Thursday, 7 November 2019

Oasis - Be Here Now (1997)

D'you know what I mean....

 

Released on 21 August 1997

Running time 71.33

By 1997, Oasis were, supposedly, the "biggest band on the planet", or as Noel Gallagher sneeringly said "bigger than, dare I say it, fucking God...". They had begun to swallow their own myth completely and become arrogant, emperor's new clothes, fawned-over rock star tossers. The media fed, nurtured and perpetuated this until the group became an embarrassing parody of themselves. Relations pithing the group became almost permanently fractured with Noel leaving and then coming back and an atmosphere of drug-addled laziness hardly conducive to producing quality music. The group seemed to think they were untouchable and could put out anything and it would still sell. Their motivations were purely commercial. Rather like their idol John Lennon, they had become cynically arrogant.

The result was Noel Gallagher's equivalent of Sly Stone's There's A Riot Goin' On with its multi-layered guitar tracks all recorded on top of each other, indulgently, delivering a dense, murky, indistinct sound which forever blights it, despite its having been remastered. You can't polish a genuine turd. The tracks are all also excessively long and rambling, although they do possess an anthemic nature and still have some killer hooks in amongst all the sonic mush. The album clocks in at a way too long seventy-one minutes.

Let's be honest, the sound is bloody awful, which is a shame as there are some good songs on here - somewhere. They still shine through the mist, however, which is testament to the fact that, despite everything, some good material ensued from this period. There was so much hype surrounding the album's release, however, that is almost became farcical. The group themselves treated it as if they were releasing Sgt. Pepper.

TRACK LISTING

1. D'You Know What I Mean
2. My Big Mouth
3. Magic Pie
4. Stand By Me
5. I Hope, I Think, I Know
6. The Girl In The Dirty Shirt
7. Fade In-Out
8. Don't Go Away 
9. Be Here Now
10. All Around The World
11. It's Getting' Better (Man!!)
12. All Around The World (Reprise)              

D'You Know What I Mean starts in the bloated, extended anthem style that would characterise most of the album. The sound is muffled-ish and dense, as mentioned earlier but, as also with much of the album's material has a great hook in the "all my people, right here right now.." chorus refrain. My Big Mouth begins with a cacophony of clashing guitars. Sonically it is exhausting, but it carries a vibrant cynicism to it and a raw, rock edge that is almost "fuck you" punky. Magic Pie calms things down a bit with a slow-paced clunky number that actually has a bit of hidden appeal to it.

Stand By Me is a perfect example of a great Oasis song that still delivers despite its dreadful sound, full of hooks and typically good lyrics. It borrows a chord progression from Mott The Hoople's All The Young Dudes at several points, something Noel Gallagher freely admits to. I Hope, I Think, I Know is an excellent, vibrant rocker. Look, I could criticise the sound on every single song on this album, it now goes without saying. Every one of them could be improved upon.


The Girl In The Dirty Shirt blatantly uses some chords from The Beatles' Cry Baby Cry but otherwise it is solid clunker once more. I actually quite like it. Another one that appeals to me is Fade In-Out, that reminds me in slight snatches of The Rolling Stones' Monkey Man, and also contains one of the band's heaviest-ever passages. It has a huge punch to it in places. As with a fair few of the tracks, though, it goes on a minute or two too long. Don't Go Away is Lennon-esque in its verses but very Oasis in its singalong chorus. Be Here Now is a typical in-your-face Oasis sneering stomper.

All Around The World is nine minutes long but, even so, it has an appeal. It has that much-mentioned anthem quality again. Once more, I can't help but like it. It's Getting' Better (Man!!) is a copper-bottomed slice of raucous Oasis rock, featuring that ramped-up T. Rex-inspired riffery. The reprise of All Around The World is a brassy, Beatles-esque extended fanfare to finally see out this behemoth of an album.

Some of the tracks that weren't included on the album, like Stay Young and The Fame are actually far more impressive, less indulgent and far more worthy of inclusion than some that did make it on there. They are shorter, less rambling, crisper and basically just superior creations, by far.



The album actually became the UK's fastest-ever selling release, although its reception, once listened to, was distinctly underwhelming and many would argue that Oasis's eventual decline began here. Every subsequent release was received comparatively unenthusiastically. There would be no triumphant "return to form". The had become, by their own hand, the purveyors of formulaic "dad-rock" that they were supposed to eschew. Maybe the final word on the album should be left to Noel Gallagher:-

"....It's the sound of ... a bunch of guys, on coke, in the studio, not giving a fuck. There's no bass to it at all; I don't know what happened to that ... And all the songs are really long and all the lyrics are shit....".

Below is a clip of the group performing All Around The World in Manchester in 1997.


B- for the songs/C+ because of the sound

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