‘Be Here Now’ Turns 15

22 Aug

Oasis’s Be Here Now turns 15, and it’s time to re-evaluate it. I’ve never thought it was terrible (I actually think it’s spectacular). Of course, I’m extremely biased because Oasis are one of my favorite bands, and I don’t hate any of their albums. But anyway.

Maybe it’s not the masterpiece everyone so unfairly desired after the seminal (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? but it was a game-changer nonetheless.  People lines up outside stores to buy a music album, which is a rare sight these days. It’s also considered to be the album that killed the Britpop movement. Oasis were never the same after it.

Be Here Now came after the success of Morning Glory, transforming Oasis from a cool new rock band to the biggest act in Great Britain.  Perhaps bigger than the music was the controversy that surrounded the Gallagher brothers and their constant presence in the British tabloids.  Gone were the smaller music venues, as the band moved on to massive gigs like that at Knebworth Park in August 1996 (possibly THE musical event of the 90’s).  Oasis simply couldn’t be ignored; they were everywhere.

And that’s where Be Here Now came in.  The album reflects the band’s changed lives, as well as the troubled process of making the album.  Producer Owen Morris suggested to Noel that they abandon the sessions and wait a little longer before releasing another album, but they decided that everything would turn out okay. And so they proceeded to make a loud, bloated, druggy album that cut the fanbase in half.

What I’ve never understood is why critics felt the need to rate it five stars if they didn’t feel it wast actually a five-star album. Sure, they didn’t appreciate Morning Glory at the time it came out, but it’s not like they had to pretend like Be Here Now was great if they didn’t think it was. I think that critics and fans alike were blinded by expectations.

In my opinion, Be Here Now isn’t better than its two predecessors, but it’s not the disaster that everyone thought it was. People argue that the songs are too long, too loud, too coked-up.  It’s an album of egos–those of Noel and Liam Gallagher.  And, to be honest, I love it. It’s long, over-produced, and caught in a storm of drugs and egos, but it’s so Oasis, you know?  Nobody else could have made that album.

The album gets a lot of flack for its long songs, but they’re really good songs. The leading single, “D’You Know What I Mean?” is huge; with the helicopters at the beginning, it showed a sense of power that hadn’t really been shown in Oasis before.  The track was very self aware of where the band was at that time, with all of its swagger and bravado.  “Stand By Me” is a classic Oasis anthem, while “Don’t Go Away” is simply beautiful.  “Fade In-Out” is also very good, and Johnny Depp even plays slide guitar on it! Then, there’s my favorite track on the album (and possibly my favorite Oasis song of all time), “I Hope, I Think, I Know.” Liam snarls Noel’s perfect lyrics, and I’m pretty sure that that song will be the death of the speakers in my car.

When I look at all these songs, I don’t see the catastrophe that everyone has decided Be Here Now is.  It still managed to be the UK’s fastest-selling album of all time and reached number 2 in the U.S.  Even though Noel has dismissed the album, Liam still believes it to be a “top record.”

So many events factor into the dilemma of Be Here Now: Princess Diana’s death ten days after its release; Blur abandoning the Britpop sound on 1997’s Blur; a changing nation… Britpop was ending, but Be Here Now was its last stand.

Britpop ended on the reprise of a nine-minute epic (“All Around the World”), taking the genre to an extreme that caused it to perish while the music became more diverse. As it should be.


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