Beady Eye – Different Gear, Still Speeding
After spending the best part of 20 years in the formidable creative shadow of his older brother, Beady Eye‘s debut album gives Liam Gallagher the chance to show us all exactly what the best front-man of his generation thinks a rock band should sound like. Unsurprisingly for Liam, that band sounds a lot like John Lennon – and like Liam himself, it makes no apologies for its influences.
What is surprising, though, is just how composed and mature the song-writing on Different Gear, Still Speeding is. While the man who gave us the excruciating ‘Little James‘ all those years ago still hasn’t lost the ability to produce a few toe-curlingly awkward moments (yes, there really is a song called ‘Beatles And Stones’!), Different Gear, Still Speeding is a more than solid first effort that suggests Beady Eye deserve more than the ‘Oasis-lite’ tag they’ve been predictably lumbered with.
As the title would suggest, much of Different Gear, Still Speeding focuses on the Gallagher sibling soap opera. ‘Four Letter Word’ kicks off the lyrical tone with a thinly veiled allusion to the brotherly fall out, with Liam seeming to attack Noel’s attitude and setting the scene for a chart war (“The battle’s on and the song is the prize”) before spitting defiantly: “Nothing ever lasts forever”.
While ‘Four Letter Word’ sets the lyrical tone of the album nicely, its typical ‘Liam-esque’ swaggering rock back-drop is something of a red herring. For those expecting an album full of balls-to-the-wall, snarling rock tunes, Different Gear, Still Speeding might come as a surprise. ‘Millionaire’ is a shimmering pearl of a record, with 70’s glam-esque slide guitars and an almost falsetto Liam vocal creating something that sounds like a cross between The Charlatans and The La’s. ‘Wind Up Dream’s distinctly 60’s feel keeps the nostalgia coming thick and fast, while ‘Bring The Light’ revels in its glorious 50’s rock’n’roll tempo.
All this proves to be a distraction, though, as the real treasures of Different Gear, Still Speeding come in the second half. While Liam may have made his name as the swaggering, hard-living rock and roll standard bearer, it’s when he opens up his softer side that he really shines. ‘For Anyone’ is a delicate, wide-eyed summer sing-along in the mould of ‘Songbird’ while ‘Kill For A Dream’ and ‘The Beat Goes On’ are proper heart-felt ballads that could easily be mistaken for some of Noel’s best. The best of this bunch comes in the form of ‘Wigwam’ – with Liam doing his Lennon impression over a dreamy, melodic backdrop which morphs into a powerful and beguiling gospel choir led by Liam’s repetitive refrain of ‘I’m coming up’.
The real highlight of Different Gear, Still Speeding is saved for last in the form of ‘The Morning Son’. While ‘Four Letter Word‘ starts things off with fighting talk, the album closer takes a much more mellow and reflective tone – with Liam simultaneously hoping for a reunion while celebrating his transition to band leader and star in his own right. It’s a devastatingly simple and powerful song that should put any doubts about Liam’s song-writing skills firmly to bed.
If it seems this review is a bit too concerned with Liam Gallagher, it’s because the rest of the band seem to be playing nothing more than a session musician role on Different Gear, Still Speeding. Although they all share song-writing credits, there is no doubt that this is a Liam Gallagher album – with every song framed around the strengths of his vocals. Take ‘The Roller’ for example, a well-crafted and stripped back melodic rock standard that would probably be drenched in reverb and an extravagant wah-wah solo in the hands of Noel (think ‘Stand By Me’ or ‘All Around The World’). In Beady Eye, though, Liam is well and truly centre-stage – and on the strength of Different Gear, Still Speeding, that’s exactly where he wants to be.