Just by looking at the artwork for Beady Eye’s pre-album singles, “Bring the Light” and “Four Letter Word,” their inspiration is quite obvious – they are almost exact copies of artwork used by The Rolling Stones and other British Invasion bands. The retro theme is consistent throughout their entire debut album and there is something almost refreshing about being this unashamedly retro in a time where unoriginal is almost the worst insult one can direct at a band.
One cannot judge an album as steeped in history as Different Gear, Still Speeding outside its context, history and contemporaries. Here is the short version: Britpop giants and Beatles devotees Oasis split in 2009 after brothers Noel Gallagher and Liam Gallagher finally could not stand each other (more than usual). Vocalist Liam Gallagher went on to form Beady Eye with the remnants of Oasis; guitarist Gem Archer, Oasis bassist-now guitarist, Andy Bell and drummer Chris Sharrock, while Noel seems to be content without releasing anything.
Befitting a band derived from the heavily 60s pop influenced Oasis Different Gear, Still Speeding sounds like Liam and co. truly wish it was 1966 all over again. Oasis were always criticized for being a Beatles rip-off but without Noel’s songwriting Beady Eye sounds closer to The Rolling Stones, The Who and The Pretty Things in the harder rocking songs, while the ballads sounds akin to Liam’s John Lennon-ish “I’m Outta Time” from Oasis’ last album Dig Out Your Soul.
Different Gear, Still Speeding is very much a case of what-you-see-is-what-you-get; it is a heavily 60s inspired rock album by former members of Oasis and that’s exactly what you would expect if you have any clue as to what you are listening to. The main question before the release of the album was not how it would sound, but rather how strong the songs would be since Noel Gallagher was always the main songwriter of Oasis and consistently wrote far stronger songs than the other band members, although Oasis’s last album Dig Out Your Soul included Liam’s best songs to date.
Building on that promise, Different Gear, Still Speeding is better than feared. There is not a single bad song on the album, but there are very few really good ones and nothing that could compete with Oasis’s stronger work. In the end this makes for a solid album, without any of the missteps that were expected, but only two songs would hold up against a typical Oasis album or have a chance of earning repeat play after the initial interest wears off; the fierce album opener “Four Letter Word” and the ballad “The Roller.”
The album’s main fault is that the band seemingly only has two gears; it’s either 60s-inspired rock or Lennon-styled ballads, and when the songs aren’t exceptionally strong a 52 minute album of this is tiring for the listener. What is worse is that this could have been avoided since “World Outside My Room,” a bonus track on some versions, is a great little Village Green-era Kinks-ish track that would have been among the strongest songs if it would have been included on the regular album, and it would have brought a much needed respite from the standard Beady Eye sound.
Ultimately the album is a better first post-Oasis release from Liam Gallagher than expected, with much more consistency in the songwriting than feared, but at the same time it is exactly what you would expect – just better, and the expectations were not high. Different Gear, Still Speeding shows that the band is comfortable with themselves and their follow-up has every chance to be a stronger album – especially if they are brave enough to include more styles, even if they won’t move beyond their British Invasion inspirations.