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.
parody by nacrowe
waaaay back in november 2018(!), BRIAN and i did our 20th episode of DEER GOD RADIO on the 90s BRITPOP movement, which is something near and dead to my heart.
growing up overseas in NIGERIA during the mid 90s, i had the pleasure of spending time in ENGLAND visiting extended family. being AMERICAN, its hard to relate how disorienting it is to be in a country that speaks your language (hell, they invented it) yet has few of your cultural references. people call that culture shock, but for me it was always the most exhilirating part of the process of being abroad since over time you acquiesce to their culture and these blindspots disappear.
regardless it was around the mid 90s when i was introduced to ELASTICA, OASIS, PULP, BLUR, SUEDE, SLEEPER, LUSH, SUPERGRASS, PRIMAL SCREAM, RADIOHEAD, PLACEBO, SAINT ETIENNE, SUPER FURRY ANIMALS and various other groups from the BRITPOP scene as well as other electronic groups like MASSIVE ATTACK and PORTISHEAD from the coastal TRIP HOP scene. not to mention THE PRODIGY who emerged concurrently from the underground electronica scene at the time. it was quite the time and these bands were part of the soundtrack to my years living in NIGERIA with peers that were probably more indebted to the BRITISH sphere of influence than the AMERICAN one.
this show i embedded below goes into the roots and legacy of the scene, which you can also read about in my BOOK REVIEW of JON HARRIS' BRITPOP: COOL BRITANNIA & THE SPECTACULAR DEMISE OF ENGLISH ROCK as well as past SPOTLIGHT features GRAHAM COXON and ELASTICA. i have future shows planned on exploring my favorite various groups from this period as well, so look forward to that as well. endlessly fascinating for me as it was a diverse period with top-notch songwriting all around and was arguably the last time ROCK N ROLL had any large scale cultural or political sway in the UNITED KINGDOM.
photo by nacrowe
John Harris' BRITPOP: Cool Britannia & The Spectacular Demise of English Rock (DA CAPO, 2004) is a comprehensive exploration 1990s British musical culture and all that came with it: the rise of the Labour Party, Ecstasy, Kurt Cobain, Hip Hop and heroin. It covers every major band of the period from OASIS, BLUR, SUEDE, PULP, SUPER FURRY ANIMALS, SLEEPER, RADIOHEAD, SPIRITUALIZED, MASSIVE ATTACK, LUSH, SUPERGRASS, PORTISHEAD and (my personal favorite) ELASTICA but ultimately the key narrative BRITPOP harkens back to again and again is how to express British identity in a modern context where the nation itself is becoming more diverse, jaded and fragmented.
Harris makes the argument that by actively seeking to shed NIRVANA's influence (in terms of their sound & aesthetic) and by becoming politically active (video of NOEL GALLAGHER at 10 Downing Street) with respect to the rise of New Labour, the movement marked itself as something new. something that had not been seen before in terms of political and cultural influence.
as much as i love the music of this period, and i do (ELASTICA, MASSIVE ATTACK, BLUR & OASIS especially), i don't think they were that influential beyond the UK. the very fact that a lot of this music of this period was constructed in opposition to or in the tradition of something else marks it for me. What do I mean?
DAMON ALBARN's early celebrated work with Blur uses fictional characters and settings meant to parody or mimic the narrative styles of RAY DAVIES, LENNON & MCCARTNEY, JOE STRUMMER, PETE TOWNSEND or countless other classic British songwriters of the 1960s & 1970s. He grew out of this and made exceptional work, but during this period he was consciously pushing himself to be in this musical tradition in opposition to american bands of the day.
To mention the OASIS' indebtedness to 1970s Glam or THE BEATLES is beside the point. They fact that there was a blueprint that they kept so close to kinda shackles them a bit. The fact that they were such a strong band and that NOEL has largely transcended this as well to be in the greater aforementioned pantheon of great English songwriters (along with ALBARN), is a testament to his def ingenuity, craft and talent. Its just during this period he kept to the script, and why not?
the one band from this period that exemplifies this push and pull of establishing a new identity by transcending its component parts is MASSIVE ATTACK. ethnically diverse, geographically remote, economically lacking and politically estranged, this group reinvented hip hop, reggae/dancehall/, film music, r&b and rock into a seamless concoction that perfectly reflected the emerging new face of Britain that came from the far reaches of rural council estates. their music still sounds fresh and it is hard to pin point an antecedent sound that predates it, given its surreal originality (in my opinion).
listen, i love 1990s Britpop. even dedicated a radio show to it. i just don't think you can call something revolutionary if it is actively seeking to reimagine, re-contextualize, re-live something that came before.
That ain't revolutionary. That's reactionary. But no doubt the music was still great.
artwork by nicholas crowe
check HERE out this latest episode of DEER GOD RADIO where we explored music by the IRISH as well as those descended from them.
was a fun exercise in investigating how ideas like displacement and community have come to define IRISH literature, music and culture through the generations. enjoy.
past episodes of DEER GOD RADIO as well as other MAKERPARKRADIO.NYC shows like MAKE HER SPACE, NOWHERE FAST, and THE SYNTHESIZER SHOW are available here at the DEER GOD website.