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BE – Album Review

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The second and final studio album from Liam Gallagher‘s post-Oasis project Beady Eye, BE was released in 2013 and reached number 2 in the charts. It received mixed reviews with some critics calling it better than Different Gear, Still Speeding and others panning the tone and lyrics.

Beady Eye’s first album was a bombastic yet somewhat messy effort, packed with big, overproduced tracks, sleepier heard-it-before attempts at a late Oasis sound but also, luckily, some genuinely fun tunes. There was visibly an attempt, with this second album, to try something completely different. A wise move, even if this didn’t pay off with further albums. Now that Liam’s solo career has thusfar proven to be a resounding hit, I thought that it might be worth hearing the album back, giving it a fair shot.

Initially, BE goes for a familiar, grand, big-band sort of sound with catchy opener “Flick Of The Finger”, which may not boast a chorus but gets the job done getting you excited for what comes next. Structure-wise, BE is a little uneven as it maintains a steady pace early on before settling on stripped-down guitar songs in its second half so it’s understandable why some might have criticised the album for that, though it should also be said that those final few tracks are easily some of the band’s best work.

Tracks like “Don’t Brother Me”, “Ballroom Figured” and “Start Anew” have an obvious John Lennon vibe to them, “Oh My Love” and “Give Peace A Chance” are even directly referenced, and they all work as olive branches towards Noel Gallagher, though there are some criticisms peppered in throughout.

You get the sense that Liam Gallagher is working through some inner conflicts in this album and these final few tracks capture his nostalgia for the Oasis days and his brother’s company, possibly some guilt for how things turned out and the need for a big change in the future. Liam’s personal life was also rocky by that point, to say the least, so this is a genuinely emotional end to an album that almost went the confident yet shallow route its predecessor did but, thankfully, didn’t.

This is by no means a sleepy album, I should clarify, as the likes of gospel-tinged single “Shine A Light” and underrated grungy anthem “Just Saying” (how was this not a single?!), even the groovier “Second Bite Of The Apple”, bring a sense of fun to the whole thing. These more easily accessible songs ironically feel a lot more experimental than anything in the last album, and this is a good thing. There are some slower, more repetitive tracks thrown in and those are admittedly a little patchier.

“Soul Love” and the folky “Soon Come Tomorrow” are both decent: the former is very late Oasis, the latter has a more American vibe you wouldn’t really expect from Liam and, even though they fizzle near the end, there’s enough good stuff in there that they work. “Iz Rite” and “Face The Crowd” also work, just not quite as well, and they lack a certain memorable factor, though the latter’s Stranglers-style rhythm is engaging.

Beady Eye/Liam Gallagher fans should have a great time with this album as it feels a lot more personal and inventive. Looking at BE in today’s context, it’s the perfect transition to Liam’s solo work as it ends on such a contemplative note that it seems like Liam was almost trying to tell us that this would, in fact, be Beady Eye’s (basically the old Oasis minus Noel) last bow. As for those less involved listeners, I think BE frankly still deserves a second look.

Between the more acoustic tracks’ unquestionably pretty melodies, the endearing let’s-try-something-new approach, the crisp, slick production and Liam’s vocals the best they’d been in years, this was a step in the right direction for the band and it was a pleasure revisiting it.

Much better than you remember.

Well worth 3 and a half Happy Cobains in my book.

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Different Gear, Still Speeding – Album Review

Beady Eye

Liam Gallagher‘s first (ish) attempt at moving on from Oasis was this album from his new band Beady Eye. The advantage was his: this album would be released first and his band is basically Oasis minus his brother.

Noel had no chance.

In retrospect, however, Noel’s album was pretty decent (read our review of it here) but is Different Gear, Still Speeding just as good as I remember it or has time been kinder to those High Flying Birds?

The first song (and second single) “Four Letter Word” bursts in with tons of swagger and attitude, which is fitting I suppose since we’re talking about Liam Gallagher. There’s a good energy to it, some inventive dramatic riffs and a cool guitar solo. It’s definitely a strong opener which sets things up nicely. “Millionaire” is a softer, folkier tune with a breezier and lighter vibe. Unfortunately, it never really takes off and it can be pretty repetitive, making it a bit of a dull effort. The only way I can explain that this was also released as a single is that it’s inoffensive and that… some people like that?

Moving on, we’ve got “The Roller”, a pretty John Lennon-esque track that’s simple yet effective. Incidentally, the song was written back in 2001 and was considered for the Oasis album Heathen Chemistry. The track has a really enjoyable melody which develops perfectly and, altogether, it’s got a likably chilled vibe throughout. Another song which owes quite a bit to The Beatles is the obviously titled “Beatles and Stones”, an old-fashioned rock/country tune which name-drops more than it does engage. It’s fine but it’s perhaps a little too happy with itself for its own good.

“Wind Up Dream” is another rocky yet folky tune with a Southern twang and a dated feel. Hence the harmonica solos. The chorus is appealing but, although the song throws in some nifty touches near the end, it’s all rather repetitive. “Bring The Light” is next and it was the first single to be released from the album. A Jerry Lee Lewis-esque piano beat leads us throughout while gospel choirs pop up now and then in what is a fun 50’s track with a catchy, simple hook.

It doesn’t get much simpler than the following song, “For Anyone”. This one also has a 50’s feel to it but it’s also akin to “Songbird” in that it’s a genuinely sweet and very pretty little gem. It’s basically irresistible, one of the best of the bunch, and chances are you’ll want to clap along no matter how silly you think clapping along to anything is. Don’t worry, it’s a short one so even if you do feel the urge, your clapping won’t be relentless. Next up is “Kill For A Dream”, a sadder, more nostalgic song that’s actually very close melody-wise to Oasis’ “Little James”. This one needed a jolt of energy, even its chorus is much too slow.

“Standing On The Edge Of Noise” tries very hard to make an impact as Liam sings this one through a megaphone, screaming it like he’s Paul McCartney back in the day. Though the track is fun and does well to stay in keeping with the 60’s vibe of some of the other songs on here, it’s not exactly Earth-shattering or that original. Track number 10, “Wigwam”, is a slower, more chilled-out contemplative track. It’s atmospheric but, again, there’s something lacking.

We’re well and truly back in McCartney (or Sgt Pepper, anyway) territory with “Three Ring Circus”, an entertaining old rock tune with an early 70’s style psychedelic chorus. It’s certainly more vibrant than the track before it, that’s for sure, and also mercifully much shorter. “The Beat Goes On” follows and it’s a playful yet softer track. The melody is a pretty and varied one while the chorus is unusually upbeat. Still works quite well, though. This one should keep you in a good mood for a few moments, even if it is a tad overlong.

Finally, we end on another slow track, “The Morning Son”, which is mostly acoustic save for voice echoes and the odd electronic sound here and there. It develops ok but, again, it’s just a bit too slow and long.

Initially, Different Gear, Still Speeding stood out to me as the superior album but, oddly, in retrospect, Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds feels like the more consistent and memorable effort. Oasis fans should enjoy both equally but I’d say Noel just about wins this round.

Though Liam has proven he can write some great songs, this album is somehow more forgettable than the last Oasis album. I give it 3 Shady Dudes out of 5.

Worthy if not mind-blowing.

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