Classic Rock Review

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Oasis Be Here Now (1997)

FrontFrom sputnikmusic.com

Looking back at the mid 1990s, the British musical scene was rather different to what it is today. This was the era of Britrock, when Blur, Pulp, and many other bands ruled the charts. However, one band stood out above all these others, and is still thought of as the leaders of the genre in spite of the fact that it is generally thought that they peaked almost a decade ago with (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?. Hard as it may be to imagine now, for a period back then Oasis were not only the biggest British band, but also quite arguably the best.

When this album was released, it was one of the most ludicrously hyped albums in history already, to the extent that no matter what the band released, it was unlikely to be well received. This soon turned out to be the case, although it sold 250,000 copies in Britain alone on the first day of its release, and a total of 700,000 in less than a week. Critics, however, quickly seized on the album as overly long, and a bloated imitation of the previous Oasis. Crucially, the perception in the music world quickly became that Oasis had run out of ideas, something that they had never been accused of on their first 2 albums. Although these criticisms may have as much to do with public perception as to what the band should be doing, as to whether this album was any good, it’s undeniable that this doesn’t even come close to their previous work.

The songs:

1. D’You Know What I Mean immediately sets the tone for the album. Opening with the sound of a helicopter and a series of electronic noises, the song quickly becomes the type of arrogant rock song that Oasis had perfected on their first two albums. There’s a problem though. With the exception of the ballad Champagne Supernova, Oasis hadn’t recorded a song over 7 minutes before, as happens here, and they’re not the sort of band where epic songs work, largely due to their style, where most of their songs sound fairly similar, something which is at least partially on account of Liam’s trademark singing voice. As with quite a lot of songs on here, it would actually be a very good Oasis song if it were shorter. 3/5

2. My Big Mouth. This is one of the better songs on the album, with the kind of music and lyrics that could easily be imagined on Definitely Maybe. It’s got some more good lyrics, with Liam snarling, “Into my big mouth, you could fly a plane”, in a parody of himself and his arrogance, while at the same time refusing to apologise for this. The band also recaptures their guitar riffing ability here, making this a good Oasis song, without being a great one. 4.5/5

3. Magic Pie. This is where the problems really start. The first two tracks, although not brilliant, were quite good Oasis songs. Even this starts off well, with a softer Noel Gallagher vocal, but it quickly degenerates into a dirge of a song, which doesn’t seem to be heading in any real direction. The guitars are uninspired, as are the lyrics, with Noel seeming to be actually trying to force himself to show some emotion, and failing pretty badly at this. And of course, the fact that this is the third longest song at the album somehow makes the experience even worse, as at least D’You Know What I Mean and All Around The World have their redeeming features. This is Oasis at their worst, and is one to skip, adding a completely unnecessary jazz coda at the end. 1.5/5

4. Stand By Me. Well, it’s an improvement on the previous song, but this suffers from another of the album’s faults, namely that of overproduction. Oasis always worked best when their music sounded faintly in danger of veering off the road it was going down. Here it seems as if they were told by the record company what the song was going to be, and how it was going to sound. It’s not that bad a song though, with a good Liam vocal, and showing that the band possessed the ability to structure a song, although in this case it’s hidden under the layered guitars that lower this song. And sorry to beat a dead horse again, but this is just too long. 2.5/5.

5. I Hope, I Think, I Know. This is more like the old Oasis again, although it’s hard to escape the feeling that this would have been a filler track on one of their previous albums rather than one of the stronger points so far here. There’s nothing especially interesting or special about it, other than the fact that it features some pretty good drum work in the background, which really drives this song forward. This still gets 3.5/5 though for being both a definite improvement on what’s come before, and something that it sounds like Oasis put in more effort on.

6. The Girl In The Dirty Shirt. Although this is meant to be another Oasis ballad in the vein of Cast No Shadow, it, again, doesn’t come close. There are good moments in here, such as the vocals which show that while Liam Gallagher does not have a conventionally good singing voice, he can nevertheless really sing ballads well, but the instrumental section just seems to plod along, with the possible exception of Noel Gallagher, whose guitar seems fresh and more innovative than during other points in the album on here. This suffers from many of the same faults of the rest of the album, and gets 2.5/5.

7. Fade In Out. This song is one of the better points on the album for me, with a slow intro, which leads into a strong vocal over the band providing a surprisingly understated performance. It also has some of the better backing vocals here, and the band shows that they can be more than a one-trick pony when they want, with Liam’s scream leading into an instrumental break featuring some screaming guitars, again from Noel Gallagher. However, although the first section of the song is impressive and different, the hail of feedback and the repeated chorus it ends it leaves a sour taste in the mouth. 3.5/5.

8. Don’t Go Away. If track 6 was a disappointing Oasis ballad, this is far far worse. This song is absolutely cliche-ridden, with a string section grating in the background, the band staying resolutely in the background, and some dire lyrics, such as “Don’t go away, say what you say, say that you’ll stay, forever and a day”. It’s the kind of sentimentally unoriginal slush that fills the pop charts in the UK every week, and it’s disappointing to see that Noel Gallagher, a man that has written some truly great rock ballads (such as Live Forever, and the ubiquitous Wonderwall) has fallen to this level on this album. 1.5/5.

9. Be Here Now. As with other songs on here, nothing special, but there’s nothing specifically wrong with it either. The lyrics are total nonsense, but the overall feel of the song is OK, with an interesting keyboard riff played on a child’s piano. Although it sounds slightly stale, this is a solid Oasis song, and one that the band would have cruised through on previous albums. 2.5/5.

10. All Around The World. Something that is often said about Oasis is their love and admiration for The Beatles. This has never been more evident than on this track, which is their attempt at a Hey Jude style of song. While this is one of the most polarising songs on the album, I think it is the best thing on here by a long way. For a start, although it is very long, and again could usefully be cut, this is Oasis at near their best. A relatively simple song structure, and a message being confidently delivered by Liam, immediately makes this a bonus on previous tracks, although the orchestral arrangements in the background still annoy a bit. This would get 5/5, if it were shorter, as there is quite simply no need for this to be as long as it is. As it’s still the best song on here, and the one song I could recommend as a download, I’m giving this 4.7/5.

11. It’s Getting Better (Man!). As I’ve said before, with several other songs on here, its a decent song in it’s own right, without being anything special, but is too long, and doesn’t have the freshness that previous songs like this did. I’ve already written just about everything that could be used to describe this song in talking about Be Here Now, and I Hope, I Think, I Know, which should tell you everything you need to know about this song. 2.5/5

12. All Around The World (Reprise). In a word, why? This brings nothing to the album, featuring a full orchestra marching their way through the song, which, while good the first time, works rather less well for a further 2 minutes with no singing. This is a very weak end to the album, and provides further evidence of Oasis not being clear where they were going with this record, and, to a certain extent, not really caring that much. 1/5

There are several fundamental flaws with this album. As I’ve already said, not only could some songs easily be scrapped, but most of the songs on here could simply have a few minutes chopped at some point, to make this a tighter, more cohesive album. The band, more importantly, could have made a greater effort to recapture the energy and aggression that made them such a formidable force earlier in the decade, rather than resting on their laurels somewhat with this album. Although disappointment was perhaps inevitable for all the people who had been waiting for this album, such was the anticipation, this is an overly long album that has since been described by Noel Gallagher as “grossly offensive”, and the work of “two gobshites with a bag of charlie (cocaine)”. The album is fundamentally a tiresome listen, and one that you will not wish to return to on a regular basis, whether or not you like the band. Make sure you get Definitely Maybe, and (What’s The Story) Morning Glory?, but there’s no real need to bother with this.

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March 31, 2013 - Posted by | Oasis Be Here Now |

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