Oasis: Supersonic (2016)

Director: Mat Whitecross
Composer: Rael Jones

I don’t think it would be possible for me to separate my teenage years, especially middle school, from the music by Oasis. As I have mentioned many times in this blog over the past couple of years I grew up in Europe, and thus most of my cultural touchstones of the 80s and 90s are indicative of my upbringing. And middle school served as the time and space of my pop culture initiation. Prior to 1995 most of my exposure to the world of music came from the theme songs to my favorite cartoons and tv shows, a lot of religious music, and whatever my mother would listen to (James Taylor, Lionel Richie, and The Carpenters especially). But over the course of three years I began to be exposed to pop music (Aqua, Spice Girls, Backstreet Boys) and the rock music emanating from the UK and Ireland (The Cranberries, Blur, The Verve). But Oasis made the biggest impression out of the rock bands (for the record, so did the Spice Girls, but that’s for another post). Their songs were energetic and raw, yet still accessible and melodic. I never liked, and still don’t, the more hardcore music – I find it unlistenable, much to the chagrin of my boyfriend who adores music of that ilk – but Oasis was able to break through with some amazingly written lyrics and some of the most unforgettable songs of my early teenage years. Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory were two albums that I knew nearly by heart. I would wait for hours in front of my stupid little radio waiting for one of their songs to pop up so that I could record it to cassette and craft the perfect mix tape. I would eventually get the chance to see them live years later. In 2009 I was working in South Korea and a friend of mine called asking if I wanted to go to the Jisan Valley Music Festival. When I asked who the performers were she told me Jet, Patti Smith (who is amazing, by the way), and the headliners being Oasis. I immediately said yes and off we went. They sang all of their best songs, seemed to relish the experience of having thousands of Koreans (and two Americans) know all of their songs by heart, and delivered a two hour set that felt more like a concert than a performance in a music festival. Let’s just say it was an unforgettable night. I rode high on that experience for days afterwards. One month later they broke up and have never (yet) gotten back together.

The documentary Oasis: Supersonic does not focus on the breadth of Oasis’ career, instead tightens its scope solely to the band’s rise to superstardom and ends with the success of their second album. This permits the documentary to zero in and really expand on the meteoric rise of this rock band, the ways in which they came about, and also the successes and struggles they faced during the early years. My aforementioned boyfriend is also a fan of the band, but as he is American, he was not as aware of many of the band’s goings-on that were raised over the course of the documentary. Us Europeans, on the other hand, were much more tuned in to everything that occurred on stage but also behind the scenes, as the band’s fame turned them into the ultimate tabloid fodder. Every controversial thing they said, every hotel they destroyed, and especially the tempestuous relationship between Liam and Noel Gallagher, the voice and brain of the band respectively, kept them constantly in the news.

Strangely the film’s director chose to collage together archive footage of the brothers’ childhoods, the band’s early rehearsals, performances, backstage shenanigans, and simply superimpose the voices of the various band members, the brothers’ mother, and former managers or stage crew, but choosing never to have these interviews appear on screen. The voices are all, thus, disembodied – they provide narration, but I sometimes wished to see the expression on their faces while discussing either funny stories or more sad ones, which would have imbued the narrative with a little more emotion and dimensionality. That said, the documentary does a very good job at telling the tale of how one of the biggest bands of the 90s, if not ever, came to become a (champagne) supernova and their supersonic rice to fame. And as a huge fan I ate it up and enjoyed every minute of it. It’s nice to look back on this particular moment of rock history not in anger, but in awe of everything they were able to accomplish and do, in spite of all the craziness and drama. Oasis will truly “Live Forever”.

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