Yesterday, August 21, marked the 25th anniversary of a monumental album. While the band’s first two records would be known as worldwide sensations, their third one was a bloated mess that sold like hotcakes on release but quickly soured among the fans. It would be the final nail in the coffin of the musical movement the band had helped bring to international attention.
Oasis – Be Here Now
Released August 21, 1997 via Creation Records
My Favorite Tracks – D’ Ya Know What I Mean?, Stand By Me, Don’t Go Away
Oasis came into the recording of Be Here Now off the high of their historic live sets at Knebworth in August 1996. With their public visibility came the attention of paparazzi, and the Gallagher brothers made rich targets for the tabloid hounds. Add in a healthy dose of cocaine, and the table was set to record the third album.
It’s easy to see the one of the primary faults of the album without even playing it– 12 songs clocking in at 71 minutes. This isn’t a prog album and nothing justifies that kind of length. It’s coupled with curious production choices, such as excessive layering of instruments, that bog down what truly are some quality song ideas.
Nevertheless, we have this chonk of an album to get through.
D’ Ya Know What I Mean?
The lead single also opens the record. It’s one song that seems too long by its near 8 minute runtime but for some reason actually works. It’s also another of many Oasis songs that really aren’t about anything – this is just a rock in and rock out tune, not offering much in the way of discourse. Sure it has lyrics, but good luck analyzing them.
I do still quite enjoy this song even with apparent faults. It’s one of a few from the record that don’t throw me off and holds places in playlists I make today. The single did extremely well for Oasis, charting well in many different countries.
My Big Mouth
This is one of two songs from the record that were aired out live at the Knebworth gigs a year prior. It was a highlight of that live set but studio choices made render the studio version somewhat lesser. Here, Noel decided to layer his guitar a lot, and it did not enhance the song. It’s kind of a mess to listen to, even though a very good track is hiding under all of the guitar. The version on the Knebworth live recording is much more worthy than the studio cut.
A song title that came about because Noel misread the word “magpie.” This track is interesting, in that it both sucks and is really good. The messy production suits the song well and the overall vibe is a melancholy affair that gets my attention. But the song is WAY too long and also there are a few stupid lyrics thrown in. Very much a mixed bag here.
Stand By Me
The album’s second single and one that sees a decent runtime at 5:55. Noel apparently wrote it after getting food poisoning but Noel at times also states that he doesn’t remember writing it, so who knows. This is one of Oasis’ strongest songs after the first two albums and it’s one from this album that works well without needing any real editing.
I Hope, I Think, I Know
For all the criticism of the album’s length, it’s a song that comes it at a very acceptable 4:22 that is a total castaway. The song isn’t “bad” per se but it’s totally forgettable. Should’ve been a B-side.
The Girl In The Dirty Shirt
Noel wrote this about his then girlfriend, who was ironing a dirty shirt because she didn’t bring enough clothing along for a tour. It’s a decent track that sounds good and isn’t burdened with overproduction.
A bluesy rock anthem that would be fine for most bands but does sound odd coming from Oasis. Overall it’s a pretty cool song, though. Johnny Depp played slide guitar on it.
Don’t Go Away
The album’s final single, released only in Japan and North America for whatever reason. It could easily be called the album’s best track, everything works here and there isn’t any room for criticism. It’s a sad affair about not wanting to lose someone close and might have been influenced by cancer scares among mothers of the band members around the time.
Be Here Now
The title track offers a pretty good rock tune with some annoying sound choices with whistling and a cheap piano (apparently Noel wrote the original piano line on a toy one belonging to Mick Jagger’s kid). The annoyances are minor though and the song is overall solid.
All Around The World
The album’s third single clocks in at over 9 minutes. The song is fine but not really needing that long to run. It’s a definite “homage” to the Beatles, something Oasis have been accused of being time and again. It’s not one I play very often.
It’s Getting Better (Man!!)
This was the other song played at Knebworth a year before seeing a studio release. The studio version has some sloppy production and is over a minute longer than the live version, another case where the live cut wins the battle. It’s still a decent offering.
All Around The World (Reprise)
We close out with another two minutes of All Around The World, because we needed to I guess.
Be Here Now was initially a massive success for Oasis. Out of the gate the album sold everywhere and cracked the top of the charts in 17 countries and an impressive number 2 in the US. The album went platinum in Britain within 24 hours of release and was the nation’s fastest selling album until Adele many years later.
And then people listened to the album they just bought in droves. Be Here Now quickly became the album most sold back to music stores. The critical reception was tepid and the band had fallen far short of delivering a masterpiece worthy as a follow-up to (What’s The Story) Morning Glory? Noel Gallagher would begin the process of re-producing the album in the mid 2010’s but abandoned the concept after only working with the first song.
Oasis would live on for another 12 years after the record, but the era of Britpop was now dead. Other influential acts like Suede, Blur and Pulp had intentionally abandoned the sound, while Oasis tried and failed to recreate the anthem rock magic of their first two records. The band would live on through reputation and a few scattered hits in the 2000’s, but the golden era of Oasis was over.
I do have a hard time truly summing up what I think of the album. There are good songs on it, and I think a few other songs would benefit from more attention to detail in the studio. But – I don’t think the album is a hidden goldmine of great music either. Many of the songs are secondary tracks and even some of the stuff that works doesn’t touch the heights of the first two records. The songs that stand out were the album’s singles and those are known quantities among the fanbase. The songs didn’t outshine the massive hits the band had in their early stage.
I could say that Be Here Now is one of their stronger albums when compared to the rest of the catalog, but that’s honestly saying more about the records that came after than it is finding strengths about this album. In the end I don’t think a better production job would have raised the album’s bar a whole lot, but a few tracks would benefit greatly from it. This is still a middling affair, even if more care had been taken to shape it sonically.
This was the end of the road for Oasis as a world-conquering entity. The past few years have seen a great deal of retro appreciation for the works that put the band on the map, but now we’re into the 25th anniversary of the work that marks the stopping point. The band is still broken up with little realistic odds of getting back together, and even that would be a celebration of hindsight as opposed to a new creative era. England itself would be no worse for the wear in the absence of Britpop, as Radiohead were queued up to command the music world’s attention just as Britpop was being laid to rest.