Oasis: Supersonic (2016) Directed by Mat Whitecross
The much buzzed about documentary about the rise of Oasis & the Gallagher brothers from the capable, deeply plugged in and utterly present Mat Whitecross (Spike Island) (now on Netflix) is worth all the applause you might think it was getting from just nostalgic fanboys. It is a special challenge for a filmmaker to separate a well-known story and iconic music from its myth/legend/gossip or whatever the once-mighty, feral British press would have you believe was the story. Whitecross may be the only one who could have done it with such grace and clear-eyed appreciation, not to mention co-operation.
One thing that always made Liam and Noel so interesting, and something that is a bit of an endearing, refreshing, and in today’s PR cloaked & dull world, highly unusual trait, is their candor. There seems to be no subject, no story, or no disaster that they are embarrassed about or will deny- this after years of reported estrangement and a bad break up- and both have their unique and truly funny senses of humour intact about it all. There’s a generosity about the shared history that is surprising given the current state of “Oasis” and the Gallagher brothers endless public feud and fallout, in spite of all the bratty headlines of the time (catnip the the voyeuristic and untalented hacks) and puffed up arrogance they wore like parkas. It turns out that they have a true appreciation for it all, and even, dare we say, with the passing decades (or with myth-making over), a new humility?
Oasis: Supersonic, like the fictional, but true, look at the legendary/mythical high point of the Stone Roses reign, Spike Island, rockets all of us who were there, 90s kids and young twenties, without warning, into an immediacy and joy of an exciting time in culture that REALLY WAS SPECIAL and was OURS, not without a bit of whiplash. If whiplash could happen to your heart. The biggest surprise is not that Liam and Noel, quite separately, produced and enabled this film to happen with all its essential music clearances and footage; or that they both can love the success and milestones of their band that (yet) might have ripped apart their family forever without bitterness and with tongue-in-cheek, seemingly still grounded, still Manc, still real human beings; or that they could still produce something as good as this, together, whilst estranged and through a director with diplomacy skills that could probably heal nations; but that it turns out that Oasis love us regular people right back. That we are a part of this thing.
With decades gone by (the most we’ve ever felt the shock of passing time we try to ignore, never more alive than in the 90s, maybe the last great days of music & real wider cultural happenings ever to be) and the charts of today a polluted factory runoff pond that will kill you even if you are in earshot and refuse to buy into the lies being sold as “music” by “artists”; with time away from Oasis; the music comes roaring back, fresh as new. Would you ever believe Liam was a one-take wonder? Will you ever feel, first hand, via perfect, raw footage culled from those with access and presence of mind to capture and to keep it, what it felt like to have the world at your feet, to control not a room, but a dozen football stadiums worth of people, better than through this documentary?
Far from the ease in which great music seemed to flow around the globe in the mid-90s, and further still from the detached cool that our rock stars must manifest, wear as armour, fake-til-they-make-it, or actually have had since they were anonymous and regular survivors of the monster called family and of modern life, Supersonic is just that. It is a meteor of memory, music, culture, and clear-eyed youthful promise. It enables us to remember what we were. What we can still dream of. What was possible, and only possible, without (away from) the technological dark age of right now, with all these screens and genius apps we use mostly to avoid real life and to remain arrested in our own development.
Supersonic is both a great documentary about Oasis’s unique successes and place in music history, as well as a love letter to a time and a place and even to all of us. And, in a time when Millennials are more nostalgic about our past than we are, this film is needed to fuel them, the next generation of 20 somethings with messages they sorely need to be blasted loud and clear. You can be self-made. You can come from nothing. In fact you should. Greatness & grit really only ever does. Go and make something. Fuck shit up. Invent yourself.
By Jacqueline Howell (twitter: @jacksdisarm)