Fast-Forward – The World Cup Goes Indie – Final Knock-out Stages
I can’t contain it, the excitement is reaching fever-pitch: I am going to a music festival on a Mediterranean beach in July. On an unrelated and much less exciting note, I am also going to find out which one of 32 plinky little indie tunes I dislike the least. But to make it interesting, and to add a bit of real tension on my part, I will (if they are available individually) personally, and with my own money, purchase the winning song. High stakes indeed.
So far we have whittled the field down to eight competitors, which henceforth shall be known only by the name of the country they stand for:
Korea: Pearse McGloughlin – Jongmyo Shrine
Slovenia: Lightholler – Slovenia’s Dream
Paraguay: Harry Bird – Pesadilla No.7 (PAR)
Chile: Manwomanchild – Chile La Roja
Uruguay: Showstar – Uruguay!
Germany: At Last An Atlas – The Pirate Ship
Cameroon: Spirit Spine – Field Way (Song For Cameroon)
Brazil: Someone Still Loves You Boris Yeltsin – Back To You
The rules (once again): I listen to each tune once, and the best one wins. If I can’t decide, I listen an ‘Extra Time’ and if it’s still a tie, I make up categories for penalties. You can listen here:
Korea Vs Slovenia
Everything about Korea is gentle; nothing is overcooked and the false ending at half time gives the riff just enough rest to stop it from losing its impact over the 4 minutes
Slovenia’s piano work, on the other hand, lacks touch and finesse, and the whole song seems to stay on one level, despite the addition of progressively more instruments and rhythms. It would make a great theme tune for an Open University program – and I like it – but without lyrics, and at less than two minutes long, it just doesn’t have the legs.
Korea progress comfortably.
Paraguay vs Chile
Simon and Garfunkel didn’t actually perform here, or even write the song, but their influence (and that of a certain Mr Dylan) weigh heavy on this track – but then football isn’t about originality, it’s about results. This song gets a result – it’s a solid vehicle for the only lyricist on this album with a message, and the minimalism brings the vocals to the fore.
Simplicity is not exactly missing from Chile’s game either. The bass-driven chorus, the little harmonised guitar parts in the verse, the sparkling keys in the bridge all have plenty of space to play in. The fact this song is abut football – along with its solid vocal harmonies and a few nice touches in the production – would have been enough to take this one to Extra Time if not for the predictable layout and the slightly limp instrumental.
Paraguay almost met their match, but overall, they were just better.
Uruguay vs Germany
Two completely different tunes meet here, Uruguay’s sounds like it was made in about 3 hours by ‘The Mighty Boosh’. It’s vapid, but it does its job – it includes crowd noise, football references and the word ‘Uruguay’ at least eighty-five times. It’s very repetitive, and a song many a sixteen-year-old’s band would be happy with. I am not a sixteen-year-old’s band.
The narrative of Germany’s effort is not football related, but it is very continental – although that may just be my prejudiced view of songs which use an accordion. The constant male-female harmonies could easily get overwhelming, but build cleverly, and sit in a minimalist background with little snaps of percussion and flowing strings.
Germany are the clear winner here.
Cameroon Vs Brazil
When I realise Cameroon’s effort is 5 minutes of electro, with the noise of children playing in the background, I start to rue my decision to ‘take the finals seriously’ and listen to this on my fancy big headphones. If you explained the concept of dance music to a child, this is probably what they would imagine – sort of like Happy Hardcore or Euphoric Trance, only slowed down to 130bpm. I wouldn’t dance to it if you paid me, but it’s pretty inoffensive, and I think I feel slightly happier after listening to its uplifting melodies. Possibly.
Brazil’s effort sounds like it was recorded in one room in one take, and has the annoying happy-clappy kind of major-key chord progression as Cameroon’s. Astonishingly, I am being won over by the fact that this tune was made by real people using real instruments, until the song stops half-way through a bar in the middle of a verse, after about a minute. Brazil didn’t turn up for the second half, and paid the price.
Cameroon go blandly through.
Korea Vs Paraguay
One half of this competition has seen various decent songs eliminated by Korea and Paraguay, while Germany’s now-certain progress to the final in the other half has been against the dross of this uninspiring tournament. In this match, we are about to lose a heavyweight. So sad am I about the impending loss that I am drawn into the melancholy of Korea’s playing – finding myself lost in the emotions of this song, as they build in waves, driven by the undulating piano playing, the simplicity of the guitar, and the disappointed desperation of the lyrics.
Paraguay, opening with a harmonica, fading into strummed guitar chords and simple vocal lines about togetherness, co-operation and the dream of national solidarity, is a proper protest-song in the 60′s mould. However, despite the tried-and-trusted formula (or perhaps because of it) this song just doesn’t have the depth of its opposition.
Korea continue their seemingly unstoppable progress and book their place in the final.
Germany Vs Cameroon
This tie was a foregone conclusion, but it might just be that Germany playing again may cause a tiredness to creep in – a tiredness which could stop them reaching the final. After all, in the best German traditions, this is a happy drinking song, and I can almost imagine the band recording a vomit-inducing video in silly traditional costumes, sitting on the docks and swaying side-to-side in soft focus while smiling and perhaps sharing a sickening fake ‘gaze-into-each-others’-eyes’ moment.
It’s a lot more genuine than Cameroon, though. Personal prejudice it may be, but I can justify my choice of real instruments over artificial ones: there simply isn’t room in the modern over-compressed, sequenced world of electronic music for genuine emotional musicianship. Most producers seem to think the only way to make a tune better is to go up – more volume, more instruments or more beats. For me, music just doesn’t work like that, and the musician’s skill of delicacy and restraint seems to have no place here. And that’s why I don’t like Cameroon.
Germany predictably conquer all before them to reach the ultimate showdown. Or maybe just the final…
Korea vs Germany
This match could be called ‘Train vs Boat’ if you looked inside my mind at the images these two songs conjure up.
‘Jongmyo Shrine‘ [Korea] has a relentless, regular riff made up of counter-rhythms on piano and guitars. It reminds me of train noises from back when engines were engines and not just big electric dynamos. In many other respects this has a timeless feel to it – the arrangement is simple and it’s made up of traditional instruments.
The lapping of waves and ringing of ships’ bells opens ‘Meet Me at the Red Light‘ [Germany] and the instrumentation is much more ‘folk’ compared to the Korea’s ‘classical’. Shakers and wood blocks give a lilt to this song – which is arranged like a sea shanty but which musically is more like a lullaby. I can’t really choose between the two at this stage, so Extra Time it is.
There really isn’t a lot to separate these two – even the first line of the choruses have their similarities – ‘so meet me at Jongmyo Shrine’ and ‘so meet me at the red light district’. I wonder if there has been some collusion – or worse, a leak in the dressing-room? One can really tell, though, just how much time and rehearsal has been put in by both, but especially the link-up play from the German vocalists. I can’t bring myself to let their technical accuracy overcome the emotion of Korea, though – and I will have to take them apart in penalties.
Vocal – Korea has a vocal line that sounds like Audioslave’s ‘Shadow of the Sun’, and Germany’s catchy chorus has been the one that has stuck in my head.
Harmonies – A clear point for the Germans on this one, building into four part harmonies by the end and as tight as a tiger to boot.
Music – Korea does its job in a more subtle and more moving way, and although it’s very relative, Germany’s arrangement is a touch too contrived to be more than a novelty song.
Mood – These two songs have totally different feels – Korea’s solemn melancholy meets Germany’s carefree happiness – and on different days, I would prefer one or the other. It’s close.
Lyrics – Germany are just a touch one-dimensional after several listens and I’m tiring of the plain descriptiveness, whereas Korea’s more personal, introspective take, and imagery gives it the edge. The last lines sum it up: ‘I can’t see her face, I’m ninety minutes late‘ outclasses ‘auf wiedersehen, leb wohl und prost‘.
Korea win 4:3 on penalties.
So it’s all over, and Germany lose on penalties. Unbelievable… Probably the most unrealistic World Cup simulation ever. Congratulations to the winner, Pearse McGloughlin’s ‘Jongmyo Shrine’ runner-up ‘The Pirate Ship’ by At Last An Atlas and an honourable mention for Harry Bird’s ‘Pesadilla No.7′ in third. All that’s left is to thank you for reading and hope you enjoyed it and took something from it. I am off to try to figure out how to buy music using this TV-cum-typewriter and something called ‘Internets’.