Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Unhomage to Catalonia

Not on Minus because we're all sick of it.

During Minus' own Spanish Civil War (no exaggeration, that, but rather an imaginative simile), Zone Styx retweeted someone's post along the lines of 'Spain are like a 9 year old PhD student that people can't stop demanding even more from.'

The lopsided fetishisation of technique above all else does, in fact, bring to mind some autistic-pattern preteen maths prodigy...

The determined persistence with the containment-passing game is supposed to be read as idealistic - perhaps that was true two years ago when they played it in the face of tired critical opinion that the Barcelona model could not be transferred to the international stage. The 2010 version, though, looks more like miserable pragmatism.

It may be that this Spanish team is past its peak and not capable of the things it used to do. Not entirely convinced, as most of them are still under thirty, but maybe this relentless pass/receive game requires especially young legs.

On the whole, though, I think it looks more like a conscious decision. Spain decided that they were going to do what was necessary to bury the past and win a World Cup, even if it didn't please all the neutrals. If they had to eliminate (almost) all risk from their style and smoothly massage the possibilities out of each game, they were okay with that.

Mark came up with the analogy of Spain being the equivalent of prog rock, desperately needing to be toppled by some footballpunk or postpunk. What could this be? Of course punk was far more than cartoon 'attitude' and aggression, so Holland's semi-effective physical harassment strategy doesn't fit the description - they'd surely be the equivalent of seventies pub rock...

But perhaps we can look at this the other way round. If punk represented an opening up of possibility (the rejection of the tyranny of technique), that quickly closed and became locked into reductive parody. Postpunk took us past this by being genuinely open to possibilities - it's hardly a sonic genre at all, more an ideological one. So with football - Spain represented a principled break with conventional wisdom (that wiry lads of 5'7" will never make it at the top level) - but it's a break that solidified and became the new orthodoxy.

(And just as watching some lumpen idea-less two-chord nightmare of a band made you reflect that, perhaps, being able to play your instrument wasn't so bad after all, so watching Spain makes you unexpectedly nostalgic for some lower division kick and rush...)

Postpunk bands used a variety of musical principles, but avoided becoming trapped in their codes and definitions (while also avoiding becoming mere magpie pick-and-choose pastiche). This was because most of those involved followed some 'higher', non-musical purpose in forming a band - what did the means matter?

What would a non-football (or, rather, supra-football) football team look like? Would that be a rejection of the importance of results (emphasis on style alone - Wenger deciding to abandon defence entirely and field eleven slight right-wingers), or would that be the embrace of results - pure pragmatism at the expense of any one particular style? Or is this just where we start to bump up against the useful limits of analogy?

There is in fact a magazine - aimed at the GQ market - called Football Punk. I'd call it a 'glossy' except they seem to have gone for an artfully matte effect (and a b/w photo of Peter Crouch's face on the cover). I'm tempted to buy a copy for grist-mill purposes.

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