Out of Europe: Five from Belgium

As the idiots currently keeping their overpaid, corpulent backsides on the green benches in the Houses of Parliament continue making a complete and utter shite show of the political equivalent of chewing on a live hand grenade, I thought it time to rock up with another Out of Europe post.

And where better to rock up to, as it were, than Belgium? One of the smaller countries in Europe but densely populated and which also happens to be a seat of the European Parliament – cue the brainless barks of “our laws shouldn’t be made in Brussels”. I’ve only spent a couple of days in Belgium and that was in Brussels so I’ve yet to see what I’m told are the beautiful towns of Bruges or Ghent but I’m sure that can be easily fixed.

I will say that one of the real joys of this series I seem to have set myself (whether I can find five from every other member of the EU) is exploring those countries’ music and discovering acts I’d otherwise have had no awareness of. So while Girls in Hawaii and the obvious honourable mention here, and to some extent dEUS, were familiar to me the joy of getting new music and culture into my ears continues and continues to highlight what an absolute twatting pile of excrement the ‘leave’ vote really was.

Girls in Hawaii – Here I Belong

One of the few Belgian bands I knew… my wife got the first Girls in Hawaii (2005’s From Here To There album while she was living in France and so it has a special place in my heart as it soundtracked a lot of our driving about that country. A couple of years after their second album their drummer was killed in a car accident and it was a few years before they regrouped. I’ve not yet checked out their new album but this is from their third album Everest and while not as upbeat as their usual offering I love the slow build and pace of this one.

Plastic Bertrand – Ça plane pour moi

Because who hasn’t heard this? It sold nearly a million copies and Plastic Bertrand sits as one of Belgium’s biggest selling musicians with 20 million plus sales.

dEUS – Quatre Mains

dEUS were the first Belgian-based indie band to sign to a major record label and this one kicks off their most recent (2012) album of French-language rock.

Gorki – Red Mijn Ziel Vooral

So the whole language thing in Belgium is a bit of an odd one – the country seems split between French-speaking and Dutch-speaking. So, in the interests of fairness, I was hunting for a Belgian band that sang in Dutch. My digging lead me to Gorki who kicked off in 1991 with their breakthrough ‘Anja’ and follow up ‘Mia’ which appears to have dominated Belgian charts for some time. They kept at it for another twenty years only coming to an untimely end in 2014 when their singer, Luc De Vos, was found dead in his working apartment from acute organ failure. I’d already been struck by the moving sound of this one before I read that far and it seems to add something to the sense of longing in his voice.

Cecilia::Eyes – For The Fallen

Belgian post-rock? Go on then. I’ve been enjoying Cecilia::Eyes’ second album the last couple of days, Here Dead We Lie which seems to have a strong world war two theme, think Pink Floyd’s Final Cut. On second thought – don’t, that one is pretty shit. Thankfully most of this genre is devoid of words so there’s no chance of Roger Waters droning on painfully over the top of it.

Honourable Mentions go to Mintzkov’s ‘Life After Fire‘, De Portables’ ‘Col Phillins‘ and, of course:

Django Reinhardt – I’ll See You In My Dreams

Django Reinhardt nearly lost his life when the caravan he and his wife lived in caught fire when he knocked over a candle on his way to bed. His right leg was paralysed, and the fourth and fifth fingers of his left hand were badly burned. They wanted to take his leg. He told em arseholes and left the hospital and was walking within a year. The use of his fingers didn’t return, though, so he developed  a new technique which become known as ‘gyspy jazz’ and, to quote Wikipedia, his ” innovations on the guitar helped elevated it above its prior position as usually only a rhythm instrument.”

Quick List: Out of Europe

What a terrible, terrible result greeted those of sane mind on Friday morning.

I’m still in a state of shock and find myself hoping that somehow this nightmare can be halted, the damage curbed and sensibility prevail. As Bob Pollard says “Everybody’s got a hold on hope, it’s the last thing that’s holding me.”

So I’ve been in a state that I can only liken to a hangover, a walking dream of fuzzy-headed lack of comprehension. Life has had some real positives since but I was locked down by the impact of what Out could mean. I’m starting to shake that off, step away from the bar and get some distance, level-headedness again and so to try and push that along and get back to something resembling normality I pinged a message to a friend: “Out of Euope; Top five songs by European Artists”.

A sort of ‘here’s what we’re gonna lose’ type thing.

This was mine:

Sigur Ros – Starálfur

I could’ve gone with practically anything from this band. At the top of the tree, though, would be either this or #1 Untitled from () which gives me goosebumps each time I hear the start but this one, with it’s palindromic strings, means a whole lot to me.

Refused – New Noise

Can I scream?

Noir Desir – Un Jour En France

There’s a huge amount of controversy about whether it’s still ok to listen to this band. I’m not going to go into it or even dare to pretend I can offer an opinion as it’s one of those that leaves me startled.

For myself, though, Noir Desir represent something of a happy memory. When my now-wife and I were dating and living in Paris I remember being stuck in traffic on the périphérique and then, amidst all the usual dross on the radio that was removed from what I could tune into, hearing a heavier, rocking sound. It was this. I came to hear them after Bertrand Cantat was already in prison so my enjoyment of them (songs like Lost or Le vent nous portera and Tostaky (Le continent)) is more tied to my own time in France and with my wife than anything else.

Girls In Hawaii – Misses

Girls In Hawaii are a Belgian band and another that remind me of my time in France as it was my wife who get me into them while she was still living there and we’d played their first album almost non-stop on our first holiday together while driving around Normandy – you can kind of get the idea as to why the Leave vote is such a hard one to bear. They’re a cracking little band who sadly lost their drummer in a car accident after recording their second album. This track, the first new material they released some years after his death, is undoubtedly connected and all the more affective as a result.

Cardigans – My Favourite Game

Because this was everywhere at the tail end of the 90s and re-introduced the band that everyone was tired of after the overplaying of Lovefool. A great album too.

So that’s my list. It’s not perfect, and it was a spontaneous one. If I’m in an editing / revising one I know already I can saw there’s two Swedish acts there, no Last Days of April, no Air and no Nouveau Western which deserves more than an honourable mention of only for its video. But then I could, and may, just as easily do a Top 5 for some of the EU countries alone.

However, yes, along with Nouveau Western I’ll add some honourable mentions for:

Last Days of April; Feel The Sun Again (see my previous post on Aspirins and Alcohol for more)

Eric Serra / Arthur Simms: It’s Only Mystery (if you’re going to watch Subway don’t get the dubbed version)