Oasis: Supersonic is a dazzling rock documentary by award-wining filmmaker Mat Whitecross of The Road to Guantánamo and Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll fame. It begins where it ends, at Oasis’s watershed 1996 Knebworth gigs in front of a third of a million people.
Somewhere in the beginning of the film Liam, off his face, refers to the biblical Cane and Abel story as a metaphor for his and his brother’s relationship and that metaphor weaves its way through the film.
“One stabbed the other, and that. I fucking ‘ate that twat… na it’s love, I love him,” he drawls in his working class Manchester accent, pointing to his brother Noel.
The footage of the brothers kicking giant footballs into the hundreds of thousands in Knebworth is followed by two notable hours, not only musically – as one realises how good they really were – but also for its comedy and pathos -as the Gallagher brothers reflect (in voiceover) on brilliant archival clips and other behind-the-scenes gems.
This funny and poignant documentary is told as a phenomenal narrative as it charts the extraordinary rise of Oasis from the council estates of Manchester to becoming the greatest rock band for a period of the 1990s.
Noel admits Oasis “weren’t the best musicians, but we had spirit man”. They were, as he admits, “greater than the sum of our parts”.
Regardless of where you place Oasis among the pantheon of rock-pop stars and irrespective of their unashamed homage to The Beatles, the Skids, and The Jam, they were princes in that prodigious tradition of Brit-rock.
The two working class brothers Noel and Liam, the children of Irish immigrants, had an unmistakable impact on music that was as intense as their rivalry that was played out in full public gaze.
Noel retreated to his room from about 17, playing guitar and writing songs, “I discovered weed and a guitar, why would I want anything else? Why would you want to go out for? “Everything I wanted outta life was coming out of the speakers,” he says.
Liam was “a devil, full of it”, as his mother says. He recalls how how he got interested in music: “A kid smashed me with an ’ammer, and from that day on somethin’ clicked and I started ‘earin music, so whoever it was, thanks”.
They were authentic and had self-belief, that is now a rare quality in the age of whinny, passive aggressive nothingness.
Liam had what he needed; the dole, music, weed, and going home and ‘soaking in’ music. Noel was a roadie for the Inspiral Carpets, when his mother told him Liam has started a band he soon joined him and the rest is history. “Epiphany and bollocks” as Liam names it.
One of the more tender moments in the film is when Noel reflects on his violent father and how he begged his mother to leave him. She did. She was “an angel” Liam says, raising three boys, and as Noel adds, “one of them being Liam”.
There’s a hilarious description of the brawl Liam instigated on the ferry on the way to Holland resulting in their deportation and securing their notoriety in the British media. “A fight broke out and it was all a bit Benny Hill,” jokes Liam, who according to Noel, relished the melee.
After being banned from a chain of hotels, Noel talks to Liam: “Don’t understand it, why a hotel room needs to get smashed? That’s like ‘ard work”. You can’t but empathise with their US tour manager, Maggie Mouzakitis, as she tries to deal with the brothers while they hurtle towards a train-wreck as they snort endless lines of meth — or “Ninja speed” as Liam calls it — thinking it’s coke. Noel runs away after a disastrous debut in LA and Mouzakitis has to pick up the pieces and bring him back.
“God bless that woman. We put ‘er through hell,” says Noel.
It’s difficult to explain the insanity of Oasis to someone under 30, their multi-platinum albums, brutal thumping club gigs and colossal, live concerts. Equally hard to describe is how for 13 years and after two brilliantly crafted albums Definitely Maybe and (What’s the Story) Morning Glory, they never reached those heights again.
As Liam aptly puts in at the end of the film, Oasis burned bright but “disappeared in a puff of smoke”.
It is doubtful that anyone between 45 and 55 can hold back from singing along to their anthemic hits and we are reminded of that throughout the film.
Fans sing back their songs to them. “Lyrics written at three in the morning,” they say incredulously. Their respect and humility they express towards their fans is apparent, regardless of the epic distaste they voiced for most of their peers and the music industry.
Oasis came from working class beginnings and they could have become larrikin louts, but they had balls and drive. They lacked art student affectation, yet they wrote great songs that were lyrically and musically incongruent with their raucous image.
They weren’t Blur, or Pulp, they weren’t quirky, or ironic, but they rocked harder and had sheer audacity. They exploded on stage, with songs that raised the hairs on your arms. They were authentic and had self-belief, that is now a rare quality in the age of whinny, passive aggressive nothingness encouraged by television shows like The Voice and X Factor.
The film may hinge on the brothers’ egotism, so evident when given one their many BRIT Awards, one says, “from has-beens to gonna- be’s”, but they couldn’t have acted like that without the talent that so evident in every frame of this documentary.
Put on your old Puma sneakers and Adidas spray jacket, roll a number, (if your partner lets you), pour a stiff vodka and put on Oasis: Supersonic and get “caught beneath the landslide”.