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Live Forever
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by MP Bartley

"Mad For It Our Kid!"
4 stars

Perhaps the best time to ever listen to music is when you're fifteen or sixteen. You have your whole life ahead of you, you're full of cocky arrogance and you think the world's at your feet, so if you're lucky you'll have some great music to soundtrack those days. I feel sorry for those teenagers nowadays who have 'Pop Idol' and 'Pop Idol: The Rivals' to choose from. But if, like me, you were at that age between 1994 and 1996 and living in Britain it was like Beatlemania all over again. It was a cultural revolution, it was magnificent - but it was short-lived.

Some scene-setting then. In 1994 Britain was in the grip of the dying Tory party. Margaret Thatcher had finally skulked away leaving the limp John Major in charge. The Tory's were following their usual line of 'more for the rich, less for the poor and screw the minorities inbetween'. Culturally Britain was a mess - we had no film industry and our music scene was mainly shite.

But a few shone through this mess. The Stone Roses were four lads from Manchester who had the arrogance of the Rolling Stones and the melodys of the Beatles. Suede were a flamboyant cross between Bowie and T-Rex. These then laid the way. Soon more British bands began to make their voices heard. They played their own instruments and they looked sexy. They gave people hope. A lot of them were witty and articulate and began raging against the dying Tory machine. Labour had its best chance of re-election in years with a puppy faced Tony Blair at the helm. A young, ambitious director by the name of Danny Boyle would unleash his killer debut upon the world with an amazing follow up only a few years later. Suddenly Britain became cool again and was the focus of the cultural world.

This then, is John Dower's retelling of those glorious few years when Britain was producing the best music and the sexiest style. Anyone who lived through those years will have a nostalgic smile just thinking about the bands and the songs of the time - Oasis with Live Forever, Some Might Say, Don't Look Back In Anger and Cigarettes And Alcohol. Blur with Girls And Boys and Parklife. Elastica and Connection. Pulp and Common People. Truly great immortal records, all released within the same few years. Combine that with the style of Danny Boyle and the optimism of Tony Blair's Labour and you can see why Dower has chosen such a rich period of history to retell.

Technically speaking, there's little clever here, just a collection of talking heads with the videos and news clips from the time. And there is little insight to the time besides wallowing in nostalgia.

But Dower has some gems of interviews that elevate this above mere nostalgia. Liam and Noel Gallagher of Oasis are perhaps the funniest bickering double-act since Lemmon and Matthau were the Odd Couple. They may have not made a decent record since those days, but once you see Liam struggle with the word androgyny "What's that mean? You saying I look like a girl?" you'll forgive him for anything. And Noel Gallagher should quit music tomorrow and become an after dinner speaker. His dry wit whether it be withering putdowns of Liam "He looked like he had a nipple on his head" or putdowns to arch-rival Damon Albarn means that his interviews are the highlight throughout.

Damon Albarn however of Blur can't help but make himself look like a wanker. Adopting a smug superiority throughout, like he's too good for the era that made him, and pretentiously strumming a guitar constantly he manages to make himself a muso that is too up his own arse for Spinal Tap.

And then there's Jarvis Cocker of Pulp, perhaps the wisest man of the time. Looking back at everything with a dry if affectionate eye, there's perhaps not enough of his wit and wisdom throughout 'Live Forever'. But Dower also garners interviews with the other major players and cultural commentators (Alex Cox speaks a lot of sense), but sometimes shoots himself in the foot. Who cares what designer Ozwald Boateng thinks? And why interview Louise Wener? Did Sleeper ever release a decent record? Her sniping at Noel for going to Number 10 just reeks of petty jealousy.

Bravely, Dower also examines just why this explosion of talent and style collapsed in only a few years and just why music and Tony Blair fell out. Nostalgic it may be but it ends with the sobering reality that things haven't been as good since.

A self-proclaimed fan of this time, this documentary is obvious as to who it's going to appeal to so if you're unaware of this particular period of music, you may fail to find interest. But for those who were there at the time, it's a superb reminder of just how great those days were. And whenever Noel or Liam are on screen it may also be the funniest film of the year.

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originally posted: 09/04/04 01:07:51
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  02-Mar-2003 (R)



Directed by
  John Dower

Written by
  John Dower

  Damon Albarn
  Jarvis Cocker
  Liam Gallagher
  Noel Gallagher

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