Different Gear, Still Speeding by Beady Eye
Oasis had always had a strange, one-sided relationship with the Beatles: though early songs such as "Whatever" and "Shakermaker," Noel and Liam's hairstyles, the latter's vaguely Lennonesque Northern British bleat and that the band would eventually enlist Ringo Starr's son Zak Starkey as a drummer served to illustrate their debt to the iconic band, many of Noel's controversial sentiments–such as (What's the Story) Morning Glory? being a better album than Revolver–suggested an iconoclastic position. Now that Oasis is over and done with—that is, until the inevitable money-fuelled reunion in ten years—fans of that band, as well as the Beatles, will have to content themselves with the extremely Beatlesque Beady Eye, comprising Liam, two of Oasis' longest running sidemen in guitarists Gem Archer and Andy Bell, and the band's drummer for the last two years of its (initial) existence, Chris Sharrock, who have released their debut album, the brilliantly titled Different Gear, Still Speeding.
But its Beatle-worshipping nature will only be apparent to listeners once they've heard its second track, the insignificant but pretty "Millionaire"—once Noel had lifted the embargo on other band members contributing songs, Liam proved himself to be a consummate author of such sweet little ditties— and the only way I can make the comparison work for hard rocking opener "Four Letter Word" is to point out that its brassy, wah-wah guitar laden refrain is faintly reminiscent of a spy-movie suspense sequence, and remind readers that Paul McCartney once scored a Bond film. It is slightly disappointing that Liam has come to adopt sort of a naked Lennon impersonation for two reasons: he already possessed one of the most distinctive voices in Rock, and the constraints of homage seems to stifle him somewhat (unless he's just lost it.)
"The Roller" constitutes a flash forward to John Lennon's later solo career: it's crafted entirely of Lennon-tropes, save for a Glam-my dual-guitar solo towards the middle. The track would have been shockingly tame for an Oasis song but, then again, this is Beady Eye—the band that I am now absolutely sure was not bestowed with a name starting with the letters B-E-A to ensure that they would always be alphabetically filed just ahead of… another band.
Then there's a song called "Beatles and Stones," which borrows the riff from The Who's "My Generation," oddly enough: undoubtedly one of the album's stronger tracks as, like many of Oasis' great songs, it both subverts and builds upon familiar riffs and melodic ideas. Some of the album's other let downs, after its retrogressive premise, include "Wind Up Dream", "Bring the Light" and "Standing on the Edge of Noise": while the songcraft and tendency towards homage are present, there is also a hint of laziness, or of wheeling out something old and dusty, flicking it on and stepping out for a cigarette instead of carefully working the controls.
Then there's "For Anyone," what is probably the album's best song: a bizarrely out of place soft-rocker falling somewhere between Smiths-ian jangle pop and the New Wave wimp-rock of Marshall Crenshaw; tightly constructed and featuring some absolutely beautiful, bright, unusually melodic guitar picking—actual picking. Nearly just as good is acousti-centric "Kill For a Dream," which, with its dolorous strings, rudimentary bluesy leads and lazily strummed guitars, would not have felt out of place on the aforementioned Morning Glory.
The sprawling, epic but instantly forgettable "Wigwam" consumes 11% of the album's running time and bores for that long (four minutes of earnest, Ringo-esque drum fills winding into infinity notwithstanding) and all I can say of "Three Ring Circus" is that I finally understand why British antagonists of Oasis often referred to them as "Quoasis" (in reference to London-based boogie rockers Status Quo.) The last fifth of the album is devoted to the "okay" Magical Mystery Tour-channeling "The Beat Goes On" and the also very long and very "okay," nearly "not half bad" "The Morning Son," which finds the band using at least three different kinds of chords. It's a decent album, not great, nor does it need to be, but I do wonder how many of these songs will pop up on that reunion setlist.