Be Here Now


Epic, 1997

REVIEW BY: Benjamin Ray


The brains they had went to their heads.

How do you follow up a multi-platinum masterpiece? The Beatles followed up Sgt. Pepper’s with the sprawling, flawed White Album. Fleetwood Mac followed up Rumours with the sprawling, flawed Tusk. And Oasis, that most classicist of Britpop rock bands, followed up (What’s The Story) Morning Glory with the sprawling, flawed Be Here Now.

Those first two follow-up records were double albums; this one is 71 minutes, close to double album length. It’s as if the band feels they have free reign to say whatever they want and that every note of it should be captured on vinyl. For a band with rampant egos such as Oasis, one can only imagine the spectacle and grandeur with which they would present their next slice of music…and Be Here Now does not disappoint on that level.

Four of the 12 songs here are around seven minutes long, one is nine minutes long and the rest are close to four or five minutes each, save for the closing instrumental coda. The music is blown up larger than life, with piles of instruments (guitars mostly), extended jams and long intros/outros that bloat this way beyond what it needs to be. Yet the hubris on display is exactly why people like Oasis in the first place, in essence making my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250 Be Here Now more of the same, albeit inflated to cartoon proportions.

“D’You Know What I Mean” starts things off with an airplane drone that crashes into the song, a swirling epic that is more about the production than the actual songwriting. Still, it sounds so good – and Liam Gallagher’s voice is as fine as ever – that it doesn’t really matter. As a leadoff single from the album, it was about as ballsy as one could get (7:41? Really?), but it’s pure Oasis.

Much of the swagger of this album comes from the band actually being the best instead of aspiring to be, the way they did on Definitely Maybe, so there’s a sense of invulnerability that pervades the music. Something like “My Big Mouth” would have fit in on that debut; here, it is given wall-to-wall guitar overdubs and played with absolute mid-tempo confidence. Actually, a lot of the songs are like that around the middle of the album, but none are truly memorable in the way the best early Oasis could be.

“Don’t Go Away” is one of the better songs, a relatively scaled back slower piece with some of Liam’s best singing to date and one that points the way the band’s music would eventually take from Heathen Chemistry onward.

The album closes with two epics this time around. The first is “All Around The World,” which starts slowly and continues to add on layers of sound (guitars, strings, brass Liam’s increasingly higher voice) for nine minutes, creating a soaring effect that sounds wonderful, even if it doesn’t have much to say or fails to create a mood the way “Champagne Supernova” did.

It would have been a fine album closer, but the seven minute “It’s Getting Better (Man!!)” gets that honor. Instead of a slow build, this one starts off loud and refuses to relent, even though it stays pretty safely hidden behind a wall of guitars the entire time. A change of dynamics would have helped, or some more chords, or maybe cutting out a couple of minutes and moving it up in the track listing.

The main problem with Be Here Now is not that it’s too much of a good thing, but that it’s similar to an Easter egg in that the delicious chocolate shell opens up to reveal a hollow inner core. Oasis didn’t have a lot of songwriting to do, so they instead piled on the sound to make what little they had sound good. It succeeds, but it leaves you feeling empty, and that ultimately keeps this from being the classic it so badly wants to be.

Rating: B-

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