Can We Not Agree That Oasis Is the Funniest British Band Ever: Oasis: Supersonic

supersonic_oasis_documentary

Oasis: Supersonic
Directed by Mat Whitecross
Opens October 26

Mat Whitecross’s Oasis: Supersonic is in its third week of UK release; here, distributor A24 has presumably decided, probably correctly, that the band’s American fanbase size merely justifies a One Night Only In Selected Theaters screenings that have taken up increasing amounts of multiplex space. Unusually for this type of one-off booking, Supersonic press-screened in NYC three times, and while it’s hard to recommend this to anyone but a diehard fan with money to spare—this is the kind of thing you expect to see on Netflix sooner rather than later—as a theatrical experience it’s pretty satisfying for a very simple reason: this music benefits from being cranked up [UPDATE, 10/27: It’s been extended to a theatrical run in addition to VOD]. Demos, live soundboard recordings and the final product are all correctly and accurately represented in their respective sonic spaces.

Liam and Noel Gallagher have justified their two-decades-plus occupation of mass cultural space by a) producing two strong albums right out of the gate b) giving hilariously arrogant, casually articulate interviews ever since. Even at their early best, Oasis are understandably not to all tastes: I recall a frustratingly un-Google-able contemporaneous review of Morning Glory in which the critic, taking a line through 1984, compares the album to having one’s face repeatedly stomped in a sea of margarine by jackboots. The Gallaghers’ oft-stated views on “proper” music—basically, nothing post-T. Rex—meant their songwriting universe was constricted from the get-go and only got smaller. But they’re such good quote machines: it is possible, though improbable, to enjoy this if your favorite Oasis track is “Wibbling Rivalry,” their 14-minute argument from 1995.

The Gallaghers haven’t talked for years, but both served as executive producers on this film, which is inevitably diluted of the more unsavory elements of their past: no mention here of, say, Noel casually wishing AIDS upon half of Blur in an interview. (Turn to John Harris’s exhaustive Britpop! if you want to get deeper into it.) In fact, there’s no mention of Blur or any other band (besides their sometime mentors, the Inspiral Carpets [!]), or Britpop, or really any kind of cultural context at all: Oasis are presented as anomalous heroes who, annoyed by an early 90s scene heavy on D&B/chill-out music lacking the proper “spirit,” brought Rock God Swagger back. The film cuts itself off after their two-night sellout stand at Knebworth in 1996, but you’ll never hear a mention of the mediocre fellow travelers that served as opening acts (Kula Shakur! Ocean Colour Scene!).

Nonetheless, Supersonic is relentlessly hilarious in roughly the same way Bad Santa is: both brothers are champions of articulate spite and acutely observed bad behavior. They know who they are and aren’t inclined towards time-wasting self-exculpation: per Noel, “What can I say? I’m a bit of a cunt.” Their verbal aggression was well in place before they broke through, with the proud boast that Oasis is coming to slay the late-80s gods of FM mediocrity: “I want the severed head of Phil Collins in my fridge.” There’s footage of sometimes appallingly band-falling-apart shows with walkouts and Noel introducing “Wonderwall,” not incorrectly, as “another song with shit lyrics” (though the remark at the time seems to have been aimed as a dig at Q et al.’s poor reviews of same). Amidst the chaos, it’s clear that Anton Newcombe was very into the same vibe, but Dig! is a portrait of an egomaniac who’s not funny at all. The Gallaghers are actually so funny that they call into question Noel’s claim that “When it’s all said and done, what will remain is the songs.” Perhaps; then again, it might be an anthology of their interviews, and there’s no shame in that.

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