photo manipulation & text by nacrowe
their catalogue speaks for itself.
the BRITISH indie label CREATION RECORDS during its run had some massively seminal and influential bands, everyone from PRIMAL SCREAM, MY BLOODY VALENTINE, TEENAGE FANCLUB, RIDE, SLOWDIVE and THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN to SUPER FURRY ANIMALS, THE HOUSE OF LOVE, SWERVEDRIVER, SUGAR, SAINT ETIENNE and, of course, OASIS. culturally the label is very much synonymous with the two BRITISH INDIE ROCK exports of the period, SHOEGAZE and BRITPOP. and while all of those bands get their spot in the documentary UPSIDE DOWN: THE CREATION RECORDS STORY (DOCUMENT FILMS, 2010), the focus is on its founder all around INDIE ROCK pied piper, ALAN MCGEE.
the label is very much created in the image of MCGEE, who was a SCOTTISH punk who made his way down to LONDON with his band subsequently decided to put out music by his friends. and that tribal bond was basically the defining ethos of CREATION RECORDS throughout its run. in the film MCGEE even attests to the fact that he signed interesting, creative people and not bands. needless to say, thats an odd tactic but definitely describes the innovative people he brought into the fold including KEVIN SHIELDS, BOBBY GILLESPIE, GRUFF RHYS and NOEL GALLAGHER.
what i found interesting is how the story of CREATION RECORDS mirrors that of other artistic-minded labels in their peer group, many that came out of the existing POST PUNK scene of the previous generation like FACTORY RECORDS. these INDIE ROCK labels were seemingly fronts for producing great art rather than being a functioning business with longterm economic targets and vertically integrated efficiencies. CREATION RECORDS pre-OASIS was in a constant state of owing money to recording studios, printing presses and the like and was under constant threat of being eaten up by a major. its ironic that the period that saw the label at its mid-1990s cultural zenith, the period around OASIS' second record WHAT'S THE STORY (MORNING GLORY)?, also marked their fall into eventually being consolidated and sold to SONY. MCGEE during the entire OASIS period had hit a wall with his drug use and saw him through a long recovery which meant his non-presence at the label allowed for the implementation of structural changes which in turn weakened his hand. this led to the label being swallowed up by a major, who of course had no idea what to do with its idiosyncratic and eccentric catalogue.
but the fact that the label ended in 1999 doesnt reduce its impact. its arguable that the label nurtured the BRITISH INDIE ROCK scene post-SMITHS throughout the late 80s and 90s and laid the groundwork for what would be the last great global rock phenomenon in OASIS. once that genie is out of the bottle its arguable that their legacy was cemented and where do you go from there?
i dont know.
but growing up overseas this label's catalogue was essentially synonymous with my young adulthood, especially MY BLOODY VALENTINE and SLOWDIVE. i love the guy just for giving world those two bands. definitely check out this documentary if you have any interest in music history or ALTERNATIVE ROCK and INDIE ROCK bands from the 1980s and 1990s including SHOEGAZE and BRITPOP. thoroughly enjoyable and required viewing.
photo & text by nacrowe
when my family moved to NIGERIA in the mid 1990s we would spend a few weeks each summer staying with a relative in ENGLAND in a suburb north of LONDON. its an era i really look back at fondly and, as it turns out, the timeframe coincided with can argued were the peak years of the BRITPOP movement. undoubtedly the biggest record of the period was (WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY? (CREATION, 1995) by legendary MANCHESTER band OASIS. tracks like "DON'T LOOK BACK IN ANGER," "CHAMPAGNE SUPERNOVA," "SOME MIGHT SAY" and of course "WONDERWALL" are celebrated milestones of an era that marker a distinct generational realignment in BRITISH culture and even politics.
there are so many touch points with this record.
culturally (WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY? marked a shift away from the decidedly introspective and self-reflective SHOEGAZE movement of a few years prior and provided a more aggressive stance in the wake of NIRVANA and the stateside ALTERNATIVE ROCK movement. this was a record and a band that were unabashedly, uncompromisingly and unapologetically BRITISH. it was also a record that didnt hide behind characters and sophisticated literary ambitions which was the case with BLUR and their equally impactful and era-defining PARKLIFE (FOOD, 1994) album. lyrically what it did have were non-sensical, free-association, stream-of-consciousness lyrics a la THE BEATLES' "I AM THE WALRUS" by songwriter and guitarist NOEL GALLAGHER. the opaque and inscrutable nature of the lyrics counterintuitively for the listener put more emphasis on the performances of singer LIAM GALLAGHER and the melody within the music itself. its an interesting switch and bait.
fairly or unfairly, OASIS politically was effectively the living embodiment of the working class in ENGLAND. this was in contrast to BLUR, who were portrayed as upper-class art school sophisticates. the rivalry was manufactured and kinda bullshit, much like THE BEATLES and THE ROLLING STONES before them, but its an image that survives to this day. LIAM himself was the poster child of LAD CULTURE, which celebrated womanizing, excessive alcohol consumption and soccer hooliganism. so its interesting that TONY BLAIR tapped into BRITPOP and specifically OASIS in order to reach that desired younger and decidedly urban demographic. it worked and the LABOR PARTY regained control of government in 1997 in a landslide. the sight of NOEL at 10 DOWNING STREET in the aftermath is also seen as the jump the shark moment of the BRITPOP movement in general. when what was a youth movement now became BRITISH CULTURE writ large. their is no real analogue to the political significance of this record in an AMERICAN context. not ELVIS PRESLEY, not BOB DYLAN and not BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN. its still an interesting topic.
like most people who are OASIS obsessives, what i love about this record are the melodies and song-craft of NOEL and the brash over-confidence and demonic chutzpah of LIAM. its not even up for discussion how powerful this combination of distinct forces found in THE GALLAGHER BROTHERS was during this period. lightning in a bottle. my favorite song on (WHAT'S THE STORY) MORNING GLORY? has long been "MORNING GLORY" with its whirling, siren-like guitar intro to its opening couplet of "all your dreams are made when you're chained to the mirror and the razor blade." when that first chorus crashes in i am never in a bad mood. its empowering and intoxicating to take in. just like it was when i first heard it when i was eleven.
is most definitely worth revisiting and checking out again. and for god's sake THE GALLAGHER BROTHERS need to just make up and regroup already. have COLDPLAY as your backing band, i dont care. the world needs to hear "ROCK 'N' ROLL STAR" in a stadium again!
photo manipulation by nacrowe
i first came across SLOWDIVE while watching GREGG ARAKI films like THE DOOM GENERATION (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1995) and NOWHERE (DESPERATE PICTURES, 1997). their sound had this ethereal atmospheric quality with soaring waves of looped feedback winding and unwinding itself around a floating female/male singing tandem mixed way back in the mix. it was the perfect audio bed for films about largely centered around reckless young adults and their ever-evolving identities, attitudes and emotions that seemed to swell and dissipate. that was pretty much when i got interested in SLOWDIVE.
the documentary SOUVLAKI (PITCHFORK, 2015) is an oral history of the seminal SHOEGAZE band as described by members NEIL HALSTEAD, RACHEL GOSWELL, SIMON SCOTT, NICK CHAPlIN and CHRISTIAN SAVILL, as well as CREATION RECORDS founder ALLEN MCGEE, producer CHRIS HUFFORD and mixer/engineer ED BULLER. it reveals the process behind the development behind their transcendent SOUVLAKI (CREATION, 1993) album and how the recently dissolved romantic relationship between HALSTEAD and GOSWELL informed the record. pretty standard fair for music documentaries.
what resonated with me was how they describe the scene at the time, pre-GRUNGE and BRITPOP, when bands like THE JESUS AND MARY CHAIN, SPACEMEN 3, COCTEAU TWINS and MY BLOODY VALENTINE were playing small gigs in rural ENGLAND. when the sound was still underground. the band itself was made of the decidedly INDIE HALSTEAD, who grew up in a household where music other than CLASSICAL was verboten, and two local GOTHS in GOSWELL and CHAPLIN; all agree on THE SMITHS. knowing that i can definitely hear a POST PUNK thread in their sound from GOTH ROCK bands like BAUHAUS (i.e. DANIEL ASH), JOY DIVISION, BERLIN-era DAVID BOWIE and SIOUXSIE & THE BANSHEES. they all used sound and looped effects to make deeply evocative music that resonated on both on an emotional and visceral level.
the documentary, like others in the PITCHFORK CLASSIC series, has the band members elaborate on standout tracks like "40 DAYS," "WHEN THE LIGHT HITS," "SOUVLAKI SPACE STATION," "DAGGER," and "ALISON." it also showcased BRIAN ENO's ability to serve as a catalyst for soundscapes that formed the basis for other songs as well. in ENO there is a figure that is purely interested in the creation of interesting sounds, period. he served as a catalyst during writing sessions with HALSTEAD, who hilariously and fortunately didn't know much about him at the time, and left. ENO's production techniques are fodder for another entry, so i wont go into that here, but needless to say his unconventional approaches and deep penchant for sonic experimentation is all over SOUVLAKI. it marks a new direction for the band which fascinatingly was influenced by DUB REGGAE and new AMBIENT acts at the time like APHEX TWIN. its all in there, you can definitely hear it.
in recent years the band has reformed and even released the stellar SLOWDIVE (DEAD OCEANS, 2017), but the SOUVLAKI record should not be missed by anyone. requisite listening for anyone interested in SHOEGAZE, INDIE ROCK, ALTERNATIVE ROCK or even AMBIENT or ORCHESTRAL music. really just great music for anyone moved by emotionally affecting sounds in general. at least it gets me every time, right back to being a teenager living in KUWAIT, an oppressive country with little freedom or ability for self-expression or creativity.
NOTE: also, the post-SLOWDIVE band MOJAVE 3 is also worth your time, although they are a completely different vibe altogether.
parodies by nacrowe
join us tonight at 8PM EST for an all new episode of DEER GOD RADIO on MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC dedicated to BRITPOP icons OASIS, one of my all-time favorite bands. this is gonna be fun.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW and CLASSICAL-ISH WITH NUTMEG are available here at the DEER GOD website.
and if you haven't done so already get the FREE PHONE APP for IOS/ANDROID and enjoy listening to MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC 24/7 at your convenience!
photo manipulation by nacrowe
OASIS: SUPERSONIC (MINT PICTURES, 2016) is easily one of the better documentaries ive watched in recent years, not least because strucurally it is an anomaly having two competing narrators in the GALLAGHER BROTHERS walking us through their story on separate tracks. recorded separately with no interaction, which seems as good a description as any for the dynamic within the group. this film shows how this highly dysfunctional pair of siblings rose to prominence with the BRITPOP movement and cemented their legacy as iconic BRITISH cultural exports on par with THE BEATLES and THE SEX PISTOLS from previous generations. its an amazing story.
you don't have to look very far in this film to see examples of singer LIAM GALLAGHER's loutish womanizing behavior that have made his king hooligan public persona the stuff of legend. but honestly that stuff bored me. what you really get at the heart of their relationship, and by definition the crux of this film, is this notion of an unbalanced division of labor. guitarist NOEL GALLAGHER comes off as the brooding, sensitive son of an abusive MANCUNIAN father who made himself into a songsmith whose innate sense of melody and human observation led him to write transcendent songs that put him in the pantheon of great BRITISH songwriters along with the aforementioned LENNON/MCCARTNEY as well as RAY DAVIES, MORRISSEY/JOHNNY MARR, ELVIS COSTELLO, ELTON JOHN/BERNIE TAUPIN, VAN MORRISON, IAN CURTIS and even DAMON ALBARN. but that only got him so far without the magnetism, charisma and straight-up sex appeal of LIAM in the vein of iconic BRITHS frontmen like JOHNNY ROTTEN, FREDDIE MERCURY, PAUL WELLER, NICK LOWE, JOE STRUMMER and of course (again) JOHN LENNON. with NOEL you got the substance of an older brother that took the blunt of the blows from their father and with LIAM the upstart baby of the family, shielded from such abuse, who wanted all the attention good or bad. super interesting family dynamic and expressions of warped masculinity that was probably also influenced by poverty, unemployment and the like in 1980s MANCHESTER.
perhaps my favorite moment in the film is when NOEL is hard at work writing songs for their follow-up record in the studio while everyone else in the band has pissed off to the local pub, leaving him with all the creative control, but also the pressure. at some point he asks LIAM for ideas and his brother is totally dismissive, saying that he didn't have time for that right now. you really get the sense in this film, admittedly by both narrators, that this was NOEL's ship (despite the fact that he didn't start the band) and that LIAM was just in it for the fame, glory and the birds.
it makes sense now that NOEL's solo career has blossomed into, for all intents and purposes, the second phase of OASIS' career given that the quality of the material has never diminished. this can't be said for LIAM's solo work or lackluster BEADY EYE efforts, the later of which saw the remaining OASIS members dismally attempt to recreate the magic sans NOEL to no effect. its super glaring and obvious now, but by watching this documentary you begin to understand that this trajectory was embedded in the very framework of OASIS and how it functioned and that LIAM seriously better set his ego aside and make nice with his brother.
seriously, for all our benefit. make up and go conquer the world again. nobody died. you all survived. nobody took your throne so got out and kick ass again.
please. i really want to hear "ROCK N ROLL STAR" in a stadium. just do it.