Saturday, January 7, 2012

A listen to the other 1/2 gives a pleasant surprise

Recently I decided to give the other Gallagher brother the benefit of the doubt - Liam, that is.  His band "Beady Eye", formed with himself and the rest of what was once Oasis, was first to get their disc out in early 2011.  "Different Gear, Still Speeding" was an album I approached with lowered expectations - only to be pleasantly surprised, dare I say even blown away.

The disc roars out of the speakers with the opening "Four Letter Word" - a track designed to remind folks that Liam was (and still is) the more brash and outspoken of the two brothers.  And a fine reminder it is - a punchy, frenetic ride that doesn't let up till the last note.  Ironically the next track flips the disc on its head - "Millionaire" is a shamelessly Beatles-aping mid-tempo ballad.  Indeed, much of this disc is rooted in traditional 60's/70's rock and roll.  It feels far more tight and lean than Oasis' final offering "Dig out your soul" - which was not a bad record, but was a bit over-worked.

Liam offers up another defiant and cheeky sneer in the form of "Beatles and Stones" - with lyrics spinning a tale of longevity and perseverance.  And while Oasis as a band may have splintered, they had been doing music for nearly 20 years at the time, and if the brothers both continue well on into this decade, Liam may just well prove his boasts to be true.

On my review of "Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds", I lamented that Noel occasionally lets the music drift back to the tripped-out fantasy soundscapes Oasis was known for in the beginning of their run.  With Liam, it is a more welcome nostalgia trip - these head-in-the-clouds, over the top sentiments sound better on this disc.  This makes the spacy "For Anyone" one of the highlight tracks of the album and a roundout to a great midsection.  "For anyone who loves / for anyone who feels / I'm never giving up / until the dream is real" - simple sentiment that, and the rest of the lyrics too - but when it sounds as pleasant as it does, one hardly cares.

The album stumbles a bit in the final steps - "Standing on the edge of the noise" and "Wigwam" are over-wrought, and bombastic in all the wrong ways - they sound like Liam-penned B-sides from the last Oasis album.  Thankfully this is but a minor slip, and the final 2 are gorgeous.  "The Beat Goes On" plays like the best pieces of every Liam-sung ballad ever, both now and in the Oasis days, packed into one tight, glistening package.  The closer apes the epic swirl-ending once heard years ago in "Champagne Supernova" and is Liam at his most bittersweet.  If there is any one track that obviously references the rift between him and Noel, this is it.  The pain, the stubborn resolve to go on, the sadness, the love, all ring through quite clearly.

Against all odds, with the always able and effective Steve Lillywhite manning the boards, Liam, Andy Bell, Chris Sharrock, and Gem Archer have proven they too have what it takes to keep on going.  If Oasis as the world once knew it never comes back to life, both brothers have demonstrated a bright possible future in the music world on their own terms.

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