The Beady Eye equation (Oasis – Noel = Beady Eye) is both a blessing and a curse for Liam Gallagher and his band of Oasis alumni. If Liam Gallagher turned up at the opening of a garage door he would make headlines, so there is no chance of a new Beady Eye going unnoticed. But equally anything released by Beady Eye comes under incredible scrutiny and inevitably gets compared to both Oasis past glories and brother Noel’s work with his High Flying Birds solo outfit.
Beady Eye’s debut album, 2011’s Different Gear, Still Speeding, was put together with the wreck of Oasis still smoldering. Pinned down by big singles in the shape of ‘The Roller’ and ‘Four Letter Word’, it was a capable but predictable slice of sixties-inspired rock music.
Two years down the road and Beady Eye are back for round two with new album, BE (“It’s BE. Be. Be who you are. Be whatever you fucking want to be. Be. Fucking bumble-bee” – Liam Gallagher). All the talk coming out of team Beady Eye in the lead-up to BE’s release has been about seizing second chances and branching out from the meat and potatoes of Different Gear, Still Speeding. It is a sentiment that shines through in the title of lead single, ‘Second Bite of the Apple’.
If ‘Second Bite of the Apple’ is indicative of Beady Eye’s second chance, they have clearly bitten off more than they can chew for it is a tepid and forgettable song that almost invites the listener to hit ‘skip’. It is one of the more forgettable songs to come out of the Gallagher stable – that it sank like a stone to 112th in the UK Singles Charts says it all.
Somewhat fortunately though, it is a momentary lapse in judgement rather than a genuine yardstick of where Beady Eye are at, and those who persevere with the album will be relieved to hear track one, ‘Flick of the Finger’. A call to arms, a genuine statement of intent, it is dominated by Liam Gallagher swagger and bravado (“the future gets written today”) and notable for its driving horn section and spoken word passage from a Pakistani author’s book about 1960s revolutionary counter-culture. Who ever expected that on a Beady Eye album?
One criticism often leveled at Oasis was that their songs ‘all sounded the same’. While that is an unnecessarily harsh assessment, it is fair to say that Oasis albums rarely offered up much in the way of surprises (“Without a doubt” responded Liam when asked in a recent interview if Oasis lacked adventurousness). Therefore it is refreshing to hear that while there is no freestyle jazz or Christian power metal on BE, the band have demonstrated a willingness to experiment and push the boundaries.
Some of the credit for this must go to producer Dave Sitek, he of TV on the Radio fame (whose previous production credits include the Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Foals). Sitek is not the type of name one would expect to pop up in the liner notes for an album by a band like Beady Eye, but his fingerprints are all over the record as he helps to bring together a sonic tapestry that pulls together horns, flutes, and spoken word samples around classic sixties inspired rock sounds.
But copious sprinkles of Dave Sitek magic dust and Liam Gallagher swagger can’t paper over some of the deep songwriting cracks on BE. Save for a few shining lights, most of the songs just don’t stand up to repeat listening. Lyrics are the biggest problem, with too many infantile rhymes and too many words shoe-horned in by blunt force (“Shake my tree where’s the apple for me / Tickle my feet with the NME” from ‘Second Bite of the Apple’ is a particularly bad example). There are just not enough ear-worms on BE and your reviewer is left thinking that the group would be best served if they could outsource the song-writing to someone else. Someone like … Noel Gallagher?
Noel and Liam may move in entirely different circles these days (they have not spoken to each other properly since Oasis broke up in August 2009) but don’t expect to get through BE without encountering Noel. He’s not there in person, of course, but he’s there in spirit on the dad-joke titled ‘Don’t Brother Me’. Lyrically it’s all a bit simple (with lyrics like “Did you shoot your gun / You know I’m a man, I’ll do what I can”, long term Oasis fans may get a ‘Little James’ vibe), and it meanders on for far too long, but it is not as bad as the name may suggest.
The quality may wear a bit thin of the course of the album, but there are some definite diamonds in the rough on BE. As well as the before-mentioned ‘Flick of the Finger’, other highlights come from ‘Iz Rite’ and ‘Start A New’. The former has a pulsating ‘Tomorrow Never Knows’-type groove masking jangly guitars reminiscent of the Byrds, while the latter has the sweetest Liam Gallagher vocals since ‘Stop Crying Your Heart Out’ and is just waiting to soundtrack TV montages. Elsewhere, another standout comes from ‘Soul Love’ where Liam’s vocals come to the fore on a track with a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club versus Death in Vegas feel.
A two and a half star rating might give the impression that there is nothing worthwhile here, but that is not quite right. About half of BE is really good – it is just a shame that the other half is so forgettable. There is one sure-fire way to get the best out of this album – let your ears cherry pick the best bits, locate the skip button, discard the rest, and let BE be what you want it to be.