This week’s six picks is inspired by The Cherry Blossoms / The Brave Blossoms and their stunning, completely unprecedented victory over South Africa in the Rugby World Cup last weekend. It’s also a brave, but ultimately futile attempt to associate the tournament with music other than the show-stoppingly awful snatches before and after the advert breaks.
Ballboy - A Relatively Famous Victory
Let’s not go overboard.
Belle and Sebastian - I Didn’t See It Coming
Stuart Murdoch’s dancing in this video for the opening track to Belle and Sebastian Write About Love is pretty much the sweet, twee encapsulation of the ongoing feeling of slowly releasing something joyful inside you. In a sense the opposite of the incredible outflow of emotion when the final whistle blew as the perfunctory conversion attempt sailed several yards wide of the left upright.
Kristin Hersh - In Shock
In the stands, Japanese men were in tears; on the pitch, South African men were in disbelief.
Turin Brakes - Underdog (Save Me)
The normal way of things in a competition in a sport that’s developing in some places and firmly entrenched in others is that the underdog gets well and truly battered. In football this means England beating Turkey 8-0 for most of the 1980s. In Rugby Union it means established giants such as The All Blacks scoring a century of points, even before the professional era - not so much professional against amateur as amateur versus amateurish. In the 1995 Rugby World Cup, New Zealand put 145 points past Japan: it was just the price minnows had to pay to be let onto the big stage.
Radiohead - No Surprises
That’s largely how it goes in Rugby. No alarms and no surprises. Except when France are involved, at which point you might as well fill your betting slip by throwing darts. Blindfolded. Through your legs. There are many ways to score, many ways to infringe, and many technical elements that you just can’t compete against if you don’t have the experience or know-how. In 1996, the Clash of the Codes pitted the champions of League (Wigan) and Union (Bath) against each other in a two-match series. Each team won the match played under its own code comfortably enough, Wigan’s exquisite running, angles, and ball-handling utterly bamboozling the Bath players in the League match (and, it must be said, in the second half of the Union match, when they ran in three superb tries), Bath’s forwards proving too much to handle in the return fixture.
The Folk Implosion - Dare to be Surprised
It doesn’t always have to be that way, though. Every now and then USA beat England 1-0, Greece or Denmark win the European Championships, Liverpool come back from 3-0 down at half-time, Mon Mome wins the Grand National, and Steven Bradbury wins 1000 metres Short track speed skating gold. As much as it is inspiring and unifying to observe the pinnacles of sporting excellence time and again, there’s nothing quite like a outsider victory to maintain and renew interest.
Lord Nelson, Lord Beaverbrook, Sir Winston Churchill, Sir Anthony Eden, Clement Attlee, Henry Cooper, Lady Diana, vi har slått dem alle sammen, vi har slått dem alle sammen [we have beaten them all, we have beaten them all]. Maggie Thatcher, can you hear me? Maggie Thatcher […] your boys took a hell of a beating! Your boys took a hell of a beating!