Liam Gallagher sounds like he’s desperate.
His post-Oasis musical group, Beady Eye, produced Different Gear, Still Speeding, in 2011, an underwhelming and disappointing debut album. Beady Eye, which includes former Oasis members Gem Archer, Andy Bell and Chris Sharrock, rushed out its album and it showed. The band tried too hard to be like its predecessor group and came up short. The album title even implied a continuation with Oasis, as if the members of Beady Eye acknowledged that, while they had lost their engine, they were still going hard and fast.
Instead, Different Gear was a bland collection of forgettable songs that sounded like one of those contractually obligated leftovers albums that gets released over a band’s objection. Even worse for Beady Eye, the band had to sit back and watch Noel release his Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds album later that same year to great acclaim and success.
Beady Eye is back with its sophomore effort, BE, and it’s clear that the band (at least Liam) understands the stakes and wants desperately to be successful. Liam said that he might quit music if the new album flops (he does have that fashion career to fall back on). In order to drum up ticket sales, Liam also announced that the band would play Oasis tunes on tour, something he had been loath to do previously. He also complained about being forced to play a small amphitheater on the same night nemesis Robbie Williams played Etihad Stadium, which shows you his megalomania is still intact. Even the album cover for BE, which features a topless women lying on her back seems like a calculated move to try and generate controversy (in fact, some stores have already censored it).
Most importantly, the band understood that it needed to reinvent itself and come up with a new identity separate from Oasis. As such, they’ve replaced producer Steve Lillywhite with Dave Sitek, who has previously produced diverse acts like the Yeah Yeah Yeah’s, TV on the Radio and Scarlett Johansson.
In one respect, Beady Eye has succeeded. Whereas “Different Gear” sounded like Oasis without Noel Gallagher, BE sounds like a band trying to find a new identity. Lead single and album opener “Flick of the Finger”, a militaristic tune heavy on horns and drums, sounds like nothing from Oasis’s back catalog. Liam isn’t afraid to experiment with his voice, and on “Soul Love,” he actually croons. “Second Bite of the Apple,” one of the album’s best songs, is a swinging tune that’s actually danceable. Meanwhile, “Face the Crowd” has a hand-clapping section that you’d think could have been written by Ric Ocasek.
On the other hand, many of these changes seem artificial. Boldly proclaiming “the future gets written today,” “Flick of the Finger” includes a spoken word outtro that quotes part of Peter Weiss’ Marat/Sade monologue from Tariq Ali’s Street-Fighting Years. It’s clearly a superficial attempt at appearing cerebral and is a departure for Liam, who usually doesn’t care about stuff like that. The band’s desperation is even more clear on “Start Anew,” which sounds like a generic love song, but if you read between the lines, it seems like a plea to fans to give the band another chance. “Wipe away those tears, please don’t be upset. Tell me all your fears, this I will address. Got the whole world in our hands. Come on take a chance and start anew, me and you,” Liam sings beseechingly.
Plus, the band treads on plenty of familiar territory on BE. “Iz Rite” sounds like the Beatles proving that Noel wasn’t the only one who liked to mine those Strawberry Fields for inspiration. “I’m Just Saying” is a throw-back to the “Morning Glory” era and sounds like a cross between “Hello” and “Swamp Song.” The lyrics are also illuminating. Liam calls out someone (we can only guess who), singing: “You might think the grass is greener, here I am on the other side” and “I’m feeling fine, this is my time to shine.”
In fact, Noel’s ghost continues to lord over the band and Liam calls him out numerous times. In what qualifies as a diss-track in England, “Don’t Brother Me” is a pretty obvious “take-that” to Noel. The song also contains a random sitar section in the middle that seems tacked on because, well, where else would you put it? “Sick of all your lying, scheming and your crying,” is one line. “Had a little fun, did you shoot your gun?” is another line that could be referring to Noel’s single “If I Had a Gun.” Of course, Liam isn’t without sentiment. “In the morning I’ll been calling, I’m hoping you understand. All or nothing, I’ll keep pushing. Come on now, give peace a chance. Take my hand, be a man.”
But why is Liam clamoring for peace? After all, it’s not like the brothers have much of a relationship outside of music (Liam didn’t invite Noel to his wedding to Nicole Appleton – Noel didn’t invite Liam to his wedding, either). Really, the only thing tying them together was Oasis. Given the rumors that the band might reunite in 2014 for their 20th anniversary, BE could be just a way for Beady Eye to tread water until Noel is ready to get the band back together. Given Liam’s comments about playing amphitheaters and doing Oasis tunes and talking reunion, it’s clear that’s where his head is at.
As such, it’s tough to take BE very seriously. On the one hand, it tries to win the future, but on the other hand, it wants to relive its past. That formula could have worked (plenty of albums have been forward looking while being wistful about the early days – heck, Pink Floyd made a career off doing that). However, the members of Beady Eye seem to be using this album to stay in the spotlight until the inevitable Oasis reunion. Unfortunately, this collection of songs won’t convince Noel that he needs to get back with them as soon as possible.