Oasis was a band borne out of an extreme passion for The Beatles. Noel and Liam Gallagher worshipped at the altar of the Fab Four, and their goal was to snuggle up next to them in the pantheon of the greatest bands of all time. That never wound up happening, though Oasis certainly did make an impact on music that will be felt for quite awhile. It’s just there was never an “Oasismania” or obsessive posters of Noel and Liam on the walls of teenage girls. Among the myriad of reasons that Oasis never fully succeeded at their mission of becoming one of the Greatest Bands of All Time were the ever-changing musical landscape and two brothers that just couldn’t seem to stand one another for extended periods of time. Both Noel and Liam’s influence in the band was felt though, and it was their combined strength that pushed them into the realm of becoming highly successful. The reasons why “Definitely Maybe” and “(What’s the Story) Morning Glory?” were landmark albums was because Noel took Liam’s 60s and 70s-heavy vibes and updated them with a few modern bits that worked quite well in the musical landscape at the time. As the years went by though, the fighting and constant threats of break-ups (and even legitimate break-ups for periods of time) stole more headlines than the band’s music did. Times and trends changed as well, leaving Oasis as something of a musical dinosaur, crafting ultimately very good records that not many people heard because it wasn’t the 90s and their sound was no longer novel. Still, their last two albums rest on the better half of their catalogue, though their ultimate breakup in 2009 seemed to leave little to nobody in mourning. Perhaps that’s because it was a long time coming, and the only surprise was that they stayed together for as long as they did.
Formed out of the ashes of Oasis is Beady Eye, and the only person missing from the new band is Noel Gallagher. Yes, Gem Archer, Andy Bell and Chris Sharrock, all Oasis vets, are calling Liam Gallagher their frontman and going under a different name. The move is smart, not only for the sake of getting a fresh start but also because while a lot of the qualities between the two bands are the same, there’s definitely differences that would be disingenuous to the Oasis name were they released under that guise. That’s not to say Beady Eye’s debut record “Different Gear, Still Speeding” is of a poorer quality than a lot of the crap Oasis shoved at us during their troubled “middle” period, or even some of their better days. The point is that there are some aspects to Beady Eye’s sound that would make Oasis seem like a completely different band were that name still being used. Specifically, without Noel to keep him in check, Liam seems set on completely indulging his 60s and 70s rock influences. The result is an album that definitely sounds like it comes from another era, though in this day and age with so many bands propped up by the sounds of their ancestors you can’t really call it dated. If you’re not going to innovate and try something new though, your first prerogative should be to craft songs that are vital and strong enough to be distinctive on their own.
“Nothing ever lasts forever,” Liam repeats multiple times on album opener “Four Letter Word”. Surely he’s not intending to reference either the end of Oasis or the general impermanence of music/musical styles, but it’s really easy to interpret it that way. What’s really interesting though is how the song itself comes off as very “in the moment” and vibrant. It’s a rather thrilling introduction to the band, a huge arena rocker with an even bigger swagger that almost dares you to try and ignore it. Such attitude is expected from a Gallagher, and if you were hoping that with a new band Liam would have himself a slice of humble pie you’d best adjust those expectations. The upbeat acoustic strums of “Millionaire” recalls folk pop of bands like Andy Bell’s early years as part of Ride or even The Charlatans UK. Liam’s obsession with all things Beatles and the similarity of his voice to John Lennon’s leads to “The Roller”, the first official single on the record and what feels like a blatant rip off of Lennon’s “Instant Karma”. It may not have the uplifting charm or the super catchiness of the track it’s trying to be, but there’s not a ton of wrong you can do with that bouncy piano melody.
“I’m gonna stand the test of time, like Beatles and Stones”, Gallagher says in the appropriately titled “Beatles and Stones”. Actually instead of sounding like either of those bands, the song sounds a lot like The Who’s “My Generation”. The irony in that is the song features the lyric “I hope I die before I get old,” which is just about the antithesis of standing the test of time. Whether or not Oasis or Beady Eye will legitimately go down as legendary will be determined in the decades to come of course, but it’s probably safe to say neither band will reach the pinnacles that the Beatles and Rolling Stones did. Still, as to the merits of the song itself, it’s got a whole lot of great qualities to it despite the obvious debts it owes and makes up for any shortcomings by being pretty fun. The same could be said of much of the first third of the record.
“It’s just a wind-up dream, so don’t wake me up,” is one of the main hooks in “Wind Up Dream”, and that’s funny because the track is so plain and ordinary that it comes across more as a nightmare. Even-handed and ordinary is a good way of describing it as it really doesn’t go anywhere, to the point where you’d like to be woken up as soon as possible. Courtesy of “Bring the Light”, a Jerry Lee Lews piano melody meets some bluesy Rolling Stones guitar in what sounds like a winning combination on paper. After a couple verses though and not even halfway through the song, things completely devolve into the constant repetition of the phrase “Baby come on” ad nauseum. You hear it said so many times that it sticks in your head just because of that reason and none other. The track feels more like a showcase for banging around on instruments than it is actual lyrics and hooks, which is probably a mistake. The sunny folk-pop of “For Anyone” is nice and pleasant, and has that heart-on-your-sleeve lyrics that has been done a million times over in the 60s and 70s. This time around it doesn’t distinguish itself from those versions, and the song might be better titled as “By Anyone”. And then there’s “Standing on the Edge of the Noise”, which naturally cranks the guitars up and does less standing and more jumping off the ledge into a big pool of formless noise. It probably went just a little too far.
The recovery begins almost immediately on “Wigwam”, a 6.5 minute song that swirls and soars and steps into the sunlight that in one of the first times on the album actually feels earned. It carries the memories of Oasis classics such as “D’You Know What I Mean?” and “Slide Away” inside of its notes, leaving you with the belief that Beady Eye might actually amount to something as good as what came before it. The spiky energy of “Three Ring Circus” and the earnestness of “The Beat Goes On” make for winning late album songs that once again don’t carry the torch of originality with them but do come off as playful and without a hint of parody. The lazy acoustic strumming of “The Morning Son” feels fitting for a 6-minute album closing ballad. What begins as a pretty sparse song actually expands out into something majestic and gorgeous the more it progresses, until in the final minute the swirls of noise build up to a peak and then drop off into the calm waters of the ocean below. The song title might be a play on words intended to be speaking of that bright orange ball of fire in the sky, but the way this thing closes out, it feels more like a sunset than a sunrise.
So what are we supposed to make out of Beady Eye and their debut album “Different Gear, Still Speeding”? Well, the comparisons to Oasis stick here and will probably always stick with these guys because that was their other band. The difference in their gear this time around is that they’re packing less guitars because Noel isn’t around anymore. But they’re still the utmost professional musicians that clearly still have a lot of creative juice left in them. Yeah, this record is a lot more influence-heavy than just about anything Oasis ever did, and it’s also not quite on par with the best parts of Oasis’ catalogue, but there’s a lot to like and maybe even love here. Prior to its release, Liam Gallagher was going around telling everyone that “Different Gear, Still Speeding” would blow minds in a similar way to how the legendary Oasis debut “Definitely Maybe” did nearly 17 years ago. As he is apt to do, and because he’s egotistical blowhard, that statement was a bit of an overreaction. Times are different, and these days you need to be making something wholly original to get the sort of raves that will keep people talking about you for years to come. This 60s and 70s-heavy stuff is nowhere near original, but it is largely done well. Because of that reason, and that reason alone, it is worth your time and money. Hopefully on the next record Beady Eye will amount to more than just a really smart and crafty cover band.