Bad news for those haters of arrogant, backward-looking lad rock, whose hopes were raised a month ago when Liam Gallagher suggested he might quit music if the new album by his band Beady Eye flopped like its predecessor did two years ago. BE is surprisingly, relatively, rather good and should extend the band’s career.
Though not as terrible as some claimed, their post-Oasis debut album, the ploddingly predictable Different Gear, Still Speeding, was seemingly driven on auto-pilot and heading straight down a musical cul-de-sac. To make things worse for Liam, Noel Gallagher was flying high after his own album fared much better in both reviews and sales.
However, BE is a very different vehicle, showing that Beady Eye are no longer stuck in a rut and are actually going somewhere interesting now. Though never likely to break through any sound barriers, the band has moved on from their old-style stodgy meat and potatoes pub fare to something altogether more subtle and varied. A lot of the credit must go to super-producer Dave Sitek of TV On The Radio, who has introduced an attractively layered approach with some off-kilter moments, getting Liam and co-songwriters/guitarists Gem Archer and Andy Bell to take a few unexpected turns.
Rousing opening track Flick Of The Finger begins with a stomping drum beat from Chris Sharrock and big brassy backing to create a daunting sense of power for its anti-establishment message. After Liam sings “But the future gets written today”, Kayvan Novak of Fonejacker fame takes over, speaking the words of ’60s radical Tariq Ali and French revolutionary Jean-Paul Marat, no less. Soul Love sees Liam stretching a bit higher than normal in his limited vocal register, slightly out of his comfort zone as he exhorts “spread your wings and learn to fly”, in a song full of unsettling atmospheric sounds with a spacey instrumental outro.
Recurring power chords smash their way right through Face The Crowd in a dynamic rocker, but first single Second Bite Of The Apple is different from anything the band have done before, with its compelling jerky rhythms, echoing guitar and brass notes surging through. Soon Come Tomorrow is more reminiscent of Beatles-wannabe Oasis, enlivened by some spooky guitar pedal effects, while the gently chiming guitars of affirmative love song Iz Rite later veer unexpectedly off-beat. The positive mood continues with I’m Just Saying, as Liam looks forward: “Feeling fine, this is my time to shine.”
The more muted Don’t Brother Me seems to be about getting back at you know who –“sick of all your lying, your scheming and your crying” – though brotherly bitching gives way to an unconvincing reaching out for reconciliation – “Come on and give peace a chance, take my hand, be a man” – that is left hanging in the air musically at the end. Shine A Light is a heavily percussive number that makes you want to tap anything within reach. Ballroom Figured is a simple, rather pedestrian ditty accompanied by acoustic guitar, while Start Anew also begins as a slow acoustic number but later powers up to close out the album on an upbeat note.
Although the musical advance Beady Eye have made in BE does not extend to the clumsy lyrics, Liam shows he is not just a balls-out bawler and the band sound sharp. It looks like they might be around for a while yet.