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Wednesday, February 23, 2011
Liam Gallagher: “The bigger you get, the harder it is to move and groove..."
'People know me as Oasis, so it will be weird for a bit. It’s like a transvestite walking into a room and going, 'Right, that’s it – I’m called Lisa now.’ But people will be calling their kids Beady Eye by the end of the year.”
Oh, it’s good to have him back. Liam Gallagher, last of the great, unreconstructed rock stars, returns next week with his new band, Beady Eye. So named, apparently, in order to be placed in record racks next to the Beatles “instead of the ----ing Osmonds.” Never the most shy and retiring of frontmen, Gallagher has been declaiming his greatness to anyone who will listen, describing his latest offering as “proper rock and roll. Oasis was a pop band compared with what we’re doing.”
Well, they were certainly popular. When Oasis swaggered from the streets of Manchester and into the hearts of the nation in 1994, their Beatles-meets-Led Zeppelin bluster kicked off Britpop mania and spawned legions of imitators. The definitive British rock band of the past 20 years, they scored 23 top-10 singles and eight number-one albums, with an estimated 70 million record sales worldwide.
The Gallagher brothers, songwriter and guitarist Noel and singer Liam, were rock’s most compelling soap opera, fighting, swearing, storming off tours and falling out with each other and every original member of the band. Even as their music became repetitive and their critical reputation declined, Oasis were selling out stadiums till the bitter end, leading tens of thousands in mass singalongs.
They finally split in August 2009, minutes before they were due on stage in Paris, when a seemingly trivial argument resulted in guitars being smashed and Noel departing, claiming: “I simply could not go on working with Liam a day longer.” The tour was cancelled, with their website carrying the simple statement that Oasis “does not exist any more”.
So what to make of Beady Eye, a new band featuring not just Oasis’s frontman but Oasis guitarist Gem Archer, Oasis bassist Andy Bell and Oasis stand-in drummer Chris Sharrock? The band formed within hours of Oasis breaking up.
“We went to the bar,” according to Liam, “had a couple of beers and decided that our musical path doesn’t stop just because Noel Gallagher’s jumped ship. This is what we do.”
And what they do, judging by their forthcoming album, Different Gear, Still Speeding is play loud, lairy, Beatles-inflected rock with bags of sneering, Lennonesque vocal attitude. Remind you of anyone?
Whatever Liam Gallagher claims, it is hard to escape the feeling that Beady Eye are effectively Oasis without their erstwhile leader, main songwriter and, by implication, without the volatile sibling relationship that was their defining characteristic. What they do have, however, is one of the great frontmen in fighting form. On The Beat Goes On, Liam sings, “I’m the last of a dying breed”, and he may be right. Always an outrageously charismatic character with a crackerjack belligerence, Liam could hold the attention of an entire stadium with nothing but a sociopathic stare and a great, big voice, his soulful, resonant tone bringing an edge of emotion to even his brother’s most throwaway lyrics.
Beady Eye’s debut may break no new creative ground and make no discernible contribution to the future of popular music but it has a jeu d’esprit almost entirely absent from Oasis over the past 10 years.
Produced by U2 veteran Steve Lillywhite, there is a spaciousness, depth and variety to the sound that eluded Oasis under the leadership of Noel. There is even, in moments, a Rubber Soul-ish lightness of touch verging on folky tenderness. Where Liam’s singing had become increasingly hoarse and shouty, here he finds the melody again. This was one of the key things Oasis brought to rock music. Hard rock tends to encourage high, raw, one-note roaring that enables the voice to fly above the range of electric guitars. Armed with his brother’s almost Abba-esque pop songs, however, Liam was confident enough to just deliver the notes amid the band’s wall of noise. This is the voice we hear once again at the centre of Beady Eye.
Liam has been ascribing his new-found commitment to a changed dynamic, as the band has shifted from dictatorship to democracy, with all members sharing songwriting credits. “There is no boss,” he claims. “We haven’t got it in us.”
What is immediately striking is how much fun they are having, and how happy Liam seems. The sad thing is that it has taken Noel’s departure for Liam really to come into his own.
The Gallagher brothers are like chalk and cheese, as is often the case with siblings. As the eldest, Noel took the role of leader, and to some extent that meant being the sensible one, but it also meant being an authority figure, controlling and disapproving of his younger brother’s rebelliousness. A smart, thoughtful and generally very considerate man, Noel seemed to have a blind spot when it came to Liam, who (contrary to his image) is capable of being very charming, friendly, generous and creative.
It often struck me that what Liam really wanted was his older brother’s love and approval. When that was not forthcoming, he acted up. You can see the same dynamic in any family. In a sense, he can only be his better self when Noel is not around.
Whether what is good for Liam is good for music is another matter. For all the delights of Beady Eye’s debut, they lack generation-defining, utterly memorable pop songs. There is nothing to even match the immediacy of late Oasis hits such as The Importance of Being Idle or Lyla. Their latest single, The Roller, went into the charts at number 31 – not a position Liam is used to occupying.
Yet he seems undeterred, relishing the idea of having to fight for their right to be heard. He has declared himself delighted to be back in small venues (the tour kicks off at Glasgow’s Barrowland on March 3) and insists they won’t be performing any Oasis songs: “We don’t need to live in the past.”
Noel has kept his thoughts on this venture to himself. Liam, out on the promo trail, has been less circumspect about his brother, peppering his comments with insults (“How many ----- were there in Oasis? Here’s a clue. It was more than zero and less than two”). Yet, many songs on the album read like an open letter to Noel, from the “nothing ever lasts for ever” riposte of Four Letter Word to the you-go-your-way-and-I’ll-go-mine acceptance of gorgeous epic The Morning Son.
When pushed, Liam has been unexpectedly magnanimous. “Listen, me and him will be sweet, man. Our little venture’s come to an end, but I’ll never have a bad word about Oasis, it was ----ing amazing. It’s why I’m adored by millions. But it’s over. And we’re buzzin’. And I hope our kid’s buzzin’. I hope he’s gonna make great records. And he probably will.”
He even appears to welcome the idea that the Gallaghers might be reconciled one day. “I suppose I’ve got to grow up a little bit, and I suppose he has. But not just yet.”
Meanwhile, Liam has gigs to play, records to make and dreams of his own to fulfil. “The bigger you get, the harder it is to move and groove. Now we’re like a little Mini. We can dart about a bit more. Before, we were just a big, fat Bentley – it might feel nice, but it’s ----ing hard to drive.”
Whatever happens, it promises to be an entertaining ride.
'Different Gear, Still Speeding’ (Beady Eye Records) is released next Monday.
via L4e / telegraph.co.uk
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