The Null Device


Music Critic John Harris writes in the Graun about the 10th anniversary of Oasis' Be Here Now, at the time obsequiously lauded by the critics, but since then somewhat fallen in stature. (Harris' piece is titled, appropriately enough, Cocaine Supernova.)

The Guardian's review claimed that Be Here Now "validates most if not all of the Gallaghers' boasts about their greatness." The Daily Telegraph told its readers that Be Here Now was simply "a great rock record." Q and awarded BHN the full complement of five stars and compared it to The Beatles' Revolver. NME reckoned it was worth eight of ten; in Mojo, Charles Shaar Murray was so enraptured that he lapsed into patois: "This is Oasis's world domination album. Dem a come fe mess up de area seeeeeeerious."
So, there you have it: the empty sound of being off your head and convinced of your own brilliance at the start of the Blair era and the endtimes of what was known at the time as - oh, please - Cool Britannia. These days, Be Here Now actually sounds grimly fascinating: a crystallization of its time whose absence of restraint (try, for example, timing the length of the intros) is really quite something.
And there are some interesting opinions in the comments:
I remember the first time I saw Oasis, on the Word in 1993 and I thought, "So that's the death of British Indie Pop then." Soon afterwards Primal Scream abandoned their support of emerging electronica in favour of a Rolling Stones tribute album. The Stone Roses (always over-rated) proved they were a one-trick poney by re-recording Led Zepplin 2, with flat vocals. Blur became the Small Faces for three years, but mercifully got over it. Morons, football hooligans and former Mariah Carey fans became epsilon caricatures of indie kids and leading the way were two knuckle-dragging dullards from the city that had brought us so much hope and the label that had given us My Bloody Valentine. Alan McGee laughed all the way to the bank, but we wept as he drove past.
It's all down to what you prefer - intricately composed, technically innovative music, or facile singalongs while you chug Stella and snort coke off a copy of Loaded after the match.
British indie isn't a complete write-off but the death of Britpop (Be Here Now being the final nail in the coffin) did seem to mark a strange, counter-intuitive shift in music journalism. British "alternative-rock" got worse and more derivative at roughly the same time as the press became more insular. Even at the height of the Blur vs Oasis nonsense, you could read Melody Maker or NME and get a fantastic, passionate review of the latest GZA single or Einsturzende Neubauten album. I can only assume that, from 1998 onwards, readership of the main indie outlets fell and they had to concentrate more on commercial domestic rock acts lapped up by a younger, less demanding core audience.
I could never get why their ugly, clumsy music ever garnered such adoration. Listening to any Oasis song is like eating a soggy Ginsters conish pasty under a grey, rainy sky next to a motorway, breathing in exhaust fumes. It's just not fun, and it never was.
I bought the NME last week as the cover showing Tony Wilson looked good. The Paul Morley obit was great, but the rest of the mag made Smash Hits from the 80s look like Plan B...

britpop john harris oasis 1