Enjoying the EU Referendum so far? Finding it full of scintillating, balanced, educational debate and reasoned argument, free from personal politics and ulterior motives? No, me neither. All things considered, I thought we might as well listen to some music. Hearing a few decent tunes never fails to calm me down, keep me sane, reassure me that – in the words of The Killers – everything will be all right.
So I made a playlist. Each tune on the playlist is from a different EU country. Why? Am I trying to send a subliminal message of togetherness and cultural enrichment? Well: subtract the word “subliminal” and you’re pretty much there. However – as a sort of disclaimer – I have no idea what any of the artists on the playlist think about the EU. Perhaps they hate it. Perhaps they love it. Perhaps, like any sensible human, they think it’s flawed but generally a force for good. Who knows? The only thing I would suggest is: in the UK at least, people find it very hard to view the EU with a sense of pride. They look at our gross financial contribution with relentless focus on what we get in return, rather than the genuine cultural, economic and peaceful achievements across the whole continent that our net contributions have assisted. There are bands on this list from all parts of Europe, from countries with wildly differing recent histories, but the one thing all these countries have in common is the vibrancy and vitality of their music scenes – and they’re getting better all the time. I like knowing that our nations are connected in this way. I like going into arts centres in Cornwall, Manchester, Bilbao, Budapest and Gdansk and seeing the same flag on the plaque in the foyer. It’s not everyone’s priority, but it’s one of mine. Anyway, enough… Just listen to the music…
We kick off with the sounds of Monikino Kino, a Czech/Slovakian duo. I love this – it’s soft but nicely spooky. Next we head to sunny Poland with Brodka, who holds the unlikely honour of having given me the whole playlist idea in the first place. I don’t mean she called me up and said, “Hey, dude, what about a playlist?” – but that I felt inspired after first hearing her spellbinding album, Clashes. Check it out, it’s a peach. In fact (contravening all playlist laws) she gets two tracks… and yes: My Name Is Youth is supposed to end like that…
Monikino Kino. Don’t mess with them.
Fink have met Strasbourg’s The Walk a couple of times over the years; it’s nice to hear their time-signature-challenging rock kicking ass on a full album. We’ve also encountered and played a show with Luxembourg’s Monophona, a cool Massive-Attack-esque trio who make great use of their varied strengths and Claudine’s unique voice. I’m not quite sure why Barcelona’s Böira have called a song Glasgowbut I’m picturing some weekender in the city’s West End, a hungover morning followed by another afternoon of hectic partying. The singer’s clearly too damaged to even open his mouth on this one. Oh, wait, they’re an instrumental band. Anyway, it’s a mighty rocking sound, like a slightly more commercial Explosions In The Sky. I wonder if writers compare all instrumental bands to Explosions In The Sky? It must be a bit like saying all a cappella groups sound like The Flying Pickets. Anyway, I digress.
To Holland, and Drive Like Maria, who trick you with a mellow intro and then rock your pants off, unlike Budapest’s iamyank who does a nice line in Boards Of Canada-ish soundscapes set to some perky beats. Yes, I’ve included a British band on the list – the consistently amazing Daughter – partly because, hey, Britain’s still in the EU at the time of writing, and partly because they’re one of the more internationally-flavoured kids on the UK block. Fossa is my favourite track on their recent album Not To Disappear; just for a laugh, try tapping along to the early part of the song but then keep going when the beat changes. If it doesn’t spin you out, you clearly have a very special brain.
My old friend Jannik gave me about a hundred suggestions for a Danish band but I ended up going with his very first suggestion Baby In Vain, a scaldingly hot female rock trio who are apparently all about 12. Compete with that, Savages. And so to Italy, where we find the wonderfully named Nothing For Breakfast. There’s a Fink joke in there somewhere. At the risk of pissing off a large number of Italian people: decent homegrown indie rock isn’t massively easy to come by in Italy. I don’t mean there isn’t any, I just mean it’s not obviously hanging from the trees or served free with a glass of wine in a bar. So the passionate, dynamic Peaceful Corner is a like blast of dirty indie-rock air on a beautiful Tuscan hillside. Yep, I’m going straight to metaphor-Hades for that one.
Nothing For Breakfast. Nice wallpaper, lads.
We played a show once with Austria’s Schmieds Puls and they were a tough act to follow, as well as being jolly nice people. Great to see that Mira and the band are ripping it up over there; their sound is so precise and engaging. Sonically, it couldn’t be further away from Blahalouisiana, from neighbouring Hungary (which gets two bands because I couldn’t make up my mind). I have a soft spot for this song, as Blahalouisiana seem to be aping 80s pop-rock without trying too hard. Great chorus too. Another sharp contrast next: Germany’s Bohren & Der Club Of Gore, recommended to me by our friend Jan who’s always giving us the most insanely varied stuff to enjoy. This is deep… it soothes my soul, man…
Once you’ve been soothed, here come Stockholm’s Sudakistan to promptly unsoothe you. There’s something incredibly exciting about their sound: like a dream-cross between Ty Segall, Ozomatli and Chuck Mosely-era Faith No More. Love it. Of all the bands here, these are the guys I’d most like to see live. Luckily, I’ve already seen Finland’s Teksti-TV 666 live, and it was an overwhelmingly guitarist-laden experience: five of the fuckers. I still love the story of our singer Fin jokingly suggesting that they should perhaps get a sixth guitarist, and one of the band seriously replying, “We have five… that is enough.”
A quick hike through Poland for another Brodka track, then to Latvia for the epicMežaparks by Shipsea, who I suppose is the Latvian James Blake. I wonder if he’s bored of people calling him the Latvian James Blake? Perhaps I should call him the Latvian East India Youth instead? Or maybe the Latvian C. Duncan? Perhaps he’s just the Latvian Shipsea. Ahhh. Got there in the end.
Shipsea, having a think about something.
I was also incapable of deciding on just one Spanish band so we’ve also got the beautiful Dare by Lucia Scansetti, with the slightly weak excuse that Böira are actually from Catalonia. Anyway, Scansetti’s track is so chilled and sweet, I couldn’t resist. Chilled is one thing you couldn’t say about Bazooka, the self-described “psychedelic punk rock juggernaut” from Athens. I can’t improve on that description really, other than to say that it’s nice to hear a drum riff. You hear that? Drum riff. Drummers can write riffs too, you know. Then for our penultimate track we head to Portugal for the stripped vibes of Márcia. I’m loving this: it’s kind of like Portishead’sSour Times without the scuzzy bits.
Bazooka. Greek mountain in the background.
Finally, and appropriately, we return to every Eurosceptic’s favourite punchbag: Belgium. I fucking love Belgium, for all the usual reasons, and I fucking loveSoulwax, who are the band behind the “fictional” group The Shitz, created for the film soundtrack to Belgica. Being a Soulwax fan is often a deeply frustrating experience – they’ve only made three proper Soulwax albums in twenty years, for God’s sake – but when they do produce new stuff it never disappoints. How Longboasts their usual tension and one of their trademark carnivorous scaling chorus riffs. And as they’re the composers of (no exaggeration) one of my top ten favourite rock songs of all time (Too Many DJs) I can forgive them pretty much anything.
So there you have it. I didn’t quite do all 28 EU countries as I initially wanted to, but hopefully there’ll be something here to nourish your poor decision-addled brain as June 23 approaches. I don’t need to tell you that I’ll be voting a very firm Remain, but hey, I’ve done it anyway… what did you expect?
Big thanks to everyone who helped me choose these tracks x