Greetings again from the darkness. As a kid in Glasgow, Alan McGee’s dream was the same as many others: he wanted to make it big in the music business. A TV appearance by The Sex Pistols lit the proverbial fire, and Alan became obsessed. However, as he states in the film, “I didn’t have any talent, which limited my opportunities.” What he did possess was ambition and commitment. The last few years have produced an abundance of music biopics, yet this one isn’t based on a great singer, songwriter, or guitar player. Instead, director Nick Moran and co-writers Dean Cavanagh and Irvine Welsh have adapted Alan McGee’s autobiography, “The Creation Records Story: Riots, Raves and Running a Label.”
The film begins with the tagline, “most of this happened”, and of course, we understand that when rock ‘n roll is involved, stories get twisted and personalities are exaggerated. Leo Flanagan and Ewen Bremner star as the younger and older Alan McGee, respectively. Flanagan gets the backstory which sets the conflict with McGee’s father, while Bremner, as you have likely guessed, gets the flamboyant and wild events of the later years.
There is a zaniness to the film in that, at times, it has frantic pacing, quick cuts, and psychedelic effects. Suki Waterhouse plays a journalist interviewing McGee on his success, and this provides a touch of structure to a story that otherwise bounces between timelines and business developments so haphazardly that we can’t possibly keep up. McGee and Creation Records were key players in the surge of independent and alternative music in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. The label featured such bands as Primal Scream, The Jesus and Mary Chain, and of course, Oasis.
Bremner is high-octane as the fast-talking McGee, and we believe that he believes he’s running “the coolest record label on the planet.” We are along for the ride in his never-ending quest to find the next band that is “going to be bigger than U2.” He’s a maverick who succumbs to the lifestyle by over-indulging in drugs, and having no obvious business savvy in maintaining what he builds. The Oasis story is particularly well told, and features Jason Flemyng at the King Tut gig. Other supporting work is provided by an unusually high-strung Jason Isaacs, Paul Kaye, and Steven Berkoff in the film’s oddest role. He plays a McGee hallucination of famed occultist and writer Aleister Crowley.
Danny Boyle is an Executive Producer on the film and director Nick Moran has spent much of his career acting, including a role in LOCK, STOCK AND TWO SMOKING BARRELS (1998). This combination (as well as a few connected actors) is likely a key to the early Guy Ritchie vibes we sometimes experience. Set Decorator Clare Keyte deserves a shoutout for exceptional work in various time periods and settings. Kudos to Bremner for his all-in approach, but the film works best as one that offers some nostalgia and historical value of a time when the music culture shifted in the UK.
The film will stream on AMC+ and be available On Demand and digital on February 25, 2022