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Review: Oasis – Be Here Now

This album originally came out August 21, 1997. In honor of the album turning 20 this year, and our feature on the Best Alternative Rock Songs of 1997 that includes Oasis’ “Don’t Go Away,” “D’You Know What I Mean?” and “All Around the World,” we’ve republished it here.

“Look into the wall of my mind’s eye,” sings our cosmic Liam. “The questions are the answers you might need,” counsels the younger Gallagher. And finally, over a looming tapestry of psychedelic guitars, he calls out to his flock: “All my people / Right here, right now / D’you know what I mean?”

Okay, people, let’s see some hands. Who knows what Liam means? This momentuous, meaning-free call to arms, is, in a way, the perfect introduction to Be Here Now, Oasis‘s latest collection of mid-tempo sonic dramas. From their very first single, these kings of Britpop have been all about not being you. They are rock’n’roll stars. They’re going to live forever. Where were you when they were getting high? Now in Austin Powers mode, they’re calling all around the world, telling us to be here now, baby. SInce this global community is purely imaginary, the question–“D’you know what I mean?”–hangs in the vaulted ceiling of majestic chord changes and shimmering distortion like a lone worshiper’s burp in a cathedral.

Which is all to say that what we have here is another quality Oasis record. Truly, there is an art, or at least an impressive lack of self-regard, to the construction of such extravagant melodic spaces for such fatuous lyrics. Like a skilled Cadillac manufacturer, songwriting brother Noel cites the superior material that goes into his songs (stainless-steel Beatle) and cranks out sleek, luxury product. Aside from a few Morse-code guitar bleeps and seagull distortion, the only electronica hangover from Noel’s romp with the Chemical Brothers is the album’s dance-club editing. “All Around the World,” with orchestral strings, French horns and “Penny Lane” trumpets, runs almost ten minutes.

No one ever accused Oasis of having mad rhyme skills, but they’re definitely pushing new boundaries of de minimis here: “All around the world / You’ve got to spread the word / Tell them what you heard / We’re gonna make a better day”? Oasis have gotten away with his until now because Liam’s projected ignorance scorned any yearning for meaning and Noel’s compulsive Beatles referencing let us know that it’s all just songs. The latter tic, however, is beginning to sound more and more like autism, the language of someone who can’t speak a word about life without lapsing into McCartneyisms like, “And all the roads we have to walk are winding,” or Lennonisms like, “Start a revolution from my bed.”

“There are many things that I would like to say to you / But I don’t know how,” Liam sings, in what some might assume is Oasis’s most candid lyric. But I doubt even that. Unarticulated emotion isn’t what you hear in that Mancunian drawl, it’s more the slouching disdain of an assembly-line worker. Note to all young Americans currently growing out their eyebrows: Imagine an American band whose unofficial logo is their nation’s flag, whose main lore is intoxicants and football affiliations, whose biggest single is greeted in homeland bars by young and old alike with a solemnly raised brew. Folks, meet the British Lynyrd Skynyrd.