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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
Some of you may remember me gushing over a band named Thera. I reviewed their debut album and heaped all kinds of praise upon it. I even got permission to stream three of their songs on the site (a stream that’s still active). It was basically a hype-machine blitz on my part, and despite those that pushed back and told me I was ‘overrating’ the album, I still don’t regret it and If This is the End still stands as one of my favorite albums of that year. Apparently, the band are just about set to release a new EP and ‘We Were a Housefire’ is the first track from the album. It definitely picks up right where the previous release left off, but it is also shows a definite improvement in sound and song writing. Of course, the thing that still lends Thera most of their unique sound is the vocals of Stephanie Plate. Her voice has definitely become a little more polished compared to the debut album, but enough of her personal flair is still there. Take a listen and then check out the three songs from the previous release too.
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.
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.
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.
Today things will likely get bad for the English as French-speaking people gear up to grab an unapologetically boring 1-0 victory over them. In a move that would make the proudest indie rock journalist happy, there is a weird layer of self-awareness going around in the English press for this game. Thanks to it, I have never been more optimistic that I am totally not optimistic about our chances in this game. I am daring to dare to not dare to dream. Also, since the majority of our userbase is American, please don’t make fun of us today. It’s not our fault.
Also, something something about the French.
England: Los Campesinos! – Every Defeat A Divorce (Three Lions)
Pretty hard to know what to choose for this one but if the nation’s hopes have been toned down to some sort of footballing nihilism, we should probably call upon Los Campesinos! to make thinly-vieled analogies comparing the sport to sex and the disappointment in both areas. I honestly think if this was our national anthem, our team would sing it proudly before games. Contrary to popular belief (and much to Gareth Campesinos!’ massive dismay), Los Campesinos! are not a Welsh band. This has happened before- I think the sadly misplaced Ryan Giggs would be happy at home in this band.
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.
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…
A few years ago this fixture would have had a very different set of standard pundit clichés riding on it (the perennial underachievers vs. the mighty defenders), but this meeting of two European greats nonetheless promises, as it has in its first half, to be one of the hottest contenders for least interesting game of the tournament. Bring on Bono V Croatia!
Italy: port-royal – ‘Flares Pt. 2′
…And what could be more fitting for the Italian defensive geniuses with an “educating” manager than some seriously academic ambient and/or post-rock music? port-royal don’t speak much, which makes their tenuous link something to do with their great defensive prowess. The silent 1-0 victory of instrumental music.
Spain: Los Planetas – ‘Parte de lo que me debes ‘
To keep in theme with the classical geniuses Dave was showing off for that wonderful Czech Rep/Russia game, here’s my take on the classics: Spanish indie pop. Twee but in seductive voices; Shout Out Louds could learn from this.
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.
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.
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.
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.