Criminally Underrated #01: Be Here Now - Oasis

In the mid-90s there was only one band on everyone's lips: Oasis. Their first two albums Definitely Maybe and What's The Story Morning Glory were, not without reason, hailed as classics from their respective days of release. It was Britpop for the masses: combining classic elements from the history of rock n roll with a modern twist, they were onto a winner. The influences were obvious, the songs simple; yet it was the attitude of Liam Gallagher, and his older brother Noel's amazing sense for penning a classic song that allowed them to become so big. Besides, any albums with Cigarettes and Alcohol, Slide Away, Supersonic, Wonderwall, Don't Look Back In Anger or Some Might Say on their tracklistings rightly deserve to be up there with the rest of the best.

But then it came to following them up with a third. Be Here Now was possibly the most anticipated British album of the decade, if not the century. It broke all previous sales records when it was eventually released in 1997, two years after What's the Story, and was then roundly slated by both the band's fans and the press several weeks later. It certainly was mostly an abandonment of their usual style, and it reeked of cocaine, but the 12 sprawling, drug-addled whimsies offered up by Be Here Now are nothing to be ashamed of. Forget the background story of constant bickering, the insane amount of drugs being done and the arrogance that came with being potentially the biggest band on the planet (at the time), if you let the music do the talking and you'll be surprised at just how good Oasis' criminally underrated third album is.

The word to sum up Be Here Now would be 'huge'. It features layers of guitars, vocals and the odd orchestra all piled fantastically on top of each other, whilst the songs average at around 6 minutes in length. The production, since dubbed as 'overdone' by various music publications, simply echoed the album's size. Be Here Now would have been panned by the press even further had the production been low-key, something which would have resulted in an utter mess of an album. True, at over 70 minutes in length, its hard to take in all at once (very unlike, say, Whats the Story) but Be Here Now marked a change in direction. The band would probably not be around today had they not experimented in new sounds and methods and simply put out an album of Wonderwalls. The critics' response to the length of the album was, and is, also partially unfounded, as Champagne Supernova (closing track from Whats the Story) is hailed as a classic, despite being nearly 8 minutes in length and stylistically similar to a few tracks on Be Here Now.

But what of the songs? Opener D'You Know What I Mean? is pure arrogance; standing as an anthemic movement more than a short, catchy 3 minute pop song. It hit the number one spot on its release as a single despite being 7:45 of swirling psychadelica and crunching guitars, almost Pink Floyd crossed with the Britpop RnR of Definitely Maybe. Elsewhere, the Led Zeppelin-esque Fade In-Out would probably be hailed as a classic on any other album, complete with slide guitar by a certain Johnny Depp, whilst Its Getting Better (Man!!) is simply a fantastic rock n roll anthem, stretched out to 7 minutes thanks to Noel Gallagher's guitar heroics.

Be Here Now can't be criticised for being unlistenable or non-commercial, either, when songs such as the title track could walk onto any of their releases, or the sing-'em-loud quality possessed by the dirty, grungey ballads Stand By Me and Don't Go Away. True, songs such as Magic Pie and The Girl In the Dirty Shirt could have probably done with being a tad shorter, but they still hold enough charm and showcase Noel Gallagher's songwriting talents to such an extent that they shouldn't be dismissed so quickly. Around the World hits 11 minutes, if the reprise at the end of the album is included, but its wrong to be so picky with a song epic enough to rival that of Use Your Illusion-era Guns n Roses.

Despite being blasted by nearly everyone: the fans, the media and even the band members themselves, Be Here Now isn't nearly as bad as everyone says or thinks it is. Indeed, it is of my opinion that this is one of their better albums, certainly ranking above 2000's dodgy follow-up Standing On the Shoulders of Giants or the patchy, low-key Heathen Chemistry from 2002. Its too easy to dismiss acts based on the level of hype, mysticism or arrogance in which they become shrouded, and too many fall into such a trap when summing up Be Here Now. Give it a chance, and you could very much fall in love with this album.
Posted on March 3rd, 2008 at 11:51am


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