the Liam Gallagher of Oasis was the greatest frontman of all time the Different Gear.... is evidence enough that with Beady Eye he's created another great British guitar band to justify that honour. And if the battle really is on, then, much to the bookmaker's horror, this decimates all negative preconceptions. The half-score an effortless one-nil to our kid. Now over to you, big brother. Simon Goddard.
Download: The Beat Goes On (Q50)//Four Letter Word//Millionaire//The Morning Son//For Anyone
Via L4E source: Q Magazine thanks to L4E member lucahelvetica
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