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Thursday, January 27, 2011
MOJO Review - Different Gear, Still Speeding
These days Liam Gallagher calls big brother Noel “the little fella” and his new band heralds the post-Oasis era. But is this vehicle built for joyriding or a long run?
Key tracks (Bring The Light, Wind Up Dream, The Beat Goes On)
IN WHAT seems an eternity ago, but was actually just summer 2008, Oasis appointed their latest drummer, Chris Sharrock, much to the annoyance of Liam Gallagher. According to elder brother Noel, the Oasis singer was disgruntled that his band had been reduced to hiring a former employee of Robbie Williams. Presumably Gallagher Jr mellowed his opinion once he stood on-stage amidst the gyroscopic eruption of his new colleague’s playing on The Shock of the Lightning. Or perhaps he remembered that Sharrock had been a member of The La’s just long enough to play on There She Goes, and also appeared in that song’s sweet video; this man was channelling the urchin rocker spirit of The Beatles when Liam was still at school.
A consensus maintains that Sharrock was the most talented occupant of the Oasis drum stool, and now at last he’s played on his first album with the band. Well, almost. The notion of Beady Eye as simply a Liam Gallagher solo vehicle looks shaky when held against the continuity of the group’s membership. With Sharrock joining Liam, Gem Archer and Andy Bell, this band is Oasis, albeit minus the substantial element of Noel Gallagher: songwriter, guitarist, The Chief. Having disparaged his sibling’s character throughout their turbulent journey – the gist essentially being that Noel’s a boring muso, but I’m mad for it – now it is Liam’s chance to step outside big brother’s shadow and shyeeeiiine.
He’s done a decent job. Though wholly conformist and unlikely to surprise anyone familiar with its creators’ previous activity, Different Gear, Still Speeding does boast three strokes of brilliance. First off, there’s the title, which Liam suggests Liam possesses more self-deprecating humour than he’s given credit for: look, I might be 38 but I’ve got a new band and I’m still mad for it. Then the nutty cover art: a picture of a child riding an alligator, with the title in speech bubbles. Mocked up to resemble a hippy era samizdat journal, or perhaps a Frank Zappa sleeve, it’s a cut above the boil-in-the-bag retro of innumerable Oasis designs, and indeed, Liam’s Pretty Green clothes label. Finally, we have the single, Bring The Light. Until a year ago Liam was declaring his intent to call this band Oasis, and on this evidence it would not have disgraced that band’s legacy had he done so. Bring The Light has exactly the unselfconscious brio and contempt for the cool school rule-book that defined Oasis in their pomp. The primeval rock ‘n’ roll piano and Sharrock’s fervent snare shots taunt those disposed to sober bystanding, and instead the listener is dragged into line with Gallagher’s tunnel vision logic: “I see no point/In what you’re thinking/I’m going out/I’m taking you drinking”. Only a fool could argue with that. The contrast between this compact but nippy run-around and some of the ponderous gas-guzzlers Liam was obliged to front on Dig Out Your Soul, the final Oasis album, is glaring.
Then again, you don’t have to subject the Beady Eye debut to a full body scan to realise Noel Gallagher hardly foisted his grand musical vision on an unwilling workforce. There is actually a song here called Beatles and Stones, sounding like a mini-me version of The Who in R&B kickabout mode. The epic closer, The Morning Son, has a line beginning “So let it be…”, and is a dopey lope through the punning possibilities of its title, wrapped around a melody which refracts The Jam’s English Rose through the glissandos of a rent-a-trip string section. Before sliding into a sleazy stack-heeled refrain, The Roller mimics Instant Karma with the sort of obstinate intensity to be expected from a man who named a son Lennon. These reflexive testimonials to the golden age of Brit-beat and its lysergic aftermath smother the album, with too few songs possessing the transcendent qualities to counteract the balm of déjà vu.
Some basic editing might have helped: with 13 tracks and a running time eight minutes shy of an hour, Different Gear, Still Speeding, badly loses momentum in its final third. But amid the soft-rock platitudes (Wigwam) and leaden rabble-rousing (Standing On The Edge Of The Noise), there’s real inspiration, when windy rhetoric is dumped for simple, spring-heeled arrangements suggesting a strong bond between the musicians and producer Steve Lillywhite. Wind Up Dream has a spacey hand-jive groove with a whiff of The Stooge’s Penetration. Millionaire delivers a zestful acoustic twang and eyebrow-raising lyrical references to the Catalonian town Figueres and its most famous son, Salvador Dali. Equally deft is the lovely Macca-pop swing of For Anyone. These latter two compositions demonstrate that Liam Gallagher is as effective in the role of tender supplicant as when squaring up or out on the lash.
Indeed, his soppy side dictates a song which, though preposterous, is one of the record’s definitive moments. The Beat Goes On feels faintly comedic in its unabashed evocation of Mellotronic Fabness – imagine The Wombles in Pepperland (full page caricature of Beady Eye as Wombles in Pepperland with Noel as Uncle Bulgaria in the background!!!!!). The lyrics paint a no less absurd picture: the narrator dreams his own death and arrives in heaven for “the gig in the sky” to discover “The Ox and the Moon…counting me in”; on realising he’s still alive, he announces, “I’m misunderstood/And wasted on money and fame/I’ll throw it away, just to prove that I can…”. This is cogent, reflective songwriting, and such is the singer’s ingenuous zeal that any impulse to snigger is ultimately undercut by something closer to respect.
Throughout the record, Gallagher demonstrates yet again his infernal gift for singing: even a weak tune is better for him at the mike, and though there were times with Oasis when his waywardness clearly destabilised proceedings, the extent to which that band depended for its impact upon a fully-engaged Liam was beyond doubt. Here the man’s commitment is total, and such is his eternal saving grace. Anyone searching for clues to a future peace deal with brother Noel will take solace in the brooding, not-at-all-unlike-Oasis anthemics of Kill For A Dream: over portentous strings Liam declares, “Life’s too short not to forgive/You can carry regrets but they won’t let you live/I’m here if you wanna call…”.
In the context of the Gallagher soap opera, this is serious stuff. In the real world, it’s merely a passable song on a debut album that shapes up better than many imagined. Whether Liam Gallagher’s band is the start of a new story or a diverting subplot to an on-going saga remains to be seen – and you can imagine where the smart money lies. But already, amid the righteous ramalama of Bring The Light, their genius move, the world’s a brighter place for having a Beady Eye.
via L4e / Source: Mojo Magazine thanks to anotherchancer
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