Tom Ewing is trying to get ahold of Q magazine’s review of the sodden Be Here Now, which led to this, my somewhat ranting, peripherally related response below:
From Select’s review of Be Here Now – thanks to @davidcorway on Twitter. The prize of this genre – Q’s notorious 5-star review – remains elusive: if anyone has a scan, please let me know.
Unfortunately, I’ve lost both the Q and Mojo issues that contained the Be Here Now reviews, so I can’t help out. I had both, though, and I seem to remember the Mojo review (a “classic” rating, if I recall correctly) being the worse offender.
I have rambled about this before (and probably will again), but I hope Charles Shaar Murray is ashamed of himself for writing something like “whoever made this is fucking smart (hi Noel!)” (or words to that effect) in all seriousness. (I’m pretty sure that’s close to verbatim.)
Being Norwegian, I remember how a-ha’s ascension to the top of the Billboard 100 with Take On Me was a bona fide BIG FUCKING DEAL, reported on in ALL national media and commended by royals and prime minister alike, so I can appreciate that the Oasis experience was fundamentally different if you were British.
Of course, a-ha did something no Norwegian group had done before them, which is why it was a cultural milestone. We’re a small nation, but a proud one, etc. (Also, I was nine; Take On Me was for obvious reasons far more important than the threat of nuclear war.)
But for a country with the musical pedigree of The Beatles, The Kinks, Pink Floyd, XTC, The Clash, a Flock of Seagulls and so on, to collectively lose its shit and canonize Oasis the way it did … honestly, how did that happen?
An awful, lifeless Oasis concert in Oslo in 1997, where opening act Ocean Colour Scene easily outshone the headliner (and think about that for a second!), proved to be the last straw; the hyperbolic kerfuffle surrounding both Be Here Now (“I dig their friends, I dig their shoes,” indeed) and the Oasis live experience (dour and charmless) was clearly nothing but smoke and mirrors. I felt disappointed, but it taught me a few things.
It showed me that critics aren’t necessarily any wiser or blessed with more refined taste than the rest of us, and it made clear just how much context actually matters. I won’t deny that Oasis had some nifty singles, but I think that unless you were there in that one lager-fueled moment in Cool Britannia, it was all a bit baffling.
This was all over half a lifetime ago, and while those rave reviews, when held up to my own experience, felt like something of a betrayal at the time, I almost struggle to understand why, though the simple act of not being young anymore is likely reason enough. (I did say “almost”.)
I suspect that in the future, pop stuff will mostly be filtered through the prism of my daughter’s experience. If she’s anything like me (and man, I hope she takes after her mother), she will most likely obsess about one thing, then another after that, and then rebel against those same things, and it will all seem vaguely alien and inexplicable to me; just as it should, and just as the mania that surrounded Oasis does in retrospect.
In the end, though, it’ll help her grow into herself, a person with her own goals, opinions, likes and dislikes, and for that reason alone, even the shittiest pop song, even Be Here Now, can have noble purpose.
(End of braindump vaguely related to Ewing’s original post.)