Oasis: Be Here Now

Oasis
Be Here Now
Epic

MY FAVORITE '90s rock image: the fade-away overhead shot of a suburban room with wall-to-wall carpet. The shot is inhabited by a (resolute? obsessed? bored? transfixed?) guy hunched over a boom box beside a clutter of (beloved?) audio cassettes. An affecting image in an overdyed Oasis video.

Not since Bow Wow Wow's "C-30, C-60, C-90 Go!" had there been such a depiction of the listening experience of the working-class teen in the 1980s. That beat-up Realistic with acid-leaking D cells got dragged to Pabst parties in cop-free desolation under highway bridges and hauled up stairs to gurgle a jag of loner gust. The camera hovers over boy and box, suspended in the thickness of private longing--where disaffection masks the ridiculousness of his rapture, the fragility of his church, the sheer foolishness of dreams of greatness coaxed by sibilant analog hisses.

With their uni-brows, blank stares, and noblesse-sans-oblige, the working-class Oasis brothers emerged from that shag hatchery to make a fortune gutting the star-maker machinery with scrap, hassle, and pop, while raiding the past like there was no tomorrow. In true Brit class-war tradition, their fame truly conferred a bright tomorrow where there might not have been much of one. There is nothing new under the sun, of course, and the not-newest thing of all is a sooty consignment to a working-class Mancunian rut. Oasis transcends that rut, and they offer a universe where you can too--as long as you don't leave your bedroom.

Faced with the undeniable beauty of singles like "Wonderwall" and "Champagne Supernova," the same critics who usually deride bands for surreptitious Fab Four-cribbing contorted their old manifestoes to find a comfy place for the lads who trash the line between Beatle-esque and Beatlemania. Confronted by soccer-thug Adonises singing lines like "A fool on the hill and I feel fine," they buckled under. In the current gush over the arena-ready Be Here Now, nobody's even mentioned that the new album in many ways delivers Beatles by way of Boston and Bryan Adams.

The title cut, with its bird-whistle hook and rhythmic nod to Bowie's "Suffragette City," does what the band does best: anticipate its own detractors, with Liam Gallager goading, "Flash your pan at the song that I'm singing." But rather than invoke Revolver, this record banks on the nagging familiarity of pop one-offs and AOR hits. "Do You Know What I Mean" is a kissing cousin to Jesus Jones's "Right Here, Right Now"; "Don't Go Away" could grace the same first-crush mix tape as Journey's "Faithfully" (is this why the camera on the ceiling in that Oasis video never identified the tapes on Noel Gallagher's floor?). Of course, the Beatles remain the primary referent. The epic length "All Around the World" is an "All You Need Is Love"-styled ode to grassroots marketing: "All around the world/tell 'em what you heard/You know it's gonna be OK."

Despite the sure-fire formula--feedback intros, Noel's glam-rock leads, Liam's rough caress of phoneme--nothing on the new record does justice to the altitude of Gallagher attitude. But even if all Oasis can do on Be Here Now is mollify the suburban escapist in all of us, then so be it. Keep those glasses raised, young scholars. Our Tomorrow is here to stay.

 
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