Oasis was coming off an incredibly hot selling album in (What’s the Story) Morning Glory released in 1995 after an impressive debut album in 1994 with Definitely, Maybe. There was a lot of hype surrounding a band that made it a staple to produce bombastic arena rock anthems engineered around the sounds of bands like T. Rex and The La’s.
Released in August of 1997, the album was produced by Owen Morris, the man behind their previous two albums. Mike Marsh would end up mastering the album, coming off mastering sessions for Massive Attack’s “Protection” in 1994 and Bjork’s “Debut” in 1993. Despite a rocky drug, mostly cocaine, fueled chaotic production of the album, upon release it sold over 424,000 copies in the UK in its first week.
Initial reviews were positive including Rolling Stone giving the album 4 stars. As time passed and Noel himself remarking up the songs being too long (including an aborted re-editing attempt of the album), the album has largely been perceived as something which collapsed upon its own weight of drug abuse, length, and not being the two albums that preceded it.
As a fan of the band, I thought it would be worthwhile to listen to Be Here Now for the first time and offer up my own review irrespective of everything that went on behind the scenes or adhering to other reviews and opinions.
– “D’You Know What I Mean?” has a great jam feel to the entire track and evokes bits of Champagne Supernova in how well it works despite the length although by the 6:20 mark I’m ready for it to finish up. The single version clocks in at 5:45 in comparison to the 7:42 album version but it’s easy to see why it was the first single released. There’s a tight gem of a song hidden if one were to trim 2-3 minutes off that rivals any of their previous classics.
– Liam’s voice is still fantastic and in his prime here, just 2 years removed from WTSMG and you can still feel his passion reverberating through the speakers/headphones. Noel also has some great hooks going in his heavily layered guitar work that surpasses what he was providing on the prior albums.
– The album mostly works, with a lot of tracks that could have fit well on either DM or WTSMG in my opinion including stuff like “My Big Mouth” and “Fade In-Out” standing out in that regard.
– Other released singles “Stand By Me,” “All Around the World,” and “Don’t Go Away” are some of the strongest on the album and showcase that even with its flaws, the album was still Oasis nearly still at their peak and a good follow up to WTSMG. A large issue is that WTSMG was almost a perfect album and such a gigantic smash that fans & the press expected something of that level and this didn’t quite consistently hit that peak.
– “Don’t Go Away” is one of my favorite Oasis tracks from their first 3 albums and yet it was only released as a single in Japan. It’s the one track on this album that heavily invokes that WTSMG vibe/feel in my opinion, calling to mind tracks like Some Might Say.
– Typical of their previous album, it’s incredibly loud and in your face. The remastered edition doesn’t help much in that regard. The overwhelming force of the sound gives it a bombastic feel but also smears and hides the musicality and poppiness of several of the tracks. Worth noting is the obvious lack of a bass guitar in the final mastering and the guitars mixed so loudly that even the drums feel buried and snuffed out.
– The songs aren’t as tight as WTSMG and feel meandering, largely towards the end extending tracks by 2-3 minutes from where it seems to naturally want to end. Magic Pie is a victim of this, going a whopping 7:10 and feeling bloated by just the 5:00 mark. With proper self-editing of songs & maybe some swapped song selection, fans can turn Be Here Now into a very good to great follow up to WTSMG that would hold up just as well as their previous two albums.
– There are a few weak tracks and as usual, Oasis (and Noel) have some simply fantastic tracks which were relegated to B-Side status. Personally, I’d swap out “The Girl In the Dirty Shirt” and the AATW reprise for “Stay Young” and “The Fame” or “My Sister Lover.”
Be Here Now is a good album hindered by shoddy production (no bass guitar being a big culprit) and several tracks simply going on way too long. There are some gems buried beneath the muck/length including “D’You Know What I Mean?” and “Don’t Go Away” in particular as well as some good rockers that would’ve fit well on WTSMG including “My Big Mouth” and “I Hope, I Think, I Know.”
While not quite to the standard of their previous albums, I’d still score it a solid 7/10. With some length trimming and a couple swaps, the album could hit the 9/10 mark and rival Definitely, Maybe at least for me.