Director: Mat Whitecross
Mint Pictures/Nemperor/On The Corner Films
It might seem cruel – but it’s the truth: the only Oasis albums that matter, or mattered, or needed to happen, are the first two. The length of their discography since, and teased rumours of a reunion and the watered-down versions of Oasis that are Noel and Liam’s post-band ‘solo’ careers all dump sand on the fire. This documentary uses gasoline as the fire-starter, a palpable re-ignition when you recall they went from the practice room to headlining Knebworth shows in front of a quarter of million people within five years; hell, from being signed to the giant shows in less than three years.
With some great archival footage we see the warts’n’all formation of the band – and the winning combination of youthful spirit, delusions and timing.
No need to document the fall of the band – that’s recent history. But the rise already seems so long ago. The rise of musical acts – when they get this big – is thr real story anyway. It’s not disingenuous to not show the four-star album reviews turning to one and two stars, the crowds dwindling, the appeal diminishing. We either know that already or can look it up.
There’s something to be said for focussing on the rise – as was the case with the excellent recent James Brown doco – in terms of trying (as best we can) to understand the birth of a phenomenon. You can shake your head all you like about Oasis, yes they were silly songs with nonsense lyrics and you could stitch together the bits they took from T-Rex and The Beatles and, erm, Gary Glitter, and it was all so obvious – a little lyrical line here informing a whole song there, or a title from a semi-obscure George Harrison album becoming the title to a world-beating anthem – but it sold. And we bought. If not you then your brothers and sisters, your mates, your family friends, your…gulp…parents.
I won’t be far off telling my son I played in a band that covered no less than half a dozen Oasis songs. I’ll let him see this film first of course.
The Gallagher Brothers give good interview, they always have. Nigel Tufnel’s fine line between cleverness and stupidity seems forever shifting as Noel and Liam skip rope with it, going double-dutch as they turn on each other and turn the world onto their band.
It’s interesting that we can speak of Oasis – and watch them here – in a bubble. For that’s how they always seemed to exist. Even in the manufactured Beatles/Stones comparisons in the war between Oasis and Blur (Blur always struck me as being more like The Kinks if anything) – the truth is it was always and only about Oasis. If you were in Oasis. Or if you were a fan of Oasis. So here we don’t hear about the burgeoning Radiohead or the already established Pulp. And we don’t need to. We know that too already – or we can look it up. But it’s worth being reminded that the dogma of Oasis formed its own phenomenon.
Whether you want to then place that as only a footnote in popular music (after all, it’s only a four to five-year period we’re talking, and only two and half in terms of albums being released and the real audience being fostered) is entirely up to you. But this documentary – with all of the name-calling, mugging, revelry and smugness attached and one or two stick-in-your-head riffs too, it has to be said – is worth watching if you’re at all interested in music. To watch it here 1996 seems like 30 years ago rather than 20. To watch it is to be reminded of the power of a pop song with a rock’n’roll swagger. It’s be reminded of the time when Oasis stood tall as giants. Fluke? Possibly. That just makes it all the more interesting.