Welcome to another MP3 Monday. I’d previously threatened to theme one of these things around the World Cup, but was daunted by the sheer labor required for a 32-team field. Well, thanks to competitive balance and the passage of time, we’re down to 12 teams. Much more manageable.
First, the four teams that, thanks to this weekend’s play, are on to the quarterfinals.
ARGENTINA: “Azúcar Amarga” by Vox Dei. From the album Mandioca Underground (1969).
Mandioca (whose name means cassava in English) was the first Spanish-language rock label in Argentina, and this compilation was their first release. The humbly named Vox Dei (“Voice of God”) was one of the bands featured, and they went on to a healthy career as one of Argentina’s biggest bands in the 1970s (including a rock interpretation of the Bible).
ENGLAND: “Acquiesce” by Oasis. From the album The Masterplan (1998).
Of course there are a thousand possibilities for a song to represent the Jolly Ol’. I opted for this one because (a) Oasis is about as English as they come, annoyingly so, and (b) the song is apparently about Noel Gallagher’s support for his favorite football club, Manchester City.
GERMANY: “Reality Check” by Schneider TM. From the album Zoomer (2002).
The Germans have contributed relatively little to the history of rock and roll. Well, I guess they hang pretty well with the rest of Continental Europe — Kraftwerk, Neu!, Can, Tangerine Dream, and of course Scorpions — but the rise of German techno in the 2000s has brought about as much prominence to the country as anything outside David Hasselhoff. I can’t stand most of it, to be honest — it all sounds soulless and cold to me — but this Schneider TM track at least seems human.
PORTUGAL: “Gaivota” by Amália Rodrigues. From the album Com Que Voz (1970).
Amália Rodrigues was the Elvis and the Beatles (combined!) of fado, the fatalistic, sorrowful ballad style of Portuguese music. Quoth Wikipedia: “The music is usually linked to the Portuguese word saudade, a word with no accurate English translation. (It is a kind of longing, and conveys a complex mixture of mainly nostalgia, but also sadness, pain, happiness and love.)”
Now, on to the 12 teams who’ll play in the remaining Round of 16 games this week:
AUSTRALIA: “Under the Milky Way” by The Church. From the album Starfish (1988).
Australia has given us many fine bands, including many more recent than The Church, but this was one of the first songs I ever liked that, in retrospect, made me kind of cool. (To be clear, I was not very cool in eighth grade, when I first heard this. But compared to the other stuff I was listening too — Jethro Tull, mostly — The Church had indie cred out the proverbial wazoo.)
BRAZIL: “Solidão Gasolina” by Curumin. From the album Achados e Perdidos (2005).
I love Brazilian music. (iTunes tells me I’ve got 376 Brazilian songs.) I was making the argument to someone the other day that Brazil is probably the most undercovered country in the world in the Western press. South America is completely ignored in comparison to the eastern hemisphere, and it’s easy to forget Brazil is the fifth-largest country in the world. (Not to mention one of the most culturally significant. Brazil feels like the future to me.) Anyway, Curumin is a terrific young samba-funk musician who specializes in a laid-back, soul-soaked groove.
FRANCE: “Puzzle” by Tahiti 80. From the album Puzzle (2000).
Tahiti 80 was, for a window of time, as good a summery pop band as existed on either side of the Atlantic. Xavier Boyer’s vocals had the breathy naivete of a 14-year-old virgin, and the band had a nice bounce that got your knees moving. Sadly, the wheels came off a bit with their last album (the still-unreleased-stateside Fosbury), which made an ill-advised play for the discotheque crowd, but their first few albums are divine.
GHANA: “Bukom Mashie” by Oscar Sulley & the Uhuru Dance Band. From the album Gilles Peterson in Africa (2005).
As I’ve mentioned before, the name Gilles Peterson is gold here at crabwalk.com HQ; the man’s musical tastes match up 1:1 with my own, and I love his eclecticism and his musical generosity. His Africa album is as good as you’d expect (as are his Brazil and U.S. R&B albums), including this track of early ’70s big-band Afrobeat. Sounds like Fela Kuti backed by Tommy Dorsey’s horn section.
ITALY: “Talk About the Passion” by Samson and the Philistines. From the album Surprise Your Pig: A Tribute to R.E.M. (1992).
This is from an almost hilariously bad R.E.M. tribute album. (Although I’ll make minor exceptions for the Jawbox version of “Low” and, for sheer humor value, the hardcore version of “Losing My Religion” by Tesco Vee’s Hate Police.) For some reason, it included this remarkably faithful version of “Talk About the Passion” (roughly the 2,474,237th-best R.E.M. song) sung in Italian. I can’t find anything else about the band.
SPAIN: “La Nina de Puerta Oscura” by Paco de Lucia. From the soundtrack to The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004).
I was a little stuck finding a song for Spain. I considered going with the band Spain instead of the country, or maybe some appropriate Miles Davis. But I found this Paco de Lucia track (from the Wes Anderson vehicle) to save you from a flamenco-less MP3 Monday.
SWITZERLAND: “Eat the Rich” by Krokus. From the album Headhunter (1983).
Switzerland: Pride of neutrality and producer of lame music. I considered cheating here again (by including Les McCann & Eddie Harris’ Swiss Movement, which was recorded at Montreaux in 1969). But instead, I tracked down the one Swiss band to dent the American charts: Krokus, purveyors of bad pop-metal in the early 1980s. Eat the rich, indeed!
UKRAINE: “Tsilkom Vakantnyy (Pretty Vacant)” by The Ukrainians. From the album Respublika (2002).
I was going to be forced to use Ukraine’s Eurovision 2006 entry (a bland English-language trifle entitled “Show Me Your Love”) until I stumbled on The Ukrainians. They were originally a side project of the British band The Wedding Present, in particular bassist (and ethnic Ukrainian) Peter Solowka. The idea is to play high-energy rock versions of traditional Ukrainian folk songs — or, alternately, to add some Ukrainian flavor (and language) to punk rock. This track is a cover of the Sex Pistols’ classic “Pretty Vacant.”