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‘Oasis: Supersonic': Film Review

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There’s been a great deal of buzz of the new documentary Oasis: Supersonic, which is playing in select theaters across the United States tomorrow as a one-night-only event. All of it is deserved; it doesn’t matter if you loved or hated the smarmy, acerbic brothers Gallagher, this is storytelling at its finest.

Directed by Mat Whitecross, whose previous credits include the 2012 feature film Spike Island and the Burmese refugee documentary Moving to Mars, Supersonic begins and ends with the famed headlining gig at Knebworth where Oasis played in front of 250,000 people at the height of Britpop in August 1996. But it’s the in-between footage that separates the film from the rest, chronicling the swift rise of the band that was at one point the biggest in Europe and set on conquering the rest of the world.

Focusing on the rise of Oasis, named by frontman Liam Gallagher while his older sibling Noel was off working as part of the crew for the Manchester rock band Inspiral Carpets, there’s rare film and photos from the brothers’ youth, including footage of Oasis in its earliest configuration and Noel’s time as a roadie. There’s also a surprising amount of tape from the two ill-fated recording sessions for the band’s debut, Definitely Maybe, which was eventually salvaged by producer Owen Morris.

The meteoric ascent of Oasis is captured when they hit Japan, greeted by thousands of fans at the airport, blowing the collective minds of the individual bandmembers. Tony McCarroll’s firing, with Noel commenting on knowing the drummer wouldn’t be able to handle the musicianship required for the second album, is written off as a necessity for the continuance of the outfit’s progress. But as expected, it’s the fractious nature of the Gallagher brothers’ relationship that provides the most entertainment.

“Noel has a lot of buttons and Liam has a lot of fingers,” says Christine Mary Biller of Ignition Management at one point during Supersonic, succinctly summing up two-and-a-half decades of high profile mudslinging between the two.

Noel compares himself to a cat, self-sufficient and wanting to be left alone, while likening Liam to a dog that constantly needs attention. There’s nothing about the two that doesn’t contrast, except their equal love for Oasis, which almost ended on numerous occasions prior to their 2009 split.

One of them happened at the conclusion of a disastrous gig at the Whisky a Go Go in Los Angeles where everyone in and around the band was coming down off a days-long crystal meth bender – they initially thought it was cocaine – leaving roadies to place different setlists in front of each member. Liam threw a tambourine at an increasingly frustrated Noel, who split to San Francisco, ostensibly intent on giving up the dream, but was coaxed to return, shifting the dynamic of Oasis completely when he did.

Despite Noel effectively taking over as leader, the rows continued. A notable one came while recording sophomore album (What’s the Story) Morning Glory? where Liam brought back a bunch of locals to the studio to party, Noel kicked everybody out, Liam took affront to that and started smashing Noel’s guitars, leaving Noel to crack Liam with a cricket bat.

The stories are often told with modern day voice-overs of archival footage, or sometimes in illustrated form, but all matter-of-factly, and without any boasting. Though at one point, when detailing Paul McGuigan’s departure in 1994 where the bassist was replaced by Scott McLeod — who himself quit a few weeks later —  Noel pondered that he, Liam and guitarist Paul “Bonehead” Arthurs were the most difficult people in history to work with — albeit in much more colorful language, of course.

The drama and structure of Supersonic by Whitecross never once becomes tepid, in fact it’s not until almost the end of the documentary when you realize the great 90s rivalry between Oasis and Blur is never touched on — it’s not even hinted at — and doesn’t feel like its missing. By the time the group takes the stage at Knebworth for the first night, flying in by helicopter over a sea of adoring fans, it feels like the end to a triumphant story, which it obviously wasn’t.

Bonehead and Noel think Oasis should’ve walked off into the sunset after Knebworth, while the typically contrarian Liam thinks otherwise. It’s no use in surmising who might have the better belief, but one thing is for sure, there’s a second chapter to the story which will hopefully be told with the same insight, humor and brilliance as Supersonic achieves.

Supersonic is being screened across the U.S. on Oct. 26. For locations, visit the movie’s website.

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Next: Revisit Oasis' '(What's the Story) Morning Glory?'

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