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Musings

Oh dear. As an Englishman I’ve clearly got enough to worry about myself without casting pity on other nations, but Australia haven’t really had the greatest World Cup, have they? Not only were they torn to shreds by Germany in their opening fixture, and not only have they collected two red cards to key players already, but they’ve also has to suffer an embarrassing rift between journalist Michael Cockerill and the permanently injured Harry Kewell, which has left Kewell looking just a little stupid (Cokerill asked Kewell to ‘actually DO something’ against Ghana, and Kewell promptly got himself sent off for a senseless handball), and left Lucas Neill reduced to announcing that actually, they’re not whingers and bottlers. What’s more, after New Zealand’s heroics against Italy, the Socceroos now face the very real prospect of going out of the tournament having been outplayed and outscored by their bitterest rivals. Still, some tunes might help, eh?

And here’s a picture of a sport they’re actually good at, too!

Everybody with ears knows about the major Australian acts, so there’s not really much anybody will get out of their videos being posted here, but just for the sake of the people who will undoubtedly complain anyway, here they are: AC/DC, Crowded House, Nick Cave, The Saints, Kylie Minogue, The Go-Betweens, Natalie Imbruglia, Bee Gees, The Avalanches, INXS, The Church, The Triffids, Sia, You Am I, The Vines, Hilltop Hoods, whatever Luke Steele is pretending to be this week, Silverchair, Wolfmother.…

It’s all getting a bit exciting now, isn’t it? Today sees the real meaty end of the tournament kick off, as teams start to drop out of the running altogether; by close of pay on the 25th, we’ll know exactly who will contest the knockout stages and who will be joining the likes of Cameroon in flying home. In Nigeria’s case, it’s do-or-die time – nothing but a victory over South Korea and some help from Argentina against Greece will stop them from becoming the second African nation to drop out of the first African World Cup. Still, if it’s any consolation, they can boast probably the best individual performance of the tournament so far in the shape of goalkeeper Vincent Enyeama’s Messi-defying heroics in their opening fixture against Argentina.

Mad respect for the blackest man in Tel Aviv.

The role played by Nigerians in the development of modern Africa’s musical consciousness simply can’t be ignored. While each African nation had its own folk forms – and with Igbo and Yoruba, Nigeria is no exception – it was Nigeria that was the first to embrace new styles and promote hybrid forms, bringing those folk sounds into a contemporary context. Nowhere was this more telling than in the development of Afrobeat, a crucial genre of music pioneering by Nigeria’s most famous son and probably African music’s most beloved figure – the legend that is Fela Kuti. This music – a blend of highlife, pyschedelia, funk, and sociopolitical fire – displays…

Before you read on, I’d like to qualify my definition of a musical, in relation to Tremé, to clear up any possible confusion. Tremé is a musical program in that it heavily features musical performances. These performances are, uh, performed, by the shows characters—its guest stars, its cameos, its extras…you get the point. But Tremé is not a musical in the same vein as Glee. There are no impromptu bursts of song, replete with back-up dancers and an invisible backing band. Tremé is a dramatic program.  It just happens to centre around the musical city of New Orleans. For the uninitiated, the tremé is a New Orleans neighbourhood known primarily for its musical heritage. Scroll to the bottom for some clips.

I'd do anything for her to look at me with such longing. Or at all.

Glee is a lot of fun. I like it, unironically, and I have no problems putting those words to print. But having just watched the tenth episode—and first season finale—of HBO and David Simon’s Tremé, I’ve got to put something else into print, something I’ve known pretty distinctly since I watched the first episode some weeks back—Tremé, not Glee, is the best musically oriented show on television. I’m sorry, Channing. It’s not personal.

No, what it is is (is!) the honest to blog truth.

Yes, Glee is a lot of fun. I think I’ve already said this. But that’s more or less all it is. That’s not…

And for all intents and purposes, that might as well be this entire blog post done with.

Music is effectively banned in North Korea. That is to say, unless it expressly praises the great leader and talks about how absolutely awesome communism is, it doesn’t get played. At all. On the one hand, it’s terrifying to think that there is actually a country on Earth that gives itself over to the nightmarish visions of George Orwell and Yevgeny Zamyatin. On the other, some of the propaganda music citizens of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea are forced to listen to is pretty awesome. It’s difficult to listen to this and not imagine you’re leading an army into battle, isn’t it?

To look for anything beyond that in terms of popular music is a waste of time, quite frankly. Any music with any sort of freedom of expression is either so heavily oppressed that it will never be found by Westerners, or is made by artists who have long relocated to Japan or South Korea, and perhaps cannot really be seen as North Korean any more. This also applied to all the artists that existed in Korea before it split in half – all of them became South Korean, almost by osmosis. Unfortunately, the culture of strict hegemony is the only culture, and somehow, anything that breaks from that isn’t really a part of the original culture any more. For more North Korean music of note, then,…

So far I’ve only received one entry, so I figured I’d get the word out to more people.

Write something about music, send it to newemailssuck@gmail.com, and if it’s good I’ll put it up on the staff blog.  Deadline is July 1st and if I don’t get anything else by then, then I guess I’m a huge failure and this was a terrible idea.  Bye!

It’s one of the more overlooked international rivalries in football, but Slovakians must have been absolutely delighted with the way the European qualifying went for this World Cup. Ever since Czechoslovakia split into two nations, the newly-formed Czech Republic have left their new neighbours in the dust in footballing terms – in fact, they were the defeated finalists in their first ever major tournament, in 1996. Yet, in 2010, it was Slovakia themselves, with a little bit of help from Slovenia, that stopped the Czechs from appearing. The two countries remain closely related collaborators in political terms, but regardless, it must have been sweet. In a group that kicked off with two draws and thus remains wide open, they may yet do even better, even if their star player is terrified of his own tattoos.

He also looks a little bit like the chestburster from Alien. Just saying.

Slovakia’s most common contributions to the record collections of music obsessives in America have tended to be progressive rock acts of various description, and while special mention should be given to the jazz fusion of Fermáta, the name that crops up more than any other is Marián Varga. As a solo artist, in collaboration with Pavol Hammel, and as a member of Prúdy and Collegium Musicum, his is a legacy that reverberates throughout Slovakia’s prog rock and art rock movements. Here’s Collegium Musicum, a band whose catalogue is largely built on instrumental rock arrangements of classical pieces, wih a spot of…

I would imagine that of the few of you following this blog intently, most will have been looking forward to this entry more than any other. There is a serious fascination in the Western world when it comes to Japan, to the point where it borders on fetishism – we even have specific derogatory terms for people who are obsessed with anything and everything Japanese. Music may not quite command the same fanbase that anime does, or computer games do, but you still don’t need to look very far to find an excited fan of Dir en Grey, or Mad Capsule Markets, or Nobuo Uematsu.

Oh yeah, here’s a footballer too.

Japan’s national character suffered a little when Western music crossed the Pacific and took over, which is a real shame; the nation’s folk and classical forms are documented as well as in any country in the world. Clearly nothing I can type into such a short space will sum all of that up, so we’ll focus on just one such form; gagaku, which is perhaps best understood as an equivalent of sorts to European chamber music, traditionally played by small-ish ensembles for the rich and royal in private performaces. It went on to be a big influence on avant-garde Western classical music, informing the drones, the microtonality, the primitivism, and even the electronic textures that permeates the works of composers as famous as LaMonte Young, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Krzysztof Penderecki.

The influence of traditional Japanese…

J’ADORE MEXIQUE! But we won’t talk about them much for now; I’m saving the teams who’ll stay in the competition for later, and Mexico certainly look like being one of those teams, at the expense of France. (Couldn’t happen to a nicer country, honestly.) So instead my attention -as well as the attention of the rest of England – turns to France’s best buddies in the World Cup, Algeria. The ties between the two countries are so strong that it’d been said that there was more celebration in Paris over Algeria’s qualificaton for the tournament than there was for France’s, although the utterly shameful way Les Bleus won their play-off may have someting to do with that. Still, maybe the French feel they owe Algeria a little something – the greatest French footballer of all time was actually an Algerian, of course.

BOOM! Headshot.

Algeria’s musical scene retains those historical ties to France, and Gallic forms of music have always remained popular in the country. Chanson – perhaps the music most associated with the country – is a case in point, and to show that off, here’s Etienne Daho. A truly cosmopolitan artist (born in Algeria, lived and worked in France, now living in London, with a polylingual catalogue), his chanson vocals and melodies find themselves in all sorts of alien contexts, with his synth-heavy production reflecting the influence of both late ’80s sophistipop and the artier end of ’90s European dance music.

Indeed, it’s incredible how…

As the World Cup moves into the second round, it’s going to be interesting to see which of the over-performing minnows will continue to impress. Hosts South Africa have already fluffed their audition, finding themselves on the end of a 3-0 spanking by Uruguay, but it remains to be seen how teams like North Korea will hold up. Greece – champions of Europe as recently as 2004, let’s not forget – will be a special case indeed, because right now, they hold the record as the only team ever to play in the World Cup without scoring a single goal. It’s a deeply unwelome record, of course – it remains to be seen whether they will break that duck against Nigeria today or – welp – Argentina next week.

Don’t worry, it’s not actually Chris de Burgh.

The wunderkind of Greek music is unquestionably Vangelis. For all the movie-score cheese he’s been guilty of (look me in the eye and honestly tell me the theme from “Chariots of Fire” doesn’t make you cringe), he deserves to be regarded alongside Jean Michele-Jarre as one of the lynchpins of a very early form of adult-friendly electronica, and a progenitor of much of the new age and ambient music since. As you probably already know, his crowning achievement is his score for the sci-fi-film-noir epic Blade Runner.

To pick up on Vangelis is a stunning obvious move, though, so let’s look elsewhere….

Like most European countries, Greek has its own

Well, I’m sure we all expected a few countries to get absolutely pounded this year, but by and large – New Zealand, Korea DPR, South Africa – they’ve stood up very, very well for themselves. Attention turned today to Switzlerand, who are actually pretty good, but they’re playing Spain, and Spain are to the average football team what the atomic bomb is to the average handgun. At least, that was the general idea – but Switzlerand only turned around and bloody won, didn’t they? So thanks to the land of cuckoo clocks, Toblerone, and political neutrality for providing us with the defining moment of the World Cup so far.

And what immaculate hair they have too!

It’s Sputnik and it’s Switzerland, so it’s pointless even pretending like I’m going to start anywhere else but with the metal giants of Celtic Frost, Samael, and Coroner. Surely you don’t need me to tell you why a cold European country has got lots of metal, and surely you don’t need me to introduce Celtic Frost, do you? The country’s reputation for metal lives on through Paysage d’Hiver and Darkspace, but these guys are the daddies. They’re Celtic Fucking Frost, you get me?

Similarly dark-minded Swiss music can be found in their once-revered post-punk scene, most notably in the shape of The Young Gods. Part of a lineage that includes Swans (who they are named after) and branches out toward Nine Inch Nails, Devin Townsend, and Fantamos,…

When New Zealand qualified for the World Cup, I distinctly remember some very proud, vocal gloating from Australians who were looking forward to seeing them getting beaten 4-0 every game. Out of interest, how are the Socceroos getting on with that so far? And how did New Zealand do earlier today? Having said that, there’s no denying that New Zealand are largely attending just to make up the numbers; if they qualify from their group ahead of Italy or Paraguay it will be a shock of the highest order. It’s lucky for me that they’ve qualified, though – partly because they have some pretty great music going on, but mostly because I can now take my one and only opportunity to post a Middlesbrough player.

Look! It’s Chris Killen! And some other guy!

New Zealand’s prime musical export has been indie pop, in various incarnations – Split Enz being the most famous (singer Neil Flynn went on to form Crowded House with some Aussies, the traitor), and The Clean the most influential (as Pavement and Yo La Tengo will only be too happy to tell you). The Chills are probably the pick of the bunch though; certainly, they recorded possibly the greatest single by any NZ indie band in the form of “Pink Frost”, a shoegazey standard with just a hint of peak-era Sonic Youth about it. I’ve never been that keen on the intro, but from the 25 second mark onwards it’s glorious.…

When extrapolated, the idea of the end of music seems extreme, or perhaps even impossible.  But we’re seeing it even now on much smaller scales.

In keeping with geographical metaphors, post-rock was a forest in the late 90s/early 2000s, and it wasn’t just any forest.  It was a rain forest, a pine forest, a rural woodland.  The music encapsulated the feel of all seasons – the beauty of winter, with its snowy treetops; the beauty of autumn, leaves swirling to the ground; the heat and desire of summer.  And beyond that, bands like Godspeed You! Black Emperor were able to capture real emotion as well – desperation and fear, love and hope – within thematic albums that told stories without words.  These bands could seemingly put whatever they wanted into their music and make it work, or maybe it was us listeners that made it work, accentuating the music with our own emotions.  Either way, post-rock became one of the first genres that was brought into the spotlight by the Internet generation, through blogs and indie review sites.  It was the next big thing, the next wellspring of musical creativity… until a few years later when it dried up.

Post-rock is a disconcerting example of how we are bringing about the end of music by our fickleness as an audience in this modern Internet age.  Our attention spans are wide when it comes to the amount of music we listen to, but short when it comes to individual albums.  Instead…

So, that Germany lot. Pretty terrifying, eh? After their 4-0 mauling of Davey’sBoys, it feels like the big names of the World Cup have finally arrived (not like these English and American numpties). Attention thus turns to Italy tonight, and their opening game against South American dark horses Paraguay – and one suspects that Italy may have an axe to grind in this one. After all, we know the Italians love to be stylish and love to be good-looking, so how will they react when they realize that Paraguay’s star centre-forward is not just more dashingly handsome than their entire squad, but probably the whole rest of the World Cup combined?

Admit it – you want his babies.

Admittedly, pug-faced thug Gennaro Gattuso does bring the batting average down considerably for the Italians.

Paraguay’s musical scene, like that of several of the other countries this blog will cover, is shaped by the political upheaval in the country’s recent history. Here, that means flirtations with communism, dictatorship, and most damningly, the artistic oppression the country suffered under Alfredo Stroessner’s reign as President. It was only in 1989 that most popular forms of music were allowed to fully blossom in the nation, having been largely shunned (although not banned) since the start of his reign in 1954. Perhaps that history explains why, despite its sunny climate, metal has thrived in the country over the past two decades. Acts like black metallers Sabaoth, thrashers Raw Hide and Corrosion, and the more traditional…

If you’ve got a bit of a fetish for goalkeepers, and were hoping to see some quality displays between the sticks, I would like to take this opportunity to apologize to you sincerely, on the behalf of the entire combined populations of England and Algeria. Seriously. Might I suggest you become a Nigeria supporter?

I guess with Slovenia currently sitting pretty ahead of both England and USA after Robert Koren’s tame, gentle pass somehow got shovelled into the goal by Farouzi ‘Robert Green in disguise’ Chaouchi, now’s the time to celebrate them.

There’s simply nowhere to start talking about Slovenian music other than Laibach – Slovenia’s most admired musical export by light years, and probably the only musical act from the country that most of the readers will have heard of. Named for the name the Nazis used for their hometown, the Slovenian capital Ljubljana, the band have toyed with Nazi imagery for their entire careers, both adapting the insignia into their own imagery and working extensively with anti-defamation artists and charities. Their most notorious musical moments in English speaking territories are covers – most notably Queen’s “One Vision”, which is sung in German and re-named “Geburt Einer Nation” (The Birth of a Nation, nodding to the famously controversial pro-KKK silent movie by D.W. Griffiths). They’ve been a consistently controversial group themselves, although it hasn’t stopped them from becoming a strong influence on much of the industrial and martial industrial music made since (Rammstein and Rome particularly), and in…

Music used to be something transcendent for me, something that could carry me away to different worlds.  Every album was an adventure with something exciting and stimulating just around the corner, like walking through an expansive forest to find streetlights hanging from the trees or entering my bathroom to see the mirror made of reflective puzzle pieces.  Wondrous and new, music was a planet unto itself that consisted of objects stitched together through the creativity of a collective, notes and melodies becoming the nails and planks while the input of each individual band member was the hammer that connected everything.  For hours I could wander the streets of this new place, listening to different albums without any agenda other than the sheer joy of continual discovery.

Eventually, everything had to be supplemented with music.  Was it storming outside?  I had to listen to an album that complemented the weather.  Was I sad?  I had to listen to sad music.  I feel now that it was a lazy response, one that cheapened the experiences at hand.  Music as a form of escape isn’t inherently purer than doing anything else to avoid problems just because it’s music.  It is counterproductive.  Listening to sad music because I was sad set me up for more sadness, but listening to happy music made me feel like a clown, an idiot, trying to jump-start a good mood based on the sounds hitting my ears, like some slobbering Pavlovian dog.  Music failed me at those times and…

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