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Tuesday, August 21, 2007
A decade ago today, Oasis released their bombastic third album, later regarded as one of rock's all-time folies de grandeur. So what does it sound like now?
Now this is what I call an anniversary. Never mind Diana, or the first Blair victory, or the decade that will soon have passed since the release of Kula Shaker's epochal K - today is the tenth birthday of Oasis' Be Here Now, and anyone who has not yet taken their copy to Record and Tape Exchange should surely give it at least one celebratory play. You'll laugh; you'll cry; best of all, you will surely be transported back to the strange days of 1997, when Oasis's imperial phase began to draw to a close, and the moment of giddy innocence that was Britpop died with them.
At ten years' remove, you can only marvel at what on earth they thought they were doing. Did Noel Gallagher really listen to a playback of the impossibly over-wrought, soupy, completely meaningless Magic Pie and sign it off? Did no-one listen to the absurdly Bon Jovi-esque intro to Fade In/Out and advise even a slight re-think? As the last five minutes of All Around the World found trumpets colliding with strings, the guitar overdubs piling into infinity and the whole conceit threatening to collapse in on itself, why didn't anybody pause for thought? Most bafflingly of all, isn't "All my people, right here, right now/D'you know what I mean/Yeah yeah/Yeah yeah" among the most woeful choruses ever put to tape?
What's most baffling of all, perhaps, is that precious few of the critical fraternity caught the whiff of spectacular failure (and though I didn't actually review it, by way of a mea culpa, I include myself in that). The Guardian's review claimed that Be Here Now "validates most if not all of the Gallaghers' boasts about their greatness." The Daily Telegraph told its readers that Be Here Now was simply "a great rock record." Q and awarded BHN the full complement of five stars and compared it to The Beatles' Revolver. NME reckoned it was worth eight of ten; in Mojo, Charles Shaar Murray was so enraptured that he lapsed into patois: "This is Oasis's world domination album. Dem a come fe mess up de area seeeeeeerious."
What was going on? There was, undoubtedly, a massed desire to somehow prolong the fun that Oasis had commenced in 1994. In several reviews, you could make out an obvious subtext bound up with the fact that many people had (rightly) thought that (What's The Story) Morning Glory? was not nearly as good as Definitely Maybe, but been wrong-footed by its sky-high sales figures. Perhaps most importantly, 1997 was the last stand of the absurdly positive, romanticized, starry-eyed mindset that Britpop fostered. Be Here Now, let us not forget, was not the only dud to be so hysterically lionized; two years before, very similar gasps of appreciation had greeted Blur's The Great Escape.
As I recall, it took until the end of that year for the penny to drop, when a run of indulgent, arrogant arena shows exposed Oasis's washed-out state, and Liam Gallagher served notice of the strange place at which they'd arrived by dedicating Live Forever to Princess Diana. Not long after, when his elder brother had quit the drugs and moved out of London, there came his own spurt of self-criticism: "It was an album mixed on cocaine. That's why it sounds like it does. Loads and loads of trebly guitars...I wasn't prepared to make things any better. I'd get to a certain point and go, 'Fuck it, that'll do.' We made the record to justify the drug habit."
So, there you have it: the empty sound of being off your head and convinced of your own brilliance at the start of the Blair era and the endtimes of what was known at the time as - oh, please - Cool Britannia. These days, Be Here Now actually sounds grimly fascinating: a crystallization of its time whose absence of restraint (try, for example, timing the length of the intros) is really quite something. For those of us who are occasionally partial to the musical equivalent of visiting graveyards, might it be time for the obligatory 'Collectors' Edition' and DVD?
source: the Guardian
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