Title: Oasis Definitely Maybe: The Documentary
Director: Dick Carruthers
In their 14-year recording career, Oasis sold more than 70 million albums worldwide and helped spawn the “BritPop” movement of the 1990s. They also became almost as famous for the frequent intense squabbling and literal fisticuffs between brothers Noel and Liam Gallagher, the primary songwriter and lead singer of the band, respectively. As part of a series of remastered reissues of the group’s first three albums, and specifically to celebrate the 20th anniversary of their debut, “Definitely Maybe,” a hour-long documentary on its creation is now seeing wider release.
Directed by Dick Carruthers, “Oasis Definitely Maybe: The Documentary” charts the crafting of the group’s smash hit freshman effort, in exhaustive if not quite comprehensive detail, if that makes sense. Oasis manager Marcus Russell and Creation Records founder Alan McGee, whose label would release the album, sit for interviews, as do creative-side knob-fiddlers like producer Mark Coyle and Owen Morris, who would mix the album. A number of journalists and other talking heads attest to the consensus brilliance of the blend of psychedelic-tinged rock-n-roll, and other interviewees include “early adopters” like Stone Roses bassist Mani — a peer, friend and occasional borrower of illegal drugs, it turns out.
As for the brothers Gallagher themselves, they appear separately (a loquacious Noel, older by five years, sits with Coyle in his segments, while a standoffish and disinterested seeming Liam appears solo). As the lyricist, Noel is disarmingly candid about the range of inspiration for the tunes, which he self-effacingly (and not entirely truthfully) says lacked any grander aspirations other than writing about what he knew — “drinking, shagging and taking drugs.” Solid anecdotes arrive in drip fashion, from the single-pass stab at lyrics for “Supersonic” to the second recording session at Sawmill Studios, which was accessible only by boat, and thus perhaps curtailed some of the band’s partying. (“They were doing drugs, just not as much,” shares recording engineer Anjali Dutt.)
Small snippets of the music videos for “Live Forever,” “Supersonic” and “Shaker Maker” are included herein, but “Oasis Definitely Maybe: The Documentary,” taken from the 10th anniversary DVD special release of the disc, isn’t a concert documentary. A bit oddly, it could use more music, actually, to help ground and root the reminiscences, and initiate viewers less familiar with the group’s catalogue. Instead, the movie punches through “Definitely Maybe” song by song, dutifully name-checking the musical influences of Oasis (the Beatles, of course, plus Slade, the Who, Stone Roses and T-Rex) without digging down substantively into the power dynamics that also shaped and influenced the band and its subsequent trajectory.
More to the point, Carruthers struggles with crafting a strong throughline; he seems to avoid the tough questions, and has trouble blending in extant material smoothly. Even though there was considerable tumult before, during and after the recording of the album (drummer Tony McCarroll would get the axe prior to the recording of the group’s follow-up), “Oasis Definitely Maybe: The Documentary” addresses these issues in scattered fashion. Credit is due for raising them at all, but the fact that the Gallaghers are largely unwilling to address these directly leaves one feeling that this is still a somewhat incomplete creative portrait, no matter the new slang for drugged-out intoxication (“cabbaged beyond all fucking belief”) it imparts.
Written by: Brent Simon