, June 10th, 2013 07:16
What's depressing about Beady Eye's second album – the moment when, if they're serious about this venture, they really ought to have put their balls on the line – is the utter predictability of the way it's unfolded. Those who sputter and rail in Mr Agreeable fashion against that most reviled of ungenres, 'lad rock', wheel out their ill-thought-through righteous indignation once more, while Gallagher lovers strap themselves up for one more bout of charitably measured head-nodding. And it could've, should've been so different.
Where Gallagher Senior walked out of Oasis into instant national treasure status, Liam, penner of so few songs, genuinely had something to prove. The occasionally fun but rushed-sounding and insubstantial Different Gear, Still Speeding' didn't do it. BE was the record where he and the rest of the men formerly known as Oasis had to find their belly-fires.
The announcement that they were to be working with TV On The Radio's David Sitek boded well. Though beloved by Oasis-abhorring lovers of satisfyingly intelligent indie rock, and a former twiddler for Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Scarlett Johansson among others, Sitek's buzzing, fizzing psych-pop tapestries could have been an interesting fit for The Stonesy, bawdy roll of Beady Eye's swagger.
The fact that BE is patchy, and solid rather than surprising in its best spots, you have to put down to a failure of nerve or drive. It's not Different Gear, Still Shit, but it is nowhere near as exciting as it might have been.
Technically, the band acquit themselves well; it's a well-written, well-played album with a proud and pretty strut to it. Liam, though, should be the motor here, driving the sound to aggressive heights, putting the musical money to the mouth he's constantly bringing to his interviews. He's described Beady Eye as "more rootsy, more organic and more real" than Oasis, and this album does sound more exciting and fresher than the Dig Out Your Soul era. But unlike Noel's tamer solo work, it rarely sounds sure of itself, and that's its downfall.
The dark, horn-lit swirl of opener 'Flick Of The Finger', with its heavy, trouble-starting drums, promises good things, and though it's let down by the ill-fitting pretension of having Kayvan 'Fonejacker' 'Novak' read a monologue from Peter Weiss' Marat/Sade by way of Tariq Ali's Street-Fighting Years, at least it's reaching out for something. It's a promise that isn't kept, though.
Though 'Soul Love' has an ominous groove, it takes it in a disappointingly late Beatles/Lennon direction. Not disappointing because it's Lennon or the Beatles, mind, but because we've been here so often before, and for all the odd crashes and twinkles Sitek can sew into the sonic backdrop, the inert cosiness of too-well-trodden ground is unmistakable. 'Iz Rite', too, is pretty much Cast in ATP's clothing.
'Face The Crowd' tries to be in-yer-face and gutsy, perhaps partly inspired by Liam's constant avowal that he's happier back in smaller venues staring them in the eyes, glammy handclaps adorning his weary-sounding accusation "Playing to the gallery/When you know it's time to face the crowd." It's a fun enough stringed-up space glam romp, but there's little in the way of conviction.
'Just Sayin'' works better as a sprucing up of Oasis' moody stomping with a space-cruising, shimmery drive and a cheeky, crunchy chorus. 'Shine A Light', too, is invigorating, a ghostly 30s cinema piano intro giving in to a punch of rootsy guitar that recalls U2's 'Desire' as much as the Stones nodded to in the title.
There's more of novel interest, though, in the spooky-dooky, reverb-laden, slightly Latin rhythms of 'Second Bite Of The Apple', with its feverish tambourine and quite literally cocky lyrics animating Liam's old-school snarl for a second: ("Yes you're not wrong/She wants to know what's in your pocket"). They sound like they're fighting for it here, Liam bawling "The word is up if you're tough enough" over a bright, horn-blaring chorus.
'Soon Come Tomorrow' wastes that momentum, though, in a sweet but insubstantial tripped-out acoustic bimble, Liam wondering "What kind of love burns holes in your heart/Holes that rue deep like they'll pull you apart". He's edging towards the sort of simple emotional affect his brother can do so well with the likes of 'If I Had A Gun', but he's nowhere near it yet - especially on the extraneous drab ballad 'Ballroom Figured'.
Speaking of big bro, there's a not-so-coded message for him in 'Don't Brother Me', another sad-eyed strummer: "Did you shoot your gun/Always In the sun/with your Number One...". No fire-stoking here though - Liam's holding out an olive branch through the Hammond and listless tambourine: "I'll keep pushing/Come on now, give peace a chance/Take my hand/Be a man".
For all the amusement and news the Gallagher spat provides, there's little doubt, after all, that they will make up. And there's little doubt what will then become of Beady Eye. Maybe that's the problem.
Much of the critical huffing that's greeted BE has hovered around the question: why should we care? Why should we care what Liam gets up to on his gardening leave before that 2015 reunion.
Well, we should have cared, because idiots hate them automatically, and there's great cultural value in a critical whipping boy. People who get worked up about Beady Eye, as opposed to just not liking or not listening to them, are people who like to be thought of as clever, and radical, and forward-thinking. Not people who are those things, but like to define themselves as those things, which is very different.
How great would it be to have a Beady Eye that were invigorated and fresh-sounding, who did find a way to let Liam prove himself, to make Oasis unnecessary, to make big, swaggering, brilliant mainstream rock music to drive morons into self-righteous frenzy all day long? It's just a real shame they fucking blew it again.