When Oasis disbanded in August 2009, after a particularly nasty fight between the notoriously bickering Gallagher brothers, discussion essentially boiled down to one question: which brother would produce the best work separate from the other?
Liam Gallagher took the remainder of Oasis, leaving Noel to work solo, and added touring Gorillaz guitarist Jeff Wootton on bass. The resulting band named themselves Beady Eye and crafted Different Gear, Still Speeding, which manages to mix vocals that fans of Oasis will reminisce over, as they are Liam’s strongest since (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?, and instrumentation containing the same garage-rock style adopted by Oasis in their later work.
One major difference between Oasis and Beady Eye is Liam’s increased songwriting role, something that was primarily handled by Noel until Oasis’s later days. Liam shares the task with guitarists Gem Archer and former Oasis bassist Andy Bell, with the trio delivering admirably, with most of the songs here trumping those that they wrote separately in the previous band. The first track, “Four Letter Word,” launches immediately with a wave of classic-rock inspired guitars, courtesy of Archer and Bell, as well as heavy hitting drums from Chris Sharrock. All of this prepares the listener for what will be a heavier album than anything delivered by Oasis. When Liam enters, chalk full of attitude and snarl, even the biggest Noel supporters are forced to admit that this is damn good music. The solo ending the song also rivals the best guitar work from the previous band.
“Millionaire,” current single “The Roller,” and the poorly named “Beatles and Stones,” all deliver as remarkably solid tracks. “The Roller,” leans dangerously close to being overly repetitive in the chorus, but manages to stop short of annoyance and remains catchy. “Beatles and Stones” unsurprisingly pays homage to the two bands, delivering an incredibly likable track. The piano throughout and backing vocals in the chorus take you right back to the ‘60s and features some great singing from Liam.
“Wind Up Dream” borrows from another classic band, this one from the 1970s and is in a somewhat new direction for the band. The intro riff borrows slightly from Big Star’s hit “In the Street,” especially as the intro moves into the first verse. The chorus makes for one of the better ones found on the record. As Liam sings “It’s just a wind up dream, so don’t wake me up. Cuz I like what I see with my eyes shut,” it’s nearly impossible not to bob your head. And the sing-along of “ahs” that follows is sure to stir fans into a frenzy when the band tours.
“Bring the Light” is next and was the first single released by the band. This is unfortunate as it may have turned some potential fans away from what is truly a great record outside of this track. The vocals are lacking compared to every other track on the album and lyrics like “I’m coming in, you’re coming out. I’m coming up, you’re coming down,” as well as the plain chorus of “Baby hold on. Baby come out. Baby come out. You’re gettin’ up, gettin’ up,” are downright embarrassing. It is painful to listen to considering the band can clearly do better, as displayed on the rest of the album.
“For Anyone” cleanses the bad taste left in the mouth after “Bring the Light.” It’s one of the catchiest pop-ballad style tracks since The Beatles, who are clearly being emulated in a style similar to “Ticket to Ride” from Help!. It is followed by the psychedelic-tinged “Kill for a Dream,” which features some of Liam’s best singing in years. The riff that follows the chorus played by Archer is blatantly gritty and brings to mind classic solos found in music from decades past. Bell also proves to be a very capable guitarist, and the watery riff played at the end of the song is one of the catchier instrumental moments on the record.
“Standing On the Edge of the Noise” features Liam singing low in the mix, below nearly all the instruments, and howling in a manner similar to his work with Oasis. It is a fury not yet heard in the album. Though the gruffness in his vocals was often criticized with Oasis, nostalgia kicks in to make it a shining moment on the record, if only for the fact that it is one of the more Oasis-sounding tracks.
“Wigwam,” the longest track on the record at just over six and a half minutes, follows. Its dreamy, sunshine-pop style harks back to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, though not so overly psychedelic. It definitely stands as one of the best tracks on the record. When Liam sings in a higher register after a brief drum interlude at roughly the halfway mark of the song, he strikes pure gold. The only gripe with the song is that the instrumentals drag on about a minute too long, but it’s not a huge deterrent from an otherwise great track.
The driving “Three Ring Circus” and affecting “The Beat Goes On” bring the album to the closing track, “The Morning Son.” The track begins with the sound of seagulls chirping and the strumming of chords that bring up the image of a day at the beach. Liam’s echoed vocals attribute to this, though after a while the effect begins to wear thin. What started as an interesting distinction from the vocals delivered on previous tracks quickly becomes trying. When the rapidly-paced drums, delivered by Sharrock, and the wah-drenched guitar riff that comes in after the second verse begin, it launches the band into the realm of a Brit-Pop band of the past, The Verve, whose front man Richard Ashcroft is a known friend of the Gallagher brothers. As the pace picks up near the end, the album ends on a frenzied, chaotic explosion of an instrumental. It would have been a marvelous thing to witness the musicians create the madness that ensued.
Beady Eye manages to deliver one of the best straight up rock albums in a long time and features a return of Liam Gallagher’s voice. The instrumentals here also trump nearly everything done by the members in their previous band. While a few moments, and one song in particular, trip the album up a bit, it never manages to fully disappoint, with the many great moments far outweighing the few mistakes. While Noel Gallagher is left in the position of answering his younger brother, he is left with his hands full, as he has the task of topping a monstrous album.