16 Years Ago: Oasis’ ‘Be Here Now’ Album Released
Oasis’ ‘Be Here Now’ may be the band’s most underrated album.
Regardless of what critics say, the facts support such a viewpoint. Upon its release, the Gallagher brothers' third full-length became the fastest-selling album in U.K. history and the highest-charting Oasis album in the U.S., reaching No. 2. Some might say that was too damn high, and that 'Be Here Now' doesn't stand up to the band's first two albums, 'Definitely Maybe' and '(What's the Story) Morning Glory?' Indeed, it could have used an editor, but this unfairly maligned set includes some of Oasis’ best all-around ideas.
The disc arrived 16 years ago today in 1997, the year of Radiohead’s ‘OK Computer’ and the Foo Fighters’ ‘The Colour and the Shape,' among other high-profile alt-rock albums. Such competition might be one reason 'Be Here Now’ doesn't get the respect it deserves, but really, this one was doomed from the beginning. Initial recording took place at the legendary Abbey Road Studios, but as Noel Gallagher explained in a 1997 interview, Oasis were asked to leave after noise complaints. So ironically, a band often dismissed as Beatles knockoffs were apparently deemed unworthy of -- or too sonically grating for -- that band's home studio.
The most common criticism of ‘Be Here Now’ is that it's too long, but critics who levy that complaint are probably the same ones that fall asleep at the opera or orchestra. Granted, ‘All Around the World’ shouldn't run nine minutes and 20 seconds. But it’s an extremely catchy song with an above-average chorus, and there are worse ways to spend 10 minutes of your life.
Other reviewers echoed the Baltimore Sun and called the album “bloated” and “blaring.” These critics must have forgotten that ‘Definitely Maybe’ and ‘Morning Glory' were not without their lyrical pretentiousness (see ‘Rock ‘N’ Roll Star’ or ‘Cast No Shadow’), and that Oasis’ tried-and-true formula had always involved bold statements. Dissing 'Be Here Now' on those grounds is like sending back rice for being too white.
And relative to other popular British albums released that year -- ‘OK Computer,’ the Spice Girls’ second album, Chemical Brothers' ‘Dig Your Own Hole’ and Prodigy's ‘Fat of the Land’ -- 'Be Here Now' was decidedly less produced and electronic. It's a rock album, and the only thing remotely like it, at least on the mainstream level, was the Verve’s ‘Urban Hymns.
If 'Be Here Now' was out of step with U.K. tastes, it didn't fare much better stateside, at least in terms of radio airplay. Despite the album's overall chart success, Noel Gallagher failed to deliver megahit anthems like ‘Wonderwall’ and ‘Champagne Supernova.' Nevertheless, the album is loaded with highlights. Single ‘D’You Know What I Mean?’ features ‘Revolver’-like backward vocals and a slick wicka-wicka-wah opening, and with its backbeat and boastfulness, it's practically a rap-rock hybrid -- definitely foreign-sounding and forward-thinking for 1997.
‘Stand By Me’ (not a cover of the Ben E. King classic) is a little long, but it boast a giant chorus, and ‘Don’t Go Away’ is one of Noel’s best and most charming love songs. And no wonder -- he was in the middle of a divorce from his first wife, Meg Mathews.
Interesting side-note: Longtime Oasis chart rival Blur put out their most American-friendly album, their self-titled fifth LP, that same year, and even with jock-jam fave ‘Song 2,' it didn't crack the Billboard Top 50. It topped out at No. 61 -- 59 places south of 'Be Here Now''s peak position. That alone should silence the naysayers.