Wednesday 21 March 2018

Review: Supersonic documentary relives the glory days of Oasis

Glory days: Oasis frotnman Liam Gallagher on stage back in the band’s Britpop heyday
Glory days: Oasis frotnman Liam Gallagher on stage back in the band’s Britpop heyday
John Meagher

John Meagher

It is said that 19 is one of the most impressionable of all ages to be snared by new music and that's the age I was when Oasis released their monumental debut, Definitely Maybe, in August 1994. Every time I listen to that album now, I am transported back to the streets of south inner city Dublin and to my first year in college.

I practically wore the tape out in the first year after its release, such was the regularity of its play on my battered Sanyo cassette player. It was the sound of a cocksure young band who had made anthemic music that connected with a zeitgeist soon to be labelled Britpop.

They supported REM at Slane in the summer of 1995, and although I was hugely excited to see Michael Stipe & Co play live - they had stopped touring after the Green Tour in 1989 - Oasis were a huge draw that July evening. And they were immense, especially as Liam Gallagher looked up for it right from the start: his opening gambit to the crowd was to take a pop at rivals Blur.

Now fans of Oasis in their pop days will get a chance to re-live those glory days in a forthcoming feature-length documentary, Supersonic, named, of course, after the first Oasis single from April 94. Made by the team behind the award-winning Amy - the documentary on tragic Amy Winehouse - there's serious pedigree here, and its trailer suggests the film will major on their first few heady years.

"Oasis was like a Ferrari," Liam notes in the film. "Great to look at. Great to drive. And it'll f***ing spin out of control every now and again." He could say that again.

Having split in 2009, the warring brothers have seemingly resisted all efforts to get back together, and they wouldn't even appear in the same room when it came to providing the voiceover for Supersonic. And don't expect a united front, either, when it comes to any promotion for a new, 40-track 'deluxe' version of their third album, Be Here Now, which will be released on the same day the documentary comes out, October 4.

Be Here Now was released on August 1997 and it's the point many Oasis admirers - me included - checked out. Horrendously bloated and untethered to anything that had made the Gallaghers special to begin with, it marked the end of what had been an astonishingly creative and fertile period.

Although they had quickly become tabloid fodder because there were few rock-star clichés they didn't indulge, they released some truly wonderful music in the space of just 14 months. Definitely Maybe remains one of the most defining albums of the 1990s and, along with Blur's Parklife, a milestone Britpop release, and follow-up (What's the Story) Morning Glory? was even better, and proof that Beatles-obsessive Noel was maturing into a very special talent indeed.

And while a wonderful B-sides compilation, The Masterplan, wouldn't see the light of day until 1998, most of the songs from it were written during this fruitful period too. In fact, the opening two songs that day in Slane were B-sides - 'The Swamp Song' and 'Acquiesce'. It takes cojones to stand in front of 80,000 people in only your second gig in Ireland (having played Dublin's Tivoli the previous September) and deliver an opening brace that most would have been unfamiliar with. But when you're a band with absolute conviction in what you're about, anything seems possible.

In retrospect, Oasis's meteoric rise - from unsigned band to Knebworth headliners in just three years - is practically unthinkable today. That pair of Knebworth shows remain remarkable: 125,000 people were in attendance each night while more than 2.5 million ticket applications were registered.

In this information-overload era, where social media has helped give us the attention span of gnats, Oasis would hardly have been the running story now like they were in 1994 and 1995. Certainly, they wouldn't have sold anything like they did then, when Be Here Now, for instance, shifted 700,000 copies in the first three days of release, and would go on to shift 8 million units.

Subsequent Oasis albums only did a fraction of that sort of business, partly because technology was forever altering the game for the record industry, but mainly because the band just didn't have the sort of magnetic alchemy that had been so present before.

The omens look good for Supersonic, but it will have its work cut out for it if it is to be the best music documentary to be released this year.

One More Time With Feeling, which tracks the making of Nick Cave's latest album, Skeleton Tree (reviewed left), is an intensely powerful and desperately sad document of a man trying to make sense of the world following the tragic death of his son.

Directed by Cave's friend Andrew Dominik, whose movie-making CV includes The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford, the documentary was apparently made to fill the gap of media promotions rounds that the singer has understandably decided not to do on this particular album.

Also in cinemas now is Ron Howard's Eight Days a Week - an exuberant homage to the Beatles during the frantic period between 1962 and 1966 when they went from cheeky hopefuls to globe-trotting superstars who would change the face of music forever. From Apollo 13 to Rush, Howard is a master at telling stories, and it's the same on this frenetic look at the madness of Beatlemania.

* The marvellous Minnesota three-piece, Low, play two very special pre-Christmas shows at Dublin's Christchurch Cathedral on December 13 and Kilkenny's intimate Set Theatre the following evening. Some still speak in awed tones of the bands last appearance in the venerable old church back in 2001. Tickets went on sale yesterday and, if any are still available, snap them up. You won't regret it.

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