Hello from the past.
I’m writing this at the same time I’m typing up the review for Standing on the Shoulder of Giants and normally I would just wait until I’ve done one before I move on to the other. Because the day I’m writing this is 21st August 2020, the 23rd anniversary of the release of Be Here Now.
A particularly infamous album this one, it’s commonly thought of as the killer of Oasis’ momentum, the executioner of Britpop and the symbol of disappointment for many. Loud and overblown, it has gained a reputation
That was the first time I tried to write an introduction for Be Here Now.
And indeed, at the time I did make a God’s honest attempt to listen to this album in full and type up my thoughts and feelings on the most scrutinised LP of the Britpop era. In fact, I’ve made several attempts over the years. The first time my computer crashed midway through Stand By Me which I kind of took as an omen. I tried again some time later but tapped out at The Girl in the Dirty Shirt. It took until the 25th anniversary of the album in August 2022 to finally listen to it all in full, and even then I couldn’t bring myself to finish the review. I’d love to chalk it up to my personal life getting in the way but frankly it’s not true. I just couldn’t be arsed quite frankly.
I want to like Be Here Now, I really do. The trouble is I like my albums snappy and without overstaying their welcome. And at over an hour long Be Here Now certainly does overstay its welcome thanks to the band’s fixation over making anthem after anthem. But this time I’m hoping I can look past that and just enjoy the music for what it is; loud, bombastic, fuelled by white lines longer than your arm. After all, that’s what has appeared to happen over the last 25 years as the album’s reputation has seemingly shifted from bloated to underrated.
Let’s give it a bash, for real this time.
Track #1 – D’You Know What I Mean?
There aren’t many other songs out there that have the sole intention of saying “Hello, f*ckers, we’re back”. I think of all the songs that Oasis have done over the years there are three that you describe as the-band-in-a-nutshell which can be used to introduce newcomers: Some Might Say, The Hindu Times, and D’You Know What I Mean?. Pure ego and bluster, anthemic rock and roll, singing everything about nothing. It’s Be Here Now in a nutshell, and in that regard it is the perfect opener for the album.
All things considered though, I think this song is much better when performed live, and Liam has been doing it justice these last few years during his solo gigs. It being sung in a lower key works in its favour I think.
Track #2 – My Big Mouth
In case you didn’t know that the music of Be Here Now is layered to the moon and back, here’s your reminder. In all seriousness though, this is one of the highlights of the album as it displays the classic Oasis attitude and the Gallaghers acknowledging the silly bollocks they end up saying off the stage. For a laugh I would have released this as a single with Wibbling Wivalry as a b-side. Louder than loud but still a fine addition to the playlist.
Track #3 – Magic Pie
As the old saying goes, if you have nothing nice to say then don’t say anything at all.
Track #4 – Stand By Me
Despite Halifax milking this song dry in the post-pandemic world, it does remain one of my favourite singles from Oasis. While we’ll see it on full display later on, we get hints of Liam’s more gentle and sentimental side with a touching performance that includes some higher notes he doesn’t often climb to. It’s a ‘take-a-chance’ kind of song, with the narrator dismissing the future and asking someone to stand by him and make the best out of the present. Very relatable as we grind our way through the twisted twenties.
Track #5 – I Hope, I Think, I Know
Like Hindu Times, this is one that I see a lot of praise for (at least, in comparison to the rest of Be Here Now) but I don’t see the hype. Indeed, in my Masterplan review I suggested that this should have been replaced by Stay Young. This is one of those songs which strikes me as obvious that Noel’s little well of guitar riffs has run dry, as on display we have what I can only describe as a combination of Underneath the Sky and the theme tune to A Question of Sport. It’s a rehash of the standard Oasis swagger we’ve already heard on the first two tracks, the only difference is it’s Liam’s best vocal performance so far.
Track #6 – The Girl in the Dirty Shirt
As I said in the introduction to this review this was the last song I listened to during one of my initial run throughs of the album before I gave up. Maybe it’s because it’s underproduced by this album’s standards, which makes it stick out like a sore thumb and comes across as a bit boring. But then you realise it’s a breath of fresh air, with Oasis finally taking their foot off the gas and adding a bit of 60s-style jangle to proceedings. Not bad but not brilliant.
Track #7 – Fade In-Out
The opening made me imagine the band rocking up into a town with no name in the wild west on horseback. I’ve got that to thank the song for I guess. Unfortunately that’s where the praise ends because while the last track was underproduced, this one was overproduced to the point where the vocals are swallowed up by the noise. Shame because this is a very Beatles-esque track (Helter Skelter namedrop aside).
Track #8 – Don’t Go Away
Sweet is not often a word you’d associate with Oasis but that’s exactly what this song is. In a sneak preview of the next album, the Gallaghers wear their hearts on their sleeves as they plead dear Peggy not to go. If you’ve had a moment where it looked like a close friend or relative may be going forever (shifting off the mortal coil or otherwise) then you’re going to love this one unconditionally.
It also confirms that regardless of the quality of the songs, this album has been the best showcase of Liam as a singer. He knows when to turn on the snarl and yet he can just as easily flip the coin and show the softie underneath. Be Here Now shows he can play both parts with ease. It also signals that Oasis are back on winning form after putting us through nearly 20 minutes of bloat.
EDIT: So this is a week after I finished writing this review for publishing later in the year, and I just have to say that Noel Gallagher is a thieving bastard. I’m listening to Marshmellow Lane by the Real People, one-time associates of Oasis who recorded the album in 1992, a few years before Be Here Now. I get to the song Feel the Pain and we hear Tony Griffiths deliver the lyrics “Don’t go away/say that you’ll stay/forever and a day”. Kind of ruins the heartfelt nature of Don’t Go Away, it suddenly doesn’t feel that genuine as they’re not Noel’s words. That’s really irritated me.
Track #9 – Be Here Now
Genuinely this would be one of my favourite songs on the album, and indeed this reminds me that Oasis were still in that phase of their careers where almost any song they produced would be single-material for any other band. It’s a total throwaway on the level of Put Yer Money Where Yer Mouth Is but it gets stuck in your brain thanks to the attitude in Liam’s vocals and the guitarwork from Noel and Bonehead. There’s just one problem though.
Those noises at the end of the first series of verses, not sure if they’re from the plastic piano or someone whistling into the mic or what but…they sound like the f*cking Clangers. I swear to God. And at the end there’s a flushing toilet. I have a feeling there were more than a few lines snorted when this particular song was recorded. Like D’You Know What I Mean?, this is a song where I prefer stripped down, purely rock driven live versions (See the GMEX and Air Studios performances).
Track #10 – All Around the World
All Around the World has the ingredients to be one of my favourite Oasis songs. The guitar hooks which lead into the chorus are simple yet sublime. The lyrics resonate incredibly well in this day and age. The key changes throughout manage to add extra layers of epic to the song. This could and should be the best song on Be Here Now. So why isn’t it?
Well, it’s just another Be Here Now song. If this were the only one of its kind in terms of production and length then I would have happily called it a pièce de resistance from Oasis. However, by this point in the album it is just same old same old and instead it is reduced to being just another drop in the ocean. That should not take away from the fact that this is still a good song, but I think it’s better appreciated when heard on its own as a single rather than as part of the trip from station to station.
I have to bring up the video aswell. I think the band went all out to create a video that would be cycled ad infinitum on MTV and rake in the gold at all the awards shows, and the final result was their equivalent of the Magical Mystery Tour film. I mean…sausage leg creatures and temple structures being wanked off. That’s not the creation of a sober mind.
Track #11 – It’s Getting’ Better (Man!!)
Track #12 – All Around the World – Reprise
That door slam had to have been put in during one of the more lucid moments, surely. What a metaphor.
I think during my latest listen of Be Here Now, I finally got it. I finally liked it. Like I said at the beginning, I like my albums shorter and snappier. And ironically, one of the shortest songs on the album was my least favourite. So how did I finally learn to appreciate Be Here Now?
Well, the simple answer is this: just don’t give a f*ck. Be Here Now blew up in its face because it failed to live up the hype. But let’s be real, no album could have lived up to the hype. Oasis could have made the lovechild of Dark Side of the Moon and Abbey Road and it would have still fallen short. Be Here Now was a half-hearted attempt by a band who were burnt out and in it for the money, who gave us something unoriginal and uninspired. But if they don’t care, why should we? It’s still good music. Just enjoy the good times.
There’s no escaping that Be Here Now is bloated and overdone, it’s a fact. And there will never be a day where it’s my favourite Oasis album. If I ever come back to it again, it will be to listen to it in chunks rather than in one long session. But saying that, I want to come back to it soon, even though I can only really say that I like half of the tracks on offer. As I say, all you need to do is turn off your mind and float downstream.