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BE – Album Review

BECover

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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Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds – Album Review

High Flying Birds

The Oasis split didn’t come so much as a shock as it did a disappointing inevitability.

It’s no secret that Noel Gallagher and Liam Gallagher would butt heads often when it came to writing songs or performing said songs so the news that Oasis’ long run would finally come to an end was something of a long time coming. Each brother spinned-off into their own bands, with Liam keeping the kids (Oasis bandmates Andy Bell, Gem Archer and Chris Sharrock) thereby forming Beady Eye while Noel secretly put together Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds.

To no-one’s surprise, of course, both bands sounded like Oasis.

The self-titled Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds was the first album from Noel’s new band and the pressure was on to outdo Beady Eye’s album Different Gear, Still Speeding, released slightly before.

Mission accomplished?

Let’s take a look/listen.

The last single to be released from the album, “Everybody’s On The Run” starts things off somewhat epically with an orchestral build-up and choirs. It’s an upbeat song with reliably solid vocals, a catchy melody and an equally catchy chorus. It is followed by another upbeat track, “Dream On”: an effective little tune with another genuinely nice melody. A more than worthy opening overall, I’d say.

“If I Had A Gun…” is an enjoyable love song with a softer first 30 seconds. It does kick things up a notch quickly, though, and soon delivers a memorable, worthy hook. “The Death Of You And Me” is next and it’s a breezy, contemplative song with a really good chorus. Its crescendoes drive us to some welcome trumpets-led jazzy solos which give the whole thing a cool, New Orleans-esque atmosphere.

The oddly titled “(I Wanna Live In A Dream In My) Record Machine” opens with a slow, chilled-out intro in danger of being too repetitive and a bit too whiny but, luckily, the chorus is somewhat more upbeat and the choirs are a nice touch. The song develops well and, after a short break, it ends on a high note. Not too bad. “AKA… What A Life!”, the album’s second single, is one of the catchier tracks on it. It’s simple yet effective and energetic all the way through. Plus, the lyric “I’m gonna take this tiger outside for a ride” is just awesome.

“Soldier Boys And Jesus Freaks” somehow gives off a kind of Aimee Mann-esque vibe with its ongoing rhythm reminiscent of that “One” song she came up with a while back. Noel once again delivers a pretty melody and the track has a jazzy, old-fashioned feel at times making it a good B-side piece to single “The Death Of You And Me”. The following song, “AKA… Broken Arrow”, is a softer, sweeter track with one of the best, prettiest melodies on the album. One of Noel’s finest songs in a while.

“(Stranded On) The Wrong Beach” then leads us in with a bluesier beat and ultimately delivers a terrific chorus full of swagger. Some of the later Oasis albums could have used a couple of those, honestly. Finally, we have the atmospheric “Stop The Clocks” which, though it’s musically sound, sadly never really takes off. It’s quite probably the least memorable track of the bunch.

While initially, I did feel that Beady Eye’s debut blew Noel’s album out of the water, this one’s definitely grown on me. Listening back to it, it’s a well put together bunch of tracks and, although Gallagher doesn’t take too many wild chances here, he still drops in enough subtle fresh touches to make Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds feel new and relevant enough.

It’s a tie, I think, between the Gallagher brothers in this first round, though I should give Beady Eye’s first album a new listen, and the irony that, in order to get some decent Oasis albums, the band itself had to disappear is frankly bizarre but sort of sweet also.

That’s 4 Red Hot Chili Fellas out of 5 for the Birds.

Nice one.

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All Around The World – Video Feedback

All Around The World

Back in 1998, with the release of their album Be Here Now, Oasis were at the peak of their popularity. Their single “All Around The World” went straight to number 1 despite its long running time (it’s still the longest UK number 1 around) and it was the first song written by Noel Gallagher.

It was a fun, if simple, song with a grand feel to it, mostly thanks to it being accompanied by a 36-piece orchestra. Its reprise would end the album and mark the very last Brit-pop era Oasis song as the band’s line-up and style would change radically three years later.

The video for “All Around The World” took ages to make and demanded the time of no less than 24 computer animators. It was a trippy homage to The Beatles‘ classic Yellow Submarine flick but was it all worth it?

Let’s see.

The video opens on a creepy little girl ripping off the petals off a flower one by one:

GirlOut of the flower, for some reason, comes a yellow flying saucer:

Spaceship

I’ll give you a clue as to what’s inside the flying saucer:

Oasis Ship

The Beatles?

Nope.

Liam Gallagher

Good guess, though.

So it’s official: Liam Gallagher is an alien.

Come on, you could at least ACT surprised!

We also learn that what every spaceship needs, apparently, is an eye-shaped periscope:

Ship Eye

A “beady eye”-shaped periscope, even.

I guess if there’s shoe-hand-birds flying around, it’s well worth checking out but I would have thought that the big windows on the ship would have been sufficient, frankly…

Periscope

Yup, they’re shoe-hand-birds alright.

Anyway, I wonder what’s going on in London.

Tower BridgeShoes

Old giant phones, hats, upside-down legs…

London’s random.

We see that Yellow Sub… Spaceship pass by Big Ben:

Big Ben

Which is a nice moment until the clock strikes three and some scary-ass cuckoo bird from Hell pops out from Big Ben and tweets in our face:

Bird Big Ben

#Aaaaaaaah!!!

Believe it or not, soon after that, a bunch of crazy shit happens.

Flying spider germs:

Spiders

Lightbulbs on legs:

Bulbs Tires

Who comes up with this madness?!

You’d have to be drunk to think of tyres with black angel wings!

Drunk

That figures.

Good thing the chief animator slipped in an auto-portrait somewhere in the vid.

Whatever, the flying Oasis saucer continues its adventure by going out to sea where it finds two interesting things:

A very familiar-looking yellow contraption:

Submarine

And an old camera with a guy’s face on it fishing out a couple of giant red dice from the water:Boat Guy

What?

What else were you expecting?

Somehow, we then find ourselves in a Las Vegas-like setting full of mermaid-themed slot machines:

Jackpot

And whatever all that stuff is:

Dog CasinoCasinos

Why is everything so terrifying all around the world?

Is that the moral of the song? To never leave your house again?

I mean, if that is in fact what the track is going for then there’s no better way to put that across than by throwing at us the unsettling idea of PAPER BABIES:

Paper Babies

Well, face-painted paper babies on pens, rather.

Someone needs to stop this…

This video’s clearly getting out of hand.

Blur! Do something!

Ship Shoot

Take it down!

Spaceship BigWait, never mind, it’s got attachments.

Oasis doesn’t f*** around.

We fly over a beach where all these weird dudes made of meat (well, pictures of meat) are flexing and smiling at us creepily:

Muscle Men*shudder*

Before we fly next to a volcano:

Volcano

Which turns out to be some demon’s genitalia:

Volcano MonsterCan’t even describe what the hell I’m looking at right now.

Give me something I can talk about, something tangible I can describe.

Elephant Eyes

Oh look, it’s a green elephant with loads of eyes standing over a bunch of Beetlejuice pyramids!

See, that’s what I’m talking about: if you’re gonna throw nonsense at me, at least make it describable nonsense.

The band’s saucer continues its trip around the world by passing by a bunch of pagodas:

Pisa Pagoda

And finally, we approach the end of our crazy ride by bumping into Noel Gallagher, who is playing guitar on top of some tower as weird, big-headed ladies fly around him.

Noel Tower

Noel getting the spotlight?

Hm, bet Liam’s not enjoying this too much…

Liam Jump

Liam! No!

Don’t jump, it’s not worth it!

Liam Ladder

Oh…

Liam Ladder2

There HAD to be a less dramatic way of grabbing onto that ladder.

Never mind, Liam spreads the word as we get closer…

Liam Ladder3

And closer…

Liam MouthOk that’s too close.

Apparently not close enough, though, since we actually enter Liam’s throat and make it all the way down to his heart:

Liam Heart

Which is… oddly heart-shaped.

You might want to get that checked out, Liam, by the way.

One final mind-f*** ends the video in style as the spaceship flies back into space and the Moon has a welcome smoke:

Ending

All’s well that ends well, I guess.

So that’s Oasis’ “All Around The World” video and I guess if making something as twisted and LSD-infused as Yellow Submarine was the goal then it’s mission accomplished.

The song itself is pretty decent and the video has a hypnotic quality to it which lures you into its demented, colourful world and doesn’t let go. Those 7 minutes end up just flying by, leaving you with enough subliminal nightmares to last you a lifetime.

As derivative as it is, it’s still good fun and fans of Terry Gilliam’s style of animation, particularly, should have a ball with it.

A “trip” down Brit-pop memory lane that’s actually worth taking.