"The key is just not being afraid to say something when it needs to be said," says Liam. "Whether it's about music or anything in life, you say it, you take it on board, you get on with it. There is nothing worse than being in a band when you can’t say anything."
It was always about Liam, wasn't it?
I mean, it was that voice of his that carried Oasis, no matter what Noel was writing to go with it.
That instrument made Oasis what it was and now that voice leads Beady Eye.
Beady Eye's debut album, Different Gear, Still Speeding, is out March 1 -- today! -- on Dangerbird Records here in the United States.
Liam sounds like a liberated man on this record, there's no denying it.
I used to joke that Oasis' Be Here Now (1997) would have been a masterpiece if all of the songs were half as long as they were.
Well, Different Gear, Still Speeding may well be that masterpiece: 51 minutes of rollicking pop performed with an energy I've not heard in ages.
Taking Gem Archer (Heavy Stereo, then Oasis) and Andy Bell (Ride, then Hurricane #1, then Oasis) with him, Liam's crafted an amazingly tight set of tunes here.
Those of you looking for a Noel-esque "Sunday Morning Call" can look elsewhere; these are 13 songs, equal parts swagger and sensitivity, sung by the best rock singer alive today.
I don't say that lightly. The guy could sing a song like "Live Forever" and sound like Johnny Rotten being forced at gunpoint to tone it down and sound a wee bit vulnerable, or he could sing something like masterful B-side "Stay Young" and sound like John Lennon having a go at a Sex Pistols stomper.
And that's not to diminish the contributions of Gem and Andy. Speaking as one of the only Yank fans of Heavy Stereo, I can say that I always felt like that band got unfairly slagged off as chancers as the excitement of Britpop waned. As a friend says, "At least they rocked" which is more than I can say about, say, Marion, for example.
Gem Archer reminded listeners with Heavy Stereo that there was no shame in head-bopping along to Slade or Mud.
And Andy Bell needs no introduction, does he?
But don't forget drummer Chris Sharrock. This guy pounds the skins with more authority and dexterity than most of the guys who sat in the same spot on stage with Oasis ever did.
Okay, on to the tunes.
I feel like an album like this, with such high expectations from Oasis and Liam fans like me, warrants a track-by-track breakdown so here goes:
(Mind you, I've only had time to play this all the way through twice so far!)
"Four Letter Word"
The swagger. The kick-in-the-ass to get things underway. "Live And Let Die" punked up, the string sample swirling back there as the guitars snarl and wail.
The best Cast song you could ever imagine mixed with Led Zeppelin's "Hey Hey What Can I Do".
Already burned into my psyche, this Lennon-esque singalong jam is something I'd been playing a lot already. On the album, it serves a purpose in smoothing out the first half of the record.
"Beatles and Stones"
Not what I expected from the title. And not the same as that classic from one-time Creation labelmates The House of Love with a similar title. More a roots rocker.
"Wind Up Dream"
After that CCR-"Proud Mary" false start, it's "Supersonic" but with harmonica and a blues edge. The slower cousin to the previous track on the album.
"Bring The Light"
The Jerry Lee Lewis-meets-Glitter Band stomper that I've been playing A LOT since Christmas. What more can I say now?
Think Eighties McCartney, not earlier Lennon. Liam sounds positively buoyant here. A lovely tune, lovely melody, and the sparse instrumentation recalls The Lilac Time and Shack.
I'll go on record before anyone else does and say that this could very well be one of Liam's best recorded vocal performances. Period.
The bridge of this is sublime -- it sounds like a lost classic Crowded House song! Easily my favorite song on the album so far. A delight.
This is the sound of the springtime we're all waiting for.
"Kill For A Dream"
This is the sound of Liam looking forward with a quick glance over his shoulder into the past. As much as he can't escape the shadow of Oasis -- and why would he want to? -- he's also trying to take those elements and point them in a new direction.
When he sings: "I'd kill for a dream tonight" it's not so much the sound of desperation as it is an attempt to recall a youthful wish.
"Standing On The Edge Of The Noise"
Think "Blues from a Gun"-era Jesus and Mary Chain. Then think a bluesy version of "I Can See A Liar" from Liam's old band.
With a keyboard figure that recalls "Over My Head" by Fleetwood Mac, this song -- dig those backing vocal loops -- offers something decidedly retro and at the same time risky. While Beatles fans will enjoy this cut, the song seems to be the most adventurous for the former Oasis frontman. There's a "Drive My Car" guitar lick that springs up, then the vocals echo and stretch as Liam sings about "...beyond the stars" and the guitar unfurls and the drums ricochet in short bursts until the near-foot-stomping ending.
At almost 7 minutes long, this is the longest cut on the album. There are more than enough instrumental bits at work to keep a listener entertained and the bloat of something similar in length from Be Here Now (1997) is just not here. A lean and economical tune.
When the backwards guitars kick in and Liam declares: "I'm coming out", it's a thing of beauty.
"Three Ring Circus"
Liam sounds so young on this track! Another slightly angry riff-rider like the album opener.
"The Beat Goes On"
For a guy who gets accused of aping The Beatles all the time, it sounds like Liam just said "Fuck it" and let the band go all out on this one. Cue mellotron now!
That said, it's a beautiful song and would be an amazing way to end the album if not for the longer and even trippier album closer.
"I'm the last of a dying breed" Liam sings and he somehow -- like always -- manages to tinge the cocksure bravado with a hint of something else. Perhaps an awareness that he's practicing the sort of songcraft rapidly going out of favor in a world of auto-tuned dance pop and knock-kneed indie inexperience.
"The Morning Son"
This track is -- at first listen -- like something from one-time Oasis Creation labelmates Super Furry Animals, the whimsy replaced with the vulnerability in Liam's voice. The music here is a bit neo-psychedelic but it never gets in the way of the beauty of the tune.
The elements of the song -- vocals, production, instrumentation -- make "All Around The World" sound downright silly in comparison!
This is how you do that sort of thing without descending into a simple homage to the lads from Liverpool.
I know I've highlighted a few of the more adventurous moments on this album but, really, it's a remarkably focused affair with little energy wasted and most musical ideas serving the song at hand.
Producer Steve Lillywhite owes some credit too, based on this quote from the press release:
"If you always record in the same way," continues Liam, "put the drums down, then put the bass down, etc. you always get the same record, it's always in time and in tune but it's soulless, everything's the same, it's like someone's walked out the room, it's autopilot, there is no movement, and you need that to keep on the ball. I'm straight in there now. In Oasis I'd be doing 20 takes, now it's four takes and you're there and we've got it. But we could have gone with Bob The Builder [as producer], it still would have been right. Because at the end of the day we were on the ball, we knew what we were doing, all the producer had to do was press the buttons we didn’t know how to press."
However they did it, Beady Eye produced one of the most listenable albums 2011 is likely to see.
All you old Oasis fans out there can stop worrying and just go get this album ASAP!
In the States, you can buy the debut CD directly from Dangerbird Records here.
Or, you can buy the CD from Amazon here.
Or the MP3 album from Amazon (as of 8 March) here.
Or you can get the album from US iTunes here.
Check out the Beady Eye interview and session on radio station KEXP here.
Follow the band in the States on Dangerbird Records as well as on the band's own Beady Eye website.
(Thanks to the good folks at Permanent Press Media and Dangerbird Records for getting me the album!)