Imagine this, you’re the biggest band in the world, you’ve delivered the ultimate second album and you define the whole britpop phenomenon. Now you have have to deliver one of the most anticipated albums in decades at the absolute peak of your power.
This was exactly where Oasis found themselves when they went to the recording studio to record Be Here Now, released 20 years (and two days because I missed my deadline) ago. The resulting album was one of critical acclaim, swiftly followed by huge revisionism and now twenty years later possibly some re-revisionism? Opinion on it split the band, and critics alike Noel Gallagher regards it as appalling, the sound of cocaine set to music, over produced and too busy. Liam on the other hand thinks it’s fine, good in fact, just a bit long in parts. Album producer Owen Morris cited all kinds of problems with the band arguing amongst themselves, loads of drug abuse and questionable motives.
Be Here Now flew off the shelves, and I mean flew, it became the best selling album in British Music history shifting 424,000 copies in its first week, all the way up to about 8 million, but it became a staple of the second hand record store and critics began revising their views faster than faster than a runaway train. You know more there is of a record the more likely you’ll see them in a second hand bin, that’s maths! Ultimately it became quite fashionable to bag on Be Here Now, a wave that was ridden by casual critic and observer alike until a decade later the album was looked on with some distain by certain sectors of the music industry and music fans.
Time heals all wounds though and there has been a wave of nostalgia about this album and over the last few years, which like a pensioner taking viagra has slowly grown into something solid and tangible. 2 tracks off this album are in the top 10 most listens to Oasis tracks on YouTube, which is where all the kids get there music from. So let’s view Be Here Now through the macrocosm of modern music though for a second to explore this wave of nostalgia. The money in music doesn’t exist like it used to, unless you are a massive star then a fair to middling music career is not likely to make you or your label much money at all and a music career that never gets off the ground is likely to land you in a decent amount of debt. The upshot of all this is that music is relatively cheaply made these days, made by a producer, machine and session musicians only if absolutely necessary. Ed Sheeran and his acoustic guitar aren’t exactly expensive to start up. Contrast that with the sounds of something like “All Around the World” which standing at 9:19 for the album version complete with strings, brass and what basically amounts to Oasis featuring a 20 piece orchestra there isn’t really music made to this day quite like it. What was once considered bloated, nowadays fills a space that just doesn’t exist anymore.
It’s almost as if this album has served as a warning for the lasts twenty years, being too big, to bombastic just means a bigger fall, the music industry’s very own Icarus. That warning has been heeded to well because here have been few of any albums since that have come close to its size and scope. While there were elements that weren’t perfect this album had some serious highs and nobody is ever quite able to agree on the lows, I’ve heard people say the problem was tracks like “Magic Pie” and “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt” which I always felt were pretty strong, the former in particular, they were important contrasting notes in the albums makeup.
Compare it its contemporaries as well, chief among which is Radiohead’s OK computer. OK Computer was heralded at the time as a tonic, the antidote to Oasis and it’s “music set to cocaine”. I will preface this coming statement by saying the name Gallagher is sacred in my household and if needs be virgins will be sacrificed at their alter. OK Computer is rubbish, it has maybe one or two decent tunes but the rest of he album wallows in self pity which the rest of their subsequent albums and career seems content to dwell in, i’m not directly comparing the two here but I will say this, Smile Thom, Christ on a camping weekend it’s not like your absolutely brewstered or anything.
Be Here Now spawned 3 hit singles two of which went to number one in he UK in “D’You Know What I Mean?” and “All Around the World” the other, “Stand By Me” was held off the top because Princess Diana died and Candle in the wind was re-released. The rather excellent “Don’t Go Away” was only released outside the UK and was a big hit, it would be Oasis’s last US chart hit for a decade.
There is some fodder I grant you, the title track is pretty bonk to be fair as is “My Big Mouth” and despite the addition of Jonny Depp on slide guitar in “Fade In-Out” is mediocre, though it serves as a bit of a contrast to some of the other tunes. Is it the strongest Oasis album, not to my mind but I am just one man and my opinions matter little in the vast empty chasm of the internet so you may think differently. It certainly has some of the peaks of Oasis’s earlier efforts but perhaps it’s troughs are lower. Whatever you think about this album it’s not the catastrophe people make it out to be, sure there’s a bit too much feedback here and there and one too many effects peddles here and there but it’s got some real high points. It became fashionable to rip on it and in the end I think the vocal minority dominate when the conversation comes to Be Here Now. Loads of people liked it, loads of people bought it and loads of people have heard it, what’s wrong with making something people like!? Nothing that’s what!