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When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie… Balotelli. Mad Mario has finally shown up at Euro 2012, and with a tired Spanish side stumbling past Portugal in the semis, the scandal-hit Italians are in the unlikely position of once again (after 1982 and 2006) facing the prospect of winning one of football’s two biggest prizes against the backdrop of widespread corruption in the domestic game. Vicente Del Bosque, on the other hand, is stubbornly sticking to his 4-6-0 system, overlooking both the best (Torres) and form (Llorente) strikers in Europe.

I really can’t be bothered adding music to this, since both countries are kind of crap at it, so here are links to Nick Butler’s pieces on the respective countries’ musical histories from the last World Cup:

Italy

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Spain

It’s been an agonising two days, but finally international football is back with the first of the two semi-finals: an all-Iberian affair between El Furia Roja (Spain) and the Not So Furia Roja (Portugal). Will today be the day we finally get to see Ronaldo cry? By which I mean it’s been a couple of months since the last time. Or will today be the day we get to see Xavi… no probably not… will today be the day we see Inies… will today be the day we get to see Sergio Busquets cry like the enormo-jawed bitch that he is? Probably not, but maybe he’ll break a nail or an arm.

Spain: Dark Moor – ‘Swan Lake’

Dark Moor are far from the best symphonic power metal band on the go, but in terms of sheer what-the-fuckery it’s hard to beat the eight-minute epic ‘Swan Lake,’ which appears to be based on Tchiakovsky’s ballet and the Russian influence can be heard right down to the bizarre lack of articles in the chorus: “Her soul will be swan until she feels the love of nobleman.” All in all, it’s good to see somebody still clings to some standard of medieval Russian romance. I bet Andrey “I’d ban women from driving” Arshavin loves this shit.

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Portugal: Extreme – ‘He Man Woman Hater’

Of all the countries featured in the series thus far, Portugal has probably been the most problematic (with the possible exception of the Czech…

We’ve already witnessed the devastation footballers can wreak upon music, and there are arguably no two nations that have done more to mesh the two art forms than Italy and England. Italy at least have a legacy as practitioners of the beautiful game, of catenaccio, Paolo Rossi and Guiseppe Meazza. England have the 442 and Andy Carroll. Let the games begin!

Italy: Gianna Nannini & Edoardo Bennato – ‘Un’estate Italiana’

It would be remiss and frankly quite rude to talk about Italian music without at least once mentioning Giorgio Moroder, one of the architects of disco and one of the greatest electronic and non-electronic musicians of all time. He also wrote the song from Top Gun. More importantly, he’s written countless theme tunes for Olympics and World Cups, including this tune from Italia ‘90 which, while far from his best composition, is nevertheless about football and features some nifty prehistoric computer graphics. It was either this or Zucchero.

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England: The Farm – ‘All Together Now’

It says a lot about the hysteria that grips England each time a major finals rolls around that the entire nation ricochets wildly between almost morbid pessimism and deranged optimism before their inevitable elimination in the quarter finals having bored their way through the group stages and the odd second-round tie against a depleted Latin American minnow. So it’s funny the same sense of random scrutiny isn’t turned to the songs that soundtrack these events, such as New Order’s excruciatingly…

After a small enforced absence, the Euro 2012 blog is back with easily the pick of the quarter finals where, half an hour in, we’ve already seen the failure of the “holy shit, how the fuck do we stop Iniesta?!” formation for the third time in as many games. As I am watching this match in my house, it is only fitting that today’s blog should feature house music, a style France is renowned for and Spain isn’t, the same way Spain is renowened for beautiful, flowing football and France is renowned for beautiful, flowing handball.

Spain: John Talabot – ‘Missing You’

I interviewed Barcelona DJ John Talabot a couple of weeks ago (it’s a short one, not worth posting) and he stressed how he’s never actually listened to a full house album at home – except maybe for Daft Punk – so with his debut record Fin he set out to make the kind of house record non-dance music fans can listen. By and large, he succeeded. He also told me how he came to Ireland for a festival last summer and didn’t bother bringing a jacket. The mad Spanish fucker.

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France: Stardust – ‘The Music Sounds Better With You’

Everybody knows Daft Punk, and anybody who doesn’t isn’t worth talking to, but fewer will be aware of Thomas Bangalter’s brief late 90s side-project, Stardust, who had a big hit in 1998 with the classic ‘Music Sounds Better With You.’ That’s more or less…

John Terry celebrates another successful moon landing.

After a slightly surprising opening defeat to hosts Ukraine, Sweden are aiming to rescue their campaign with a result against England, to whom they’ve never lost a competitive game. England, for their part, played out the bore draw of the tournament to date against  a French side who may struggle to score goals.

Sweden: Hardcore Superstar – ‘Bag on Your Head’

If there’s one thing the Swedes do better than anybody else, it’s heavy metal of any subgenre. Like everything else, they were leading lights on the hair metal scene, and were also at the forefront of the glam revival of the ’00s. Hardcore Superstar were the best of the lot, and the hilarious ‘Bag on Your Head’ is one of the catchiest tracks on their 2005 self-titled record.

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England: The Wildhearts – ‘My Baby is a Headfuck’

The Wildhearts toughened up their image and beefed up their riffs in the early ’90s, dumping the glam stylings that were rapidly going out of fashion, yet they were a glimmer of light for the pop-metal genre during a decade when a chorus might as well have been contraband in rock music. ‘My Baby is a Headfuck’ is taken from the group’s classic 1993 album, Earth vs the Wildhearts and features the last ever appearance on record by the legendary Mick Ronson.

Now that Ireland have become the first team to be eliminated from the competition (the Dutch can still mathematically do it) after meekly surrendering to the Spanish last night, it’s important to acknowledge that we’re still the best in the world at singing and waving flags and singing and waving flags at the same time, so here are two examples of the deep breadth of influence Irish folk music has had on the heavy metal genre. Allez Shevchenko!

France: Aes Dana  - ‘Mer de Glaces et t’Ombre’

With Ireland now out of the tournament while the cheating French remain, it’s with no little irony that we return to the French doing what the French do best: stealing from Ireland what is rightfully Irish. To be fair, Aes Dana are one of the more imaginative Celtic metal acts around, and they do at least sing in French, so they get some points. But not many.

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Ukraine: Drudkh – ‘Everything Unsaid Before’

Elusive Kharkiv act Drudkh are probably the best-known of Ukraine’s four black metal acts, all of which are fronted by Roman Saenko, who must be fucking knackered at this stage. ‘Everything Unsaid Before’ is taken from their 2009 album Microcosmos and is a perfect example of their bleak take on folk and black metal.

Today’s 1-1 draw between Croatia and Italy (how the Italians managed to screw that up I do not know) means the stage is set for a three-way dogfight for the two qualifying spots in the group – or possibly four-way, if Ireland manage to pull off an unlikely win over the Spaniards. As the saying goes, “Spain have Xavi and Iniesta, but Ireland have Long-Cox.” I can neither confirm nor deny these rumours.

Spain: Diabolus in Musica – ‘St Michael’

Diabolus in Musica are arguably the biggest deal in Spanish metal, combining thrash and symphonic metal with male and female vocals. ’St Michael’ is taken from their Metal Blade Records debut Secret, which was released in 2010.

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Ireland: Wizards of Firetop Mountain – ‘Onwards Toward the Sun’

Old school metal outfit Wizards of Firetop Mountain hark back to an era (the 70s) when a man wasn’t ashamed to rock a poodle perm alongside dirty stubble and a denim waistcoat while singing about warlocks or some shit. The Wizards have yet to release a full-length record, but their first major single will stick to yer ears so hard you’ll be chanting it for months.

Saturday saw the unfancied Danes do a 1992 and beat the Netherlands, thanks in no small part to the inspired leadership of Niklas Bendtner, the uncrowned king of Denmark. The Portuguese didn’t fare so well, dominating for spells against Germany before going down to a scrappy Mario Gomez goal (is there any other kind of Mario Gomez goal?) This hotly anticipated duel with bring together two of European football’s most hypnotic hairstyles – Fabio Coentrao and Nikla Bendtner.

Denmark: Mercyful Fate – ‘Come to the Sabbath’

God bless King Diamond – wonderful falsetto, not so great on spelling. ‘Come to the Sabbath’ is taken from the band’s 1984 classic Don’t Break the Oath, and is a beautiful and evocative account of Tony Iommi’s ultimately successful attempts to woo Ronnie James Dio away from Rainbow.

Portugal: Moonspell – ‘Scorpion Flower’

Moonspell are arguably Portugal’s most successful heavy metal export, having played virtually every style on the metal spectrum since forming in the mid-nineties. ‘Scorpion Flower’ is one of their gothier productions, from 2008’s Night Eternal.

Poland: Behemoth – ‘Prometherion’

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Russia: Abominable Putridity – ‘The Anomalies of Artificial Origin’

2-0 Czech Republic within six minutes. The Greeks are going bust!

Greece: Τρυπες – ‘Το Τρενο’

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Czech Republic: Markéta Irglová & Glen Hansard – ‘If You Want Me’

Though it’s only been a country for about 20 years, Croatia has easily the greater football pedigree of these two nations, having appeared in almost all major finals since rejoining UEFA in 1993 and finished 3rd in the 1998 World Cup. Nevertheless, as the smallest nations in the competition with ~4.5 million people apiece, both tend to punch above their weight in competition play, and this promises to be a very competitive group despite the presence of the last two World Cup winners, Italy and Spain.

Croatia: Rawbau – ‘Vatreno Ludilo’

It couldn’t really have been anything else, could it? Croatia manager Slaven Bilic, who bill bid farewell to the Croatian national side after six years in charge at the end of the championships, wrote this song for the nation’s last appearance at the Euros and reached #1 in his homeland. Rawbau have that kind of Rise Against vibe going on, where you can tell they have a strong punk influence but are still totally douchebaggy enough to make music that would sit well on an ad for a fast food restaurant.

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Ireland: Sultans of Ping F.C. – ‘Give Him a Ball and a Yard of Grass’

I was tempted to go for the (possibly awful) Horslips-sampling classic ‘Put ‘Em Under Pressure‘ here, but have instead fallen back on the astonishingly underrated Sultans of Ping F.C. (see the football link here) and ‘Give Him a Ball and a Yard of Grass,’ a title…

Portugal and Germany last met in the 2008 Euros with Germany running out 3-2 winners despite being outplayed for the entire game. Alas, Portugal weren’t able to channel their disappointment into any notable musical feats, but at least they’ve got Ronaldo. Germany’s rock and metal scene, on the other hand, has managed to produce a multitude of world class acts, seemingly to spite their shitty dad rock-loving population.

Portugal: Rui Jorge – ‘Touch Me’

I wasn’t exaggerating about Portugal. Rui Da Silva was the first Portuguese musician (well, with one kinda-exception we’ll find out about in later rounds) ever to have a record chart in the UK when ‘Touch Me’ hit #1 in 2001.

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Germany: Atari Teenage Riot – ‘Black Flags’

This one really is no contest.

These two sides contested the semi-final of the 1992 Euros, with a star-studded Denmark side featuring Torben Piechnik and John Jensen triumphing over a team of obscure Dutchman featuring forgotten names like Marco Van Basten and Frank Rijkaard. The Danes would go on to beat the recently unified Germany in the final, prompting the type of wild celebrations on the streets of Copenhagen not seen since the birth of Niklas Bendtner four years earlier.

Netherlands: The George Baker Selection – ‘Little Green Bag’

The Dutch contribution to pop culture has never really lived up to its fine art history – I see your Johannes Vermeer and raise you a Vengabus – but all sins against good taste are forgiven when you consider the Netherlands gave us the soundtrack to one of the finest moments in cinematic history – the Reservoir Dogs intro. ‘Little Green Bag’ was, remarkably, only the second-biggest hit for the awfully Dutch-sounding George Baker Selection.

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Denmark: Alphabeat – ‘Fascination’

From America’s greatest ever export to its second best: industrial-strength paint stripper. The really-quite-good Danish pop group Alphabeat provided the delightfully camp theme for Coca-Cola adverts in Europe a couple of years back. Like all Danish people, Alphabeat dress and style their hair like their king, Niklas Bendtner.

Like most ex-communist nations, neither of these countries is noted for its astounding contribution to modern music, but it was very much the opposite case in the Romantic era when both were at the forefront of European culture. Curiously, the communist era was boom-time for football in both states, whereas Russia have struggled since independence and the Czechs have often flattered to deceive.

Czech Republic: Antonin Dvorak – Symphony No. 9: From the New World

As its title suggests, Prague-born Dvorak composed his ninth symphony while living in New York in the late 19th Century. Fans of my work will be delighted to know I once performed a part of the New World Symphony at music camp when I was like 8.

#

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Russia: Modest Mussorgsky – Pictures at an Exhibition

Aha! You all thought I was going to go for Tchiakovsky. In fact, it’s one of the Mighty Five Russian nationalist composers and the one-man Modest Mouse cover band and his piano suite Pictures at an Exhibition.

Sputnik has a long and proud history of supporting the world’s best and most popular sport. Two years ago, Nick Butler used the football World Cup as an opportunity for a fascinating study into the musical history of the 32 participating nations. This year, not so much.

We will, however, be using the 32 games taking place over the next 4 weeks to showcase some of the better music that’s come out of each of the 16 European nations taking part, and we begin with the opening game, featuring co-hosts Poland and those lovably spendthrift Greeks.

Use this thread to talk about the match, Lewandowski and, of course, who makes the better music. (Hint: Poland)

Poland: Riverside – ‘In Two Minds’

Warsaw’s most passionate Middlesbrough fans skanked heavily off Porcupine Tree on their mesmeric 2004 debut album, Out of Myself, but originality is overrated when you’ve got tracks as beautiful as ‘In Two Minds’ massaging yer earholes.

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Greece: Rotting Christ – ‘Keravnos Kyvernitos’

With a name like Rotting Christ, Greece’s premier black metal act were never likely to curry much favour with The Big Misogynist In The Sky, but it’s worth noting that coming from the Greek Orthodox church they were going to hell in any case.

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