Creation Records founder Alan McGee may not have the stage presence of Freddie Mercury or the songwriting chops of Elton John, but it turns out you don’t need either to make a riotously enjoyable music biopic. All you really need is big stories and even bigger tunes – and Creation Stories, an adaptation of McGee’s 2014 memoir, provides both in spades.
We’ll start with the tunes. It’s not just that the soundtrack is impeccable, mixing beloved Creation singles like My Bloody Valentine’s ‘You Made Me Realise’, The House of Love’s ‘Shine On’ and Teenage Fanclub’s ‘What You Do To Me’ with scene-setting classics like David Bowie’s timeless ‘Rebel Rebel’ and the glam stomp of Mud’s ‘Tiger Feet’. It’s more that director Nick Moran, who was also behind cult 2008 Joe Meek biopic Telstar, has somehow managed to capture the electric thrill of seeing a brilliant new band in a tiny venue and realising they could easily take over the world. In one of the film’s most memorable sequences, Moran uses a combination of archive footage and eager, fresh-faced youngsters playing Liam and Noel Gallagher (newcomers Leo Harvey-Elledge and James McClelland, respectively) to plant us firmly in McGee’s shoes for the much-mythologised moment when he stumbled across Oasis playing to an empty King Tut’s in Glasgow in 1993. It’s such an evocative rendering of the live music experience that you’ll half-expect to be overcharged for a beer when you pop to the kitchen.
As for the stories, the entertaining narrative jumps back and forth through time while weaving in the truly bizarre cast of characters that McGee encountered during his rollercoaster journey through ’80s and ’90s pop culture and politics. Tony Blair, Malcolm McLaren, Peter Mandelson and even disgraced television presenter Jimmy Savile all turn up at various points, the latter played with grotesque verve by impressionist Alistair McGowan. The film’s whirlwind of rock star anecdotes and ecstasy-fuelled raves could easily have come apart at the seams, but it’s all held together by Moran’s inventive direction and a superb turn as McGee by Ewen Bremner, best known as Spud from Trainspotting. He’s perfectly cast here, delivering wit and humour along with moments of swivel-eyed intensity, his performance well complemented by Leo Flanagan who plays the young McGee.
Credit also goes to screenwriters Irvine Welsh and Dean Cavanagh, who have crafted a sharp, satirical script that still delivers a satisfyingly heart-warming climax. Sure, there’s the odd music biopic cliche – when Primal Scream discover acid house, someone at the rave immediately suggests they start sampling bits of film in a clunking nod to their future hit ‘Loaded’ – but that’s easily forgiven when the rest of the dialogue glitters with quotable gems like this one delivered by a junkie on the nod: “I’m a nihilist, man. There’s nothing to it.” They serve up a grittier view of the road to musical superstardom than the one provided by your average jukebox musical, and Creation Stories is all the better for it.
- Director: Nick Moran
- Starring: Ewen Bremner, Leo Flanagan, Suki Waterhouse
- Release date: March 20 (Sky Cinema)