Monday, 24 June 2013

REVIEW: Beady Eye - BE (Columbia Records)

So here's the general opinion: Liam Gallagher spent years living off of his brother's talent, and all the Oasis songs that Noel didn't write were mostly very poor indeed. So when Noel left and the group reconvened as Beady Eye, of course they were SUPPOSED to be shit. But those who actually gave them a chance were surprised to find that Beady Eye's debut 'Different Gear Still Speeding' wasn't as bad as it should have been.

It seems that some critics are letting their dislike for LG affect the way they hear the band's recent second LP, and people like THIS writer from Drowned In Sound probably decided they didn't like it before they'd even heard a note. If someone hates Oasis then getting that person to review 'BE' is obviously going to be unfair on Beady Eye. So would it be giving the band an unfair advantage if a huge Oasis fan like myself was to review the album? No. If anything it's the opposite. Because I loved Oasis so much and the Beady Eye sound is similar, it means that even if I try not to, my ears will compare it to Oasis. And no BE record is ever going to stand a chance up against 'Definitely Maybe'However, Beady Eye doesn't include the man responsible for the songs that made Oasis great, and the only member remaining from the glory days is the singer. In terms of creative input, this band has more in common with Hurricane #1 and Heavy Stereo than it does with Oasis. The shadow of the latter looms over Beady Eye in a massive and slightly unfair way. They're stuck in a difficult situation that isn't really their fault.


One of the problems is that the band can't decide whether to distance themselves from Oasis or whether to embrace that history and use it as a template for their new music. Leaving the past behind would be a healthy thing for them and would help them develop musically, but at the same time their past is the only reason they have fans in the first place and is the only reason people are aware of the music, so inevitably they feel that they need to create something for those fans. The second Beady Eye album sees them stepping in and out of the shadow, but there's only so much they can do when basic rock n roll is their main strength. One thing that's noticeable is the fact that the group don't rely on big choruses, something which certainly sets them apart from Oasis. Sometimes they don't need choruses. Sometimes they do.



If the debut LP was a warm up in preparation for the real take-off, then 'BE''s opening 'Flick Of The Finger' is the rocket launching into orbit. Immediately there seems to be more confidence and the lyrics tend to reflect their determination to succeed, as drums pound and shuffle, and distorted brass blasts through a melody that doesn't necessary imitate Kasabian, but certainly comes from the same place. Admittedly it's not a million miles from Oasis, but could this be the record where they free themselves from the shackles and prove they can be just as good as Oasis but in a different way? The second track 'Soul Love' answers that question with a firm "no". Yes it's slightly different, there's a ghostly hypnotic feel to it as well as an interesting counter-melody going on, but the lyrics are nothing but unimaginative cliches and the chorus is whiney, dreary and utterly woeful. Worse still, it shares a title with a classic Bowie number that puts it to shame in every way possible.

They do better with the urgent and somewhat chaotic 'Face In The Crowd', where the old attitude is present along with one of the album's most exciting moments. The same sadly can't be said for the single 'Second Bite Of The Apple', where the limp tune and lame lyrics cancel out the best parts of the song, which in this case are its interesting rhythms and more of that distorted brass. 'Soon Come Tomorrow' is pretty humdrum, and delivers the album's most uninspired chorus, but thankfully the worst bits of 'BE' are over and a strong second half follows.

'Iz Rite' may not be particularly adventurous, but it serves up a wonderfully carefree breeze of a chorus that echoes 'Revolver' via The Stone Roses and would have fitted in well on an Oasis album. The same can also be said for the upbeat swagger of 'I'm Just Saying', which recalls both 'Hello' and 'Stay Young', two tracks written by a man who isn't involved in this record. But just because Noel didn't write it doesn't mean that it's no good,although the lyrics do leave a lot to be desired, as is often the case across the whole record. From this evidence, it seems like a natural sound, but it's somewhat ironic that the two most Oasis-like tracks are the strongest ones on an album that was supposed to be a step in a new direction. However in some ways it is.

Although it sounds suspiciously similar to a certain Liverpool group's 'You've Got To Hide Your Love Away', 'Don't Brother Me' is perhaps the biggest indication of new ideas forming, a peaceful bassline drifting through the sparse instrumentation, demonstrating a subtlety that wasn't present in the music of Oasis. The arrangement and particularly the sitar-tinged coda suggest that it was perhaps producer Dave Sitek who moved them in this direction, where the songs are free to breathe and spread themselves more freely. The lyrics are either an honest insight into what Liam has on his mind or an attempt to create publicity by writing a song that seems to explicitly refer to the high profile feud between him and his older brother.

Complete with some excellent percussion, 'Shine A Light' is another highlight which proves that even without Noel they are still capable of creating no-nonsense brilliance from the simplest of ingredients, while the low key 'Ballroom Figured' is a stripped down low key acoustic number that will hardly win the band an Ivor Novello award, but has a downbeat charm that's hard to really dislike. The closing 'Start Anew' finds LG singing in his 'tender' voice and again in a reflective mood, this time a more positive one, ending the album on a bright note

If you think Liam Gallagher is an idiot, then don't let that get in the way of listening to 'BE' and giving it a chance. It's neither a triumph nor a disaster, but a handful of great moments make it worth a listen. It's not exactly as "out there" as Liam claimed it to be, and it appears that they're leaning in a new direction rather than moving into it, but slow development is better than none. I recommend a large portion of it if you like good old fashioned indie rock with a slightly psychedelic edge, but I also recommend keeping the "skip" button in mind to avoid the rough patches. 3/5








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