The best reissues are the ones you don’t think need to exist until you actually get your hands on them and explore them. The 2016 deluxe version of Oasis’ 1997 album Be Here Now is such a reissue. American audiences tend to not have any idea how huge Oasis was during their mid-’90s phenomenon peak; their worldwide popularity and impact easily equaled Nirvana’s, at least in terms of intensity. About the only market that didn’t catch Oasis fever was America — Definitely Maybe went platinum, (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? went 4x platinum, and Be Here Now went platinum. Those are strong commercial results to be sure (getting three albums in a row to go platinum is not easy), but these American sales represent a mere fraction of the units shifted on a worldwide scale. On top of this, alternative rock albums were frequently hitting 5x platinum or 10x platinum in America — at any given time during the ’90s, the upper reaches of the Billboard 200 were filled with alternative rock albums that had already sold millions of copies.
After 1994’s Definitely Maybe sold upwards of 15 million copies worldwide and 1995’s (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? sold upwards of 22 million copies worldwide, Oasis released Be Here Now at the end of the summer of 1997. The hype was like nothing ever seen before or since, and the band stumbled big time. Be Here Now only managed to sell 8 million copies, with most of those units shifted in the first week or two. So what happened? Perhaps it would help to tell the story of how I came to first hear Be Here Now. When I was first getting into Oasis, it was maybe a year or two before streaming became the primary delivery method; back then, iTunes was still king. My way of getting around that was just to go to public libraries nearby, check out CDs, rip them into my iTunes library, and then take them back. I already had (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? and Definitely Maybe on my computer, and as far I knew, those were the only two Oasis albums of note. Then I spotted Be Here Now on the shelf. I checked it out, ripped it into my iTunes library, and pressed play.
I don’t think any words could have prepared me for what I was about to hear. My first thought, as “D’You Know What I Mean?” began, was that it sounded exactly like “Wonderwall,” the band’s best known song from Morning Glory. The next thing I noticed was the lyrics. Now, Oasis’ lyrics have always been pretty nonsensical and almost gleefully dumb (it’s part of the charm), but “All my people right here right now / D’you know what I meeeeeeaaaannnnnnnnnnn?” wasn’t passing the smell test. Then I noticed the noise — the sheer volume of the music. Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? were incredibly loud albums in terms of dynamics, but once track 2, “My Big Mouth,” started I couldn’t get through the song because it was so loud. I then stopped listening to the album and tried to find some answers, since I I suddenly realized I had no idea if this was supposed to be a good album or not (I had just assumed it was). Well, a quick glance at the Wikipedia page gave me a quick answer: Be Here Now is in retrospect frequently considered something of a disaster by critics.
More broadly, it was so quickly dismissed by fans that the Oasis phenomenon pretty much vanished overnight; in fact, Be Here Now is frequently accused of killing Britpop. Well, the years have eroded and eventually eliminated my dislike for this album. Truth be told, Be Here Now is enormously fun. What’s more, some of these songs are flat-out great: the four-song run from “The Girl in the Dirty Shirt” to “Fade In-Out” to “Don’t Go Away” to “Be Here Now” is arguably the best in the band’s entire discography. (Seriously.) Even the more underwritten songs (“It’s Gettin’ Better (Man!!)”) are enjoyable due to the band’s personality alone. There’s simply no other album like this: no other band has ever exhibited this kind of swagger while they had the world’s attention. The closest album to Be Here Now, from a historical perspective, is probably Tusk by Fleetwood Mac. Rumours was one of the biggest albums of all time, and Tusk was expensive, indulgent, and an enormous flop, even though musically it was top-notch.
As with the deluxe reissues of Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory?,