Squeezing 40 years of revolutionary, life-changing music into 100 minutes is an impossible feat – especially if you’re Feel The Noise, a new documentary which never once dares to tread fresh or surprising ground. As a look at the rock and pop music which defined the UK from the 1960s to the arrival of the Spice Girls, it crams together The Beatles, glam rock, punk, two tone, Live Aid, new romantic, acid house and Britpop, genres that are already the subject of a truck load of books, films, podcasts and exhibitions. And as much as we enjoy any television appearance by the Happy Mondays’ Shaun Ryder – his and Bez’s coupling on Celebrity Gogglebox is worthy of many, many BAFTAs – the film’s talking heads of choice hardly bring with them new insights, with the likes of Alan McGee, Pete Waterman, Blur’s Alex James, Cliff Richard, Alastair Campbell and Slade‘s Noddy Holder repeating a largely white, straight and male story.
Of course with a subject as rich as British music and pop culture, there are moments that are truly fascinating, but such is the vast scope of Feel The Noise, it never gets the chance to dig deeper into any of the varied stories it skims so briefly across. Giddy narrator Lauren Laverne begins to tell us how homosexuality was illegal in the 1960s, but the film neglects to actually speak to any gay artists from the era for a first-hand take on the issue. It’s a mistake which is repeated when the film gets to the influx of incredible gay pop icons in the 1980s like Erasure, Boy George and Pete Burns. Here LGBTQ+ ally Princess Julia comments, but none of the artists mentioned do and it’s journalist Paul Morley who speaks on behalf of Frankie Goes To Hollywood rather than any actual members of the band.
Another false start occurs when the brilliant and singular Joan Armatrading discusses being a female Black rock star in the 1970s. But before she’s allowed to dig into the topic, the show’s already moved on to punk. Joan comes back, but only to talk about the arrival of Oasis rather than her own achievements. Instead of untold stories, airtime is given to retreads of the Sex Pistols doing some swearing on Bill Grundy’s talk show, Noel Gallagher visiting Tony Blair at Number 10 and Blur and Oasis’ ‘Country House’/‘Roll With It’ chart battle.
The Selecter’s Pauline Black is another wildly underused guest, especially seeing as the moment she smilingly calls the National Front “ripe for a good kicking” is Feel The Noise’s undoubted highlight.
With a scope so wide, it’s impossible for Feel The Noise to do proper justice to anything it covers. Within the film are endless moments that could be their own full-length docs, from the tale of The Undertones, the only punk band in Derry during The Troubles, to A Guy Called Gerald making ‘Voodoo Ray’ from an old Derek & Clive sample. Even as a primer, the lazy Feel The Noise fails to capture what was truly special about so many thrilling, epoch-defining years.
- Featuring: Johnny Marr, Twiggy, Noddy Holder, Joan Armatrading
- Release date: August 26