CD review: Different Gear, Still Speeding

Anyone aware of the fractious relationship between the Gallagher brothers couldn’t have been surprised when Oasis splintered in 2009, but outside of the U.K., the dissolution of the band was met with a collective shrug, save for a dedicated fan base.

Thanks to my buddies Damian Secore and Travis Ness, I became a huge Oasis fan, and while I’m not sure those guys were even following the band anymore, I was crushed when the band split up. I’m not a huge rock guy, but I’d drop everything to see an Oasis show, even dragging my then-pregnant wife up to Vancouver to see them on tour.

So when the news began to dribble out that Liam Gallagher and the rest of the erstwhile band were branching out to form Beady Eye, I was considerably curious. Yes, Noel Gallagher’s songwriting prowess was behind a great deal of Oasis’ success, but it was Liam’s cocksure charisma on the mic and in person that truly captured the Oasis vibe.

With “Different Gear, Still Speeding,” Oasis Beady Eye hasn’t strayed from the formula that made their prior band successful. Distinct Beatles vibe? Check. Somewhat banal lyrics? Natch. Bombastic orchestration? You bet. And trust me, these are all good things.

By the time Oasis had run its course, the band had become something of a punchline for the hipster crews predisposed to disregarding the music, overlooking the fact that “Don’t Believe The Truth” and “Dig Out Your Soul” were solid albums free of the excess that brought Oasis down from the “Champagne Supernova” days.

So Oasis haters are not going to get much out of “Different Gear,” but for those willing to give the group a chance, Beady Eye delivers a propulsive, rollicking album that doesn’t aim to reinvent the wheel but simply provide 50 minutes of entertainment.

It does say something, however, that the album’s best track, “Bring the Light,” does not instantly remind one of an Oasis tune. With its bluesy piano riff and R&B backup vocals, Beady Eye might have stumbled onto something they should explore in further releases. It’s a toe-tapping, catchy song that shows Liam in fine form.

In fact, Liam’s voice sounds stronger than it does in years, as he belts his way through several hard rockers and uses his lilt effectively on the ballads. I’ve always been more partial to Oasis’ slow songs than fast ones, so “The Beat Goes On” and “The Morning Son” tend to resonate even though they trod familiar territory.  

And it also wouldn’t be an Oasis-y album without a bit of 60s psychedelia, and the six-plus-minute “Wigwam” gives it to us in spades, drifting along in a haze of fuzzy guitars, “aaahhh”s and wistful lyrics. Speaking of lyrics, they’ve never been Liam’s strong suit, so fortunately bandmates Andy Bell and Gem Archer step in to provide some assistance.

This is album that could have gone horribly wrong. Haters were ready to deliver a critical beatdown and fans were worried Liam might tarnish Oasis’ legacy with a lackluster product. But in the end, it has to be considered a success, and I only hope Beady Eye builds on this strong start to create their own path away from Oasis and into something they can call their own.

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~ by Elliott on March 1, 2011.

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