If there ever was an album that summed up the halcyon haze of living in the moment and regretting it later, it would be Be Here Now. Acclaimed on its arrival and now mocked in memory, Oasis’ bloated, base third album is surprisingly being given the reissue treatment. But is this repackaging a chance for fresh appraisal, or a mere addition into Oasis’ post-split circle jerk?
Be Here Now has almost served as some sort of Britpop Bible – revered on its release, but gradually discredited and dissociated. Ever since the album arrived in a cacophony of cocaine and concern, it has slowly been picked apart by the media in a string of scathing reviews. One particularly potent putdown was this gambit: “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 and for every millisecond Liam is not saying a word, there’s a fuckin’ guitar riff in there in a Wayne’s World stylie”. Who said that? A certain Noel Gallagher.
While reviews should not be the focal point of an album, it is pertinent that most people align to the theory that Be Here Now is overlong, ponderous and fuelled by drugs and dissatisfaction. All of these factors make the 2016 reissue incredibly brave – as well as the album, which clocks in at nearly 70 minutes, there is a disc devoted to B-sides and demos, as well as a third disc charting their Mustique sessions.
In a way, of all the albums to be given the reissue treatment, it makes somewhat warped sense that Be Here Now has been given a fresh lick of paint. The new record, the third of their retrospective Chasing the Sun trilogy, was originally going to represent something of a reprieve, where Noel attempted to make a leaner, more concise update of his original vision. However, Noel has since admitted: “We got as far as the first track before we couldn’t be arsed anymore and gave up… it does sound f**king mega though!” This is coming from a man who has discredited Be Here Now‘s original inception time and time again, calling it anything from “bland” to “f**king s**t.”
So why the reissue? Oasis have continued to court new admirers since splitting up, with many new recruits probably not even been born around the time of Be Here Now‘s release. Thus, the post-comedown slights and barbs have been in danger of marring Be Here Now‘s credibility. With a reissue, new fans have a chance to judge for themselves, as well as hear some of Noel’s impeccable b-sides, such as the lilting ‘Stay Young’ and ‘Going Nowhere’. Also, perhaps it’s a chance for the cynics to give the album new appreciation, perhaps the more discerning can see Be Here Now was the Mancunian band’s attempt at a grandiose, glorious Britpop colossus?
As always with Noel’s songwriting, when he is on form, he is untouchable. ‘Stand By Me’ begins with a reverb-drenched guitar hook, before evolving into a chiming, stadium-sized anthem with some of the elder Gallagher’s finest fretwork. ‘I Hope, I Think, I Know’ has the carefree breeze of the band’s debut, while even the Beatles-esque (natch) ‘All Around the World’ would be an embellished epic if it didn’t hang around to hit the nine-minute mark.
And that’s where the problems sink in. If the lengths of songs were there to display artistic progression and a desire for the songs to breathe, perhaps such ponderous pacing could be forgiven. But, in truth, songs meander and wind for no reason – opener and lead single ‘D’You Know What I Mean’ is already a hard slog, with its witless whine of a chorus, but is then made more torturous with a needlessly long coda. Elsewhere, ‘Magic Pie’ is past its sell-by date around minute number seven, while the chugging ‘Fade In/Out’ is only noteworthy for its sliding guitar, provided by Noel’s vacation buddy Johnny Depp.
At the time of release, Oasis were one of the world’s biggest bands. They were the Kings of Britpop, the everyman’s hymn singers, the working-class heroes. Be Here Now put a lighter to the fragile flame of Britpop, and its overblown ethos has since influenced a range of bands to go minimal and simplistic. Be Here Now was also the nadir of the band’s recording career, where arguments, drug abuse and paranoia were rife within the five-piece, Creation Records and Ignition, the band’s management company.
A few years ago, Morrissey reissued Maladjusted, and the similarities here are striking – both released in 1997, both bloated, both from Manchester legends fiddling while their creativity burnt. In both cases, such reissues feel strange, random and, above all, thoroughly disposable. Be Here Now may not be the disaster people claim it to be (it’s also not Oasis’ worst album), but it occupies a decadent, lumbering part of British music history, and one that perhaps really doesn’t need revisiting.
Be Here Now is reissued on Friday October 7 through Big Brother Recordings.