The Portrait of the Trequartista as a Young Man

by / October 30, 2013 Music No Comments

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Has pop music appropriated football? GABRIEL EVERINGTON investigates Welsh indie band Los Campesinos!’ descent into athletic madness

There is perhaps no better distillation of British humour than the chants of our football terraces. Every weekend, grounds across the country are filled with hilarious song, as hapless opposing players, managers and fans are berated in an endless feast of puns, innuendo and half-rhyme. Yet any time the worlds of football and pop music intertwine, all attempts at irony, wit and lyrical dexterity seem to desert everyone involved.

Witness Glenn Hoddle and Chris Waddle’s ‘Diamond Lights’ (number 12 in the UK Charts) and the England team’s adorably hapless New Order collaboration ‘World in Motion’ (featuring John Barnes spitting bars). There is the odd exception, of course, such as The Wedding Present’s stellar 1987 debut ‘George Best’, but these tend to prove the laws of the game.

Gareth Campesinos!, lead singer and lyricist of Welsh indie doyens Los Campesinos!, is—like most of the British population—obsessed by the national game. Alongside the aforementioned terrace humour of course, football crowds are a hotbed of bitterness and pain, and this juxtaposition of laughter and tears fits Los Camp! perfectly.

As the band’s songwriting has got darker, and Gareth’s existential wrangling more extreme, he has over time turned to the only muse through whom he is capable of truly expressing the way he feels: football.

His thoughts on the emotional fallout of his parent’s divorce came via a paean to the England team on previous album Hello Sadness’ centrepiece ‘Every Defeat a Divorce (Three Lions)’. On the follow-up, No Blues (released on Witchita October 29th), Gareth takes solace in a crowd of voices, affecting football fan bravado to taunt :’Ex-boyfriend, give us a song!’

The indier-than-thou references to K Records, Bis and Pavement in the band’s earliest lyrics have, in time, given way to shout-outs to Welsh Alliance League Division 1 outfit Bethesda Athletic’s Meurig Park. No Blues features a track called ‘A Portrait of the Trequartista as a Young Man’, referring to the South American term for a playmaking attacking midfielder; on album highlight ‘Glue Me’ Gareth leaves ‘with all the dignity of a missed Panenka penalty’. And in opener ‘For Flotsam’, Gareth finds a novel description for a defensive girlfriend, explaining ‘I’ve thrown my goalkeeper forward, she’s catenaccio’.

On last year’s January transfer deadline, he posed as Daily Mail journalist Martin Samuel on Twitter, starting a transfer rumour (Liverpool’s José Reina to Arsenal) which ended up being the highest trending topic in the UK and the fourth-highest worldwide.

While some may be disappointed that this is what rock’n’roll rebellion looks like in 2013, it shows the awesome power the game holds over so many people, and this is something Los Campesinos! understand brilliantly in their music.

When a starry-eyed Gareth tells the object of his affection that ‘we connected like a Yeboah volley’, he is expressing the perfect simile for the heart-stopping things that love does to us: it’s a lot like football, really.