Creation Stories, review: cocaine, rock stars and a ‘simpering’ Tony Blair


  • Dir: Nick Moran. Cast: Ewen Bremner, Jason Isaacs, Leo Flanagan, Richard Jobson, James Payton, Leo Harvey-Elledge, Steven Berkoff, Clint Dyer, Ed Byrne et al. No cert, 100 mins

“I’m a situationist,” crows the Scottish record producer Alan McGee (Ewen Bremner), in Creation Stories, while savouring his own legacy. “I make things happen.” The real McGee’s label, Creation Records, may have only lasted from 1983 to 1999, but in those feverish years it bankrolled the indie bands everyone was talking about: The Jesus and Mary Chain, My Bloody Valentine, Primal Scream. And, all-importantly, Oasis, whom McGee discovered in Glasgow in 1993, at a tiny gig at King Tut’s Wah Wah Hut.

McGee’s 2013 memoir – titled like the film, and subtitled “Riots, Raves and Running a Label” – told the story of his rise from musically talentless Glaswegian punk to self-described “president of pop”. Irvine Welsh, adapting it entertainingly here with Dean Cavanagh, has ransacked it and put a sprig of cherries on top. 

Creation Stories will give you flashbacks to Trainspotting, which emerged from the same acid-house culture McGee became obsessed with at the turn of the 1990s. It begins with him flailing underwater, in a homage to Renton’s infamous toilet dive. It’s also indebted, perhaps inevitably, to 24 Hour Party People, Michael Winterbottom’s tongue-in-cheek 2002 celebration of Tony Wilson’s Factory Records and the contemporaneous “Madchester” club scene.

Did McGee really have a night out in Los Angeles with some posh twit of a film producer called Ralph (Jason Isaacs), who loaded them up with cocaine and lured them to a rancid crack den by morning? McGee has said it’s pure fantasy. But it’s absolutely the kind of thing he admits he did, and blanked from his memory, during peak 1990s madness. “I’m a nihilist – there’s nothing to it!” announces another minor character he meets, just to get the joke in. 

Beyond Welsh’s insider-eye survey of the era, the joy of the film is what a fast, fresh job Nick Moran has done directing it. It’s his second music biopic, following 2008’s Telstar, about the gay recording pioneer Joe Meek, and it doesn’t hang about; credit for the go-for-broke rhythms is also due to Emma Gaffney’s merciless editing. 

Characterisation is done in swift visual strokes, with the camera scooping up laughs in the corner of your eye. Everyone looks absurd in exactly the clothes you want them wearing, whether it’s a droning, shell-suited Liam Gallagher (Leo Harvey-Elledge) or a down-with-the-kids Alastair Campbell (Ed Byrne), with whom McGee awkwardly allied himself during the 1997 Labour election campaign. This satirical treatment lets nobody off the hook – not Thatcher, not Blair (a simpering James Payton), and certainly not McGee, who sells out Knebworth in 1996 for two legendary Oasis shows, then sells out himself.

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