Funny how things change, eh? Today, Oasis' third album Be Here Now - recently reissued as an expanded box set - is widely ridiculed and reviled, dismissed by critics and frequently disowned even by its own creator, Noel Gallagher. And yet on its release in 1997 fans were mad fer it, and music scribes were equally enamoured. Were they all as blinkered and delusional as it's claimed the band themselves were? How else to explain the extraordinary shift in its commercial and critical fortunes?
At the time of Be Here Now's release, Angus Batey was the reviews editor for music mag Vox (a poor relation to NME and Select). He's written a fascinating piece for the Quietus attempting the unenviable task of not only tunnelling through what he suggests is the critical revisionism surrounding the album (which is bound up with retrospectively imposed narratives about the death knell of Britpop and the souring of the New Labour/Cool Britannia dream) but also offering a stout defence of its alleged merits. His argument is that neither fans nor critics were deluded, as Be Here Now is in fact not only a brilliant album but also Oasis' best, not least because it embodies and expresses self-doubt and fears of irrelevance even in the midst of their most brash, OTT statement.
A provocative claim, to be sure - and not one I buy. For me, Be Here Now remains vapid, self-indulgent, cocaine-fuelled guff - full of empty posturing, devoid of anything remotely original and stinking like you might expect an unceremonious, uninspired exhumation of musical corpses would. It has neither the boisterous (or bolshy) vitality of Definitely Maybe, nor the reasonable songwriting craft of (What's The Story) Morning Glory. If the record is indeed shot through with subtle hints that Gallagher was concerned about the pressure to produce another era-defining collection of songs - and his inability to do so - then that concern is well founded.
That shouldn't detract from the quality of Batey's piece, though, in which he's evidently not simply playing devil's advocate for the sake of getting up readers' noses. Worth a read, just to see how surprisingly seductive his argument is at times.