Oasis was a classic rock ‘n roll story, almost self-consciously constructed for success and implosion. They took off quickly, peaked early, and could never live up to the legend they half-heartedly created. It was a 2.5 year blitz followed by a bunch of lingering around and coasting on the fumes of that giddy early high. It only makes sense that Mat Whitecross’ new and definitive documentary, ‘Oasis: Supersonic’, only focuses on the explosive peak.
Bands don’t hit as huge as Oasis did unless they capture something special. Their music was pretty reminiscent of some obvious influences, the lyrics often didn’t make a lick of sense (the band would be the first to say so), and even at the height of their powers, there was a damn good chance that any show might end with the Gallagher brothers devolving into a fight rather than with a standing ovation. Yet that was all part of the charm, almost as much as the ridiculously catchy songs.
Whitecross’ documentary doesn’t feature a single talking head. It has no celebrity fans or cultural critics explaining the importance of the story. Instead, it spills out of the mouths of Liam and Noel Gallagher, their bandmates, their managers, their mother, and a few other folks in the inner circle. The voices are all wired in over an explosive montage of archival footage and animation, almost like an extended audio commentary. It’s all you really need. Anything else would be superfluous.
The story starts with Noel as a roadie and Liam deciding to start a band for kicks. Liam talked his brother into joining fairly quickly, assuming that he’d take over as songwriter. It happened. The band gelled almost instantly. They were signed at the first gig they played on the road and within two years they were playing in front of 250,000 fans. It was a whirlwind and the Gallaghers recall it with their characteristic mix of self-depreciating humor, wild arrogance, uncomfortable honesty and good old-fashioned piss-taking. In-fighting and jealousy began almost instantly and no one minds telling tales out of school. There’s even talk of how they all discovered crystal meth in advance of their first concert in L.A., stayed up all night doing it, and then delivered a horrendous show. Not only does everyone open up about the night, footage of the show is just as ugly as it sounds, including a moment where Liam takes a walk to the back of the stage for one more hit.
Whitecross fills his movie with that kind of footage. It’s amazing how much of the band’s story was documented from their very early days. Of course, once they caught the rocket train to superstardom, everything they did was filmed or photographed from a few dozen angles. The director seems to have tracked down everything. The machine gun editing style the filmmaker employs to weave it all together feels both appropriate to the mad dash of the story and the 1990s music video aesthetic that the band was very much a part of. The visuals have a rawness and restless energy, which is always matched by the stories told alongside the eye candy.
Predictably, the Gallagher brothers are the voices most often heard and the heart and soul of the movie. Fair enough. They’re also fascinating enough to pull it off, waxing poetic and talking shit within the same breath. They recall everything to the smallest detail, and since so much time has passed, now seem to genuinely appreciate the experience and remember it with a certain level of awe that’s rather sweet. Nonetheless, arguments pop up constantly and everyone is entirely honest about how much of a dick they were at the time with little to no apologies. It’s what you want. The band was beloved for their attitude as much as their music.
The movie covers all of the ups and downs of the rise of Oasis to the most minutely entertaining detail, then cuts off right at the peak. While there are undoubtedly some great stories to be told about how the band devolved, it happened so slowly that it would feel either dragged-out or tacked-on. Whitecross’ approach feels just right, capturing all the ugly excess and success of the last messy rock band to truly rule the world before the music industry changed forever.
Granted, it’s unlikely this doc will win over anyone who doesn’t come in already fond of Oasis. Nor does it serve any larger purpose other than capturing their story in the most stylishly messy and foul-mouthed way. It’s pretty much made just for fans, but you know what? That’s fine. The Gallagher brothers would be the first people to tell you to “Fuck off” for not liking Oasis, so anyone else isn’t invited to this particular party anyway.