Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Second Look: Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Britpop (2003)

Picked this up a few years back on a recommendation and recently re-watched it. Here are my notes.

John Dower's film starts off in 1990 with The Stone Roses playing Spike Island to around 27,000 people. Noel Gallagher talks about how being in attendance helped him lay the blueprint for what he wanted Oasis to be. The Stone Roses were supposed to be the U.K.'s saving grace, but as music journalist Jon Savage so bluntly puts it here, they 'lost their nerve'. The ping pong ball of popular culture bounced back over the pond to the U.S. where the grunge flag was being furiously waved, with the extremely reluctant Nirvana front and center.

Blur had been helping to build the foundation of Britpop since the release of Leisure in 1991, but the turn of the tide came back to the UK in 1994 when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. The music world was left with a huge hole to fill and Oasis just happened to be there with an album called Definitely Maybe. The inveitable topic of the Oasis / Blur single war is brought up (working class vs middle class), with Damon Albarn not wanting to discuss it very much and Noel being all too eager to talk about how he understands it all went down (a marketing gimmick cooked up between Damon and the NME). Interesting moments and quotes from both are found throughout. Plenty of Liam too, being very Liam.

Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Britpop focuses mainly on these two bands. Not surprisingly, since anyone who remembers Britpop knows that they were the two biggest headline grabbers. There is a healthy dose of Pulp included (particularly focused around their most well known hit, 'Common People', but also a brief piece that goes into the darkness that helped create This is Hardcore) and a minute or two on Massive Attack, Sleeper, Suede and a very brief mention that Portishead released Dummy in 1994. This is all well and good. While there is a chance for someone else out there to create a doc on Britpop that focuses more on the music (LF doesn't even hardly touch on The Verve or go into detail on how, after 15 years of toiling away and releasing albums, Pulp hit critical mass at Glastonbury in 1995 when The Stone Roses dropped out as headliners), the movie's strong suit is the way it focuses on Britpop as a real sea change in music and life in the U.K. A nation of people railing against a decade of Thatcherism and wanting some legitimate rock stars that came from round the way instead of what America told them to listen to. It also touches on British film, fashion and art which were also being revitalized throughout the 90's.

In the end, Live Forever: The Rise and Fall of Britpop is well done at its intended job which is to chart the cultural phenomenon of this particular genre in musics history. Highly reccomended to fans of these bands as well as anyone who is even vaugley interested in important movements in music. It might sound lame, but watching this again made me briefly remember what the air in the 90's smelled like and how blue and endless the sky could look at times.

Click arrows to download.

Oasis - 'See The Sun (Porta Studios 1992)':

Blur - 'Girls & Boys (Demo)':

Pulp - 'Razzmatazz (Live at Glastonbury, 06.25.95):

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