Review Summary: Cocaine + Ego = Be Here Now
You can sum up a lot of what Oasis’ massively anticipated 3rd album represents in the first 60 seconds of the behemoth album. What features is a pointless drawn out sound sample that adds nothing to the track it begins, and that same sense of indulgent aimlessness runs throughout the hour and 12 minutes of the band’s worst album. Up until the 1997 release of Be Here Now Oasis went from strength to strength and seemed unstoppable – a sentiment which the group themselves seemed to fully agree with – having released two massively successful albums, became megastars constantly appearing on TV and in the press, and performed a record breaking colossal concert in Knebworth in ’96. Anticipation was even huger than it had been for Morning Glory but as the old saying goes, what goes up must eventually come down, and in 1997 Oasis came down. HARD.
Being the champions of Britpop and having sold millions of records to adoring fans Noel, Liam and co entered the studio with bags full of cocaine, the scrapings from the bottom of Noel’s big barrel o’ songs, and little else. Be Here Now is the ugly spawn of such a concoction, and was an utter disappointment that effectively killed off Britpop – the dream was over, lying in a puddle of its own sick on the floor, with a dusting of white powder on its nose. First and foremost the album is far too long. There is no quality control, no censorship, no care, almost. Songs drag on for 7 or 8 minutes without enough interesting musical or lyrical qualities to warrant such an indulgent lifespan. Piles up on piles of guitar sounds are thrown in on top of each other at times, without ever questing why because the answer was already decided by the coked-up Gallagher’s on the day – why NOT? The reason why not should have been to realise how cluttered and overblown the tracks on Be Here Now are. Even ballads such as ‘Stand By Me’ are saturated with guitars and strings where earlier hits such as Wonderwall and even acoustic renditions of the track itself have proved that sometimes, less is more.
The album’s flaws cannot be blamed on the unwise production choices alone, as there is also an overwhelming sense that Noel Gallagher had run out of good ideas – indeed, if his claim of having written around 50-100 songs before Oasis were even famous is to be believed then the 12 tracks on Be Here Now were definitely the runts of the litter. ‘Stand by Me’ has a decent enough Oasis ballad buried under its cluttered sound waves but is still less compelling than earlier songs of its type, repeating the same “Stand by me / Nobody knows the way it’s gonna be” line for the last 2 minutes. ‘Don’t Go Away’ appears more promising at first, with excellent Liam vocals – possibly the most sentimental he achieved on record – but on closer inspection the track is just a sub-par Oasis ballad with soppy strings, a meandering riff that sounds like a weaker version of the ‘Slide Away’ opening chords, and fumbling lyrics in places: “say that you’ll stay / forever and a day”.
‘D’ya Know What I Mean’, once it actually begins, has a solid rhythm with reverbed drums and a winding, snaky vocal pace, and may have held the potential to be more than just a ‘pretty good’ song were it more focused and shorter. ‘My Big Mouth’ has what is probably Noel’s most immediate and exciting riff on the album which really kicks the song along, with self-deprecating lyrics (a rarity in Oasis-land!) which can’t help but make the listener smile when you realise Noel has somehow coaxed his little brother, i.e. one of the most arrogant stars in this generation or any, to sing that his gob is so large you could fly a plane into it. ‘I Hope, I Think, I Know’ is also a decent rocker; notice how it is too, like ‘My Big Mouth’, one of the few tracks under 6 minutes. The title track (again, one of the shorter songs), is better than most of its brethren with a loopy rhythm punctuated by a zany whistle and a catchy chorus well handled by Liam. ‘All Around the World’ also has a redeeming middle 8, and ticks along pleasantly, but is ridiculously too long at 9.20.
Sadly the rest of the tracks aren’t worth detailing other than to say they are cluttered, lazy, misguided dirges for the most part – any small traces of fun are spoiled by the egocentric, drawn out production. The same is true for the album in general, as although it has a few enjoyable moments and ideas, the overall listening experience is not a pleasant one – like being at a party where every guest is high on cocaine, oblivious to you, the sober guy who isn’t having the same fun in his non-intoxicated state because he can’t see much to get excited about. That’s what Be Here Now basically is – an album produced on an excess of drugs and ego, without the care or control that the first two factors diminish. It is telling that Chief Noel has later disregarded the album and mocked its excess in interviews; when it came to selecting to the tracks to make up Oasis’ first greatest hits collection (Stop the Clocks, 2006), he completely avoided this disappointing LP – one which marked the end of Oasis’ glory days and Britpop in general.