The zeitgeist has passed and the days when Tarantino and the Gallaghers ruled the Earth are but a vivid memory, writes Paul Fennessy
You may notice a lot of talk about the last decade, but what of the one that gave birth to the new generation of UCDers?
What do cinema and pop music currently have in common? Well, for one thing, a considerable air of nostalgia has been permeating both industries in the not-too-decent past.
To be specific, two representatives of 90s iconography have recently been hitting the headlines for various reasons, namely the band Oasis (and by Oasis, I basically mean the Gallaghers – the other members have long been acknowledged as glorified hired hands) and the filmmaker Quentin Tarantino.
Any parallels between these two unabashedly idiosyncratic entities are not as implausible as would initially appear to be the case. They have in common the fact that they were both subjected to single-parent helmed upbringings in which their disparate backgrounds distinguished them from their peers – the Gallaghers being of Irish descent, and Tarantino being required to attend a school which predominantly comprised of black students.
Moreover, the Gallaghers and Tarantino were initially perceived as maverick whizzkids who unexpectedly rose to prominence from unlikely circumstances. The former were impoverished council estate dwellers living on the dole before the release of Definitely Maybe, while Tarantino was merely a nerdy video store worker prior to Hollywood’s call.
While their respective wheels have not exactly come full circle since then, the remarkable synchronicity of their career paths has endured of late. Needless to say, the general consensus is that the quality of their output has declined steeply since their 1994 peaks, encompassing Pulp Fiction and Definitely Maybe.
Granted, few would argue that these artists’ respective follow-ups – (What’s the Story?) Morning Glory and Jackie Brown – could legitimately be classified as disappointments. However, you would be hard-pressed to find one person who regards them as superior to their predecessors. Furthermore, the declining quality of their oeuvres in the aftermath of these releases has arguably been more dramatic.
Inevitably, their defenders will insist that such claims are exaggerated and that their artistic virtuosity remains intact. Tarantino, after all, has still received some five-star reviews since Pulp Fiction, while Oasis was given the NME award for Best Band as recently as last February.
Nonetheless, such assertions bring to mind the famous scene from Trainspotting – incidentally, another iconic purveyor of mid-90s lad culture. In the scene in question, the two characters discuss people who, like the Gallaghers and Tarantino, once possessed considerable talent, only to subsequently lose their irreducible incandescence somehow.
“What about Lou Reed?” asks Renton, the protagonist, as he lays in a park alongside Sick Boy while trying to preoccupy themselves while they kick their heroin habits. “Some of his new stuff’s alright!” “It’s alright, but it’s not great,” replies Sick Boy, in a dour, matter-of-fact and blunt Scottish prognosis as he points the crosshair of his air rifle at the butt of an innocent cocker spaniel.
Such sentiments can equally be applied to Oasis and Tarantino. Be Here Now may not have been quite the catastrophe which its staunchest detractors believe it to be, and Kill Bill has its fair share of admirers, but you are never likely to witness these divisive projects regularly lighting up Top 10 lists in the same manner as their precursors invariably do.
Therefore, it must surely be asked why there is such an apparently sharp discrepancy between these artists’ earlier and later works. Was it due to unrealistic expectations purported by the initial hype? Was it perhaps old age? Or was it possibly an inability to change with the times?
In fact, the precise reason for their sudden shortcomings is similarly hypothesised by the aforementioned Trainspotting argument: drugs. The Gallagher brothers essentially blamed cocaine for Be Here Now’s abominably overwrought and mainly unlistenable predispositions. Similarly, Tarantino is an inveterate substance abuser, and disappeared for two whole weeks amid an increasingly out-of-control drug habit during the filming of Kill Bill.
Therefore, with the recent-ish break-up of Oasis, in addition to the recent-ish release of the pretension-riddled Inglourious Basterds, nine years of excessive procrastination has finally culminated and we have at last witnessed the final death-knell of the 90s and its cultural antiquities.
Furthermore, their rise and subsequent indulgences have mirrored contemporary socio-economic conditions of thriving economies, high employment, spending on the “never mind” lifestyles characterised by excess and of course, the inevitable decline from boom to bust.