Review Summary: A misunderstood masterpiece.
Over time, Be Here Now, the third and highly anticipated studio album by Oasis has been either widely criticized or widely appreciated. At one point, Oasis were immensely popular in the UK. It seemed like there was no stopping them. Yet after the success of (What's the Story) Morning Glory", people started to set their expectations really high. Too high. And at first, Be Here Now received unanimous praise, but then something happened. The death knell of Britpop came along. It was time for something new and challenging. Be Here Now is neither or those things. And it didn't have to be. Even if some songs were slightly on the experimental side, they never wandered too far outside of their established territory. What matters the most about Be Here Now is the experience. And for the sake of this review, that experience can only be described in the present tense.
There could never be a more iconic opening to an album than this one: the sound of an airplane revving up its engine and soaring through the sky, followed by a whole bunch of Morse code, guitar bleeps, Wonderwall-like acoustic guitars, and sirens. After a collage of noises, we enter the depths of "D'You Know What I Mean"" Just as Liam lets out his introductory sneer, the sampled N.W.A. drum beat kicks into gear, and so do the vocals. Peppered with external song references and neo-psychedelic guitar, "D'You Know What I Mean"" hits all the right marks. The rhythm at which he sings the verses is super catchy, and so is the ambiguous chorus. The bridge section does an excellent job of transitioning from the verse to the chorus. Liam's vocals are noticeably different, but not in a bad way. After five minutes or so, there's an extended coda, which only makes the song bigger and better, and towards the end, it lands in an ocean of washed up backwards guitars. Suddenly, a huge wave comes rolling by, unleashing the loud guitar feedback of "My Big Mouth." "Into my big mouth, yeah you can fly a plane" writes Noel Gallagher. "I ain't never spoke to God and I ain't never been to heaven, but you assumed I knew the way even though the map was given," Liam sings with unapologetic conviction. Clearly the loudest, brashest track Oasis has ever done, and unfortunately, there's way too much treble and clipping in order for this to be listened to at full volume. Nonetheless, with a little proper remixing, it would sound a little like something from (What's the Story) Morning Glory" It's almost exactly five minutes long, which, compared to other songs on here, doesn't seem all that unbearable. Even with 32 guitar overdubs crashing into one another.
Drums and guitar feedback close off the song and bleed into the ambient noise of the next track, "Magic Pie." The white noise only lasts for a couple of measures, but it's a nice touch. It makes you feel like you're in the middle of a rainforest or something. Then, some more Morse Code and gentle guitars really get the song going. Eventually, it reaches a gorgeous vocal harmony similar to the one from "Cast No Shadow" five minutes in that makes this composition worthwhile. Like "D'You Know What I Mean"," "Magic Pie" also ends with a bit of experimentation, but rather than reversed guitars, it descends into mellotron madness. "Stand by Me," the fourth track and second single off of the album, is also rather repetitive. Being a single, of course, it has more of a hook than a chorus. "Stand by me, cos' nobody knows the way it's gonna be." If anything about this track is to be changed, it should be the nearly six-minute duration. A good four minutes, and this would be a much better song. Other than that, it's a great track. But not as great as the rousing "I Hope I Think I Know." This song is the quickest and features great lyrics aimed towards critics of the band like, "You tell me I'm free, then you tie me down, and from my chains, I think it's a pity." More on the rock side, but with a sensible pop melody. Track number six, "The Girl in the Dirty Shirt," begs the question, "What would happen if Oasis tried to remake 'She's Electric"' but longer"" You would get this satisfying gem of an answer. It's the least serious song on the album, and the most Britpop-y number as well. A nice way to close off the lighter Side One of the album before transitioning to the more melancholy second half.
Enter Side Two of the album, with some light tapping sounds and tambourine hisses. A very Western guitar enters the scene, playing the main riff of this wicked cool track called "Fade In-Out." For approximately three minutes, the tambourine is the only percussion instrument. However, everything that comes after is relentless. The moment when that scream happens, all of a sudden, the guitars are at full blast and the drums are finally unleashed. Lyrics on this track give a taste of just how heavy Oasis can be. To close off the song is yet more distorted guitar and a bunch of "aaahs." "Don't Go Away" sounds the soberest out of all of the tunes. This is a song written out of sentiment rather than out of impulse. Now, this song may have the inevitable string section, but its conclusion is one of the best out of all twelve songs. All it involves is the wistful strumming of an acoustic guitar and very little else. Along comes the title track, with its plunking toy piano, pub rock riff, and whistling hooks. Not that deep, although it is still a worthy addition to the record. It's essentially the "Columbia" of Be Here Now, complete with a non-appearing title and a string of "c'mon, c'mon, yeah yeah yeah"s.
Thus, we finally reach the gargantuan track, "All Around the World." For a song with such a broad thematical scope as well as a long history within the band, it makes sense why it would be so lengthy. Other people may claim that it's a Beatles ripoff, but does having two key changes and "na na na"s automatically make something derivative of that band" Probably not. It's mostly the music video that accompanies this song that is a Beatles pastiche. The music, on the other hand, is pretty standard alternative rock, starting off with a gentle acoustic guitar before coming in with the drums and some dashes of electric guitar, soaring higher and higher until it touches the clouds. With each key change, the plane gets higher in the sky until eventually, it lands back on the ground in time for "It's Gettin' Better (Man!!)," a song which some probably like and some probably don't. It plods on for two minutes longer than necessary, but it's got a great chest-thumping vocal, especially when Liam sings "Shout it from the rooftops of your head." During the bridge section, Oasis perform one of their best guitar solos ever, building up, slamming on that gas pedal, until all of a sudden, they abruptly step on the brake. It's like you're on the highway and your wheels are turning to the groove of the tambourine until the guitar slides way down low and you hit a red light. Then, the song resumes, and it's back into gear. The "We're gettin' better, man"s just go on forever, and in doing so, the song becomes a mantra.
Not long after singing at the top of their lungs for a solid two and a half minutes, "We're gettin' better man!!," a quick reprise of "All Around the World" closes off the album in all its glory. Many people think that this reprise is completely unnecessary, but it's kind of fitting for the album because it functions as the rolling credits at the end of a movie, which is what this album feels very much like from front to back. Strings, piano, and reversed guitars mix harmoniously to create an effective closer for the seventy-one-minute long album.
It's important to remember that this was first released on August 21st, 1997. During the summer. A season which this record was made for. Just having a good time in the sun without really thinking about anything, that's what Be Here Now is. It may have caused people the ultimate musical hangover, but did they enjoy it at one point" Absolutely! And that shouldn't make you ashamed to like the album. If anything, it should make you feel proud to like this album. Be here now. Not yesterday, not tomorrow, but now. Its spontaneity is, without a doubt, magnificent.
"D'You Know What I Mean"" (BEST TRACK)
"My Big Mouth"
"Don't Go Away"
"It's Gettin' Better (Man!!)"
Overall Rating: 5 stars