How Cruel to Hysterical Strength

Day 21 as the blog post a day in May gets back to plan with a return to its roots and reaching another landmark.

TRACK 5,160 on the journey through my iPod from A-Z is not one that jumps out as significant.

No disrespect to St Vincent who rounded out the latest section (which started with The Kingsbury Manx – bought, if memory serves, after they appeared on an Uncut magazine CD and failed to live up to the billing) with Hysterical Strength, it would not normally be a track worthy of note.

But as the 679th and final track beginning with H, it represents a notable point in the trip.

Have mentioned before that, like any long journey, the final stretch of each letter can become a bit of a slog. The musical equivalent of ‘are we nearly there yet?’.

Not that there’s necessarily anything more exciting on the horizon, but there is something fresh, a new impetus to the journey lurking just over that horizon.

Having taken a peek, there is a pretty big expanse laid out in front of us as the start of I offers up something to rewrite the records of this journey and will need one of my personal rules to be set aside for a while or it will get very confusing.

Also plan to do something a bit different with one of the upcoming posts which may well be more of a test – for writer and reader – than the blog post a day for a month idea. Which is saying something.

More of that nearer the time – it will be trailed in advance – but before then we need to do a quick catch-up on the songs from A-H which have been added. A while since done that so some of them are a bit of a shock as being supposedly new tracks. Others had forgotten about totally.

But before all that, we’ve got that final stretch of H songs to work our way through.

It might just be the nearing the end of the journey feeling, but the standard final stretch of tracks for each letter tends to throw up little in the way of excitement. A sense of wanting to eat up the miles rather than savouring the scenery.

This has not been the case with the final 80-odd H tracks throwing up enough gems to keep things bouncing along (actually listening to the last dozen or so while writing this to get totally caught up and REM’s Hyena was a welcome distraction – their second in this block after How The West Was Won And Where It Got Us).

Amid all that was a track that just sneaked in rather than being shunted into the catch-up playlist from a young Irish band that has me about as excited as any for a long time.

Knowing it was coming, been trying to come up with an accurate description of Fontaines DC – best advice is click on the video up top there of Hurricane Laughter and crank up the volume. And repeat.

Most common point of reference is Fugazi or Killing Joke, but personally hear a collision between the joint winners of last year’s Travel Marmot Album of the Year, Rolling Blackouts Coastal Fever and Idles. Fronted by a cross between Ian Curtis and Shane Macgowan.

Maybe that’s just me.

Whatever their influences, they are bloody good. Suggest Dogrel may be in the running for album of the year this time round.

Not that everything in this section was so worth a listen, scratching my head as to how any Muse (Hyper Music, which is currently playing) has made it into my collection.

Always totally baffled by their popularity. Akin to fingers on a blackboard and, thankfully, over.

Still fighting with the listening to Ryan Adams issue and he cropped up a few times, most notably (courtesy of some weird downloading issue) four times with a live version of How Much Light.

But there were plenty of great moments to savour, starting in Manchester with How I Wrote ‘Elastic Man’ by The Fall and two outings for How Soon Is Now (one with, one without the question mark) which is from the top echelon of Smiths tracks.

Jason Isbell’s two offerings (How To Forget and Hudson Commodore) were not from his top echelon, but still worth a listen, while there were familiar faces in The Wedding Present (Hude Dnipro Hude, twice) and Mercury Rev (Hudson Lines) while The Be Good Tanyas popped up with the free track which first brought them to my attention, Human Thing.

And from two ends of the the career scale, we had some Johnny Cash (it comes towards the end of H, work it out) and Camp Cope.

Something is happening in Melbourne. After Courtney Barnett and Rolling Blackouts CF, this lot complete a pretty good hat-trick. Album has a way to go, but ones to watch.

And so on to I…

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D&P Blues to Date With IKEA

BACK in the midst of time, back when my journalism career was no more than an impending work experience spell at what became my first paper, back in my teens, back even when my body could withstand a game of rugby, a poor refereeing decision cost us a place in a cup final.

There may have been other factors, but let’s put it down to the ref. It seems to be the fashionable thing to do.

It was a close tussle in a second team semi-final against local rivals, a place in the final at Kingsholm – Mecca in terms of rugby in Gloucester, if Mecca was overlooked by a cathedral – up for grabs in my first season of senior rugby.

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Forget Twickenham, the real home of rugby

If memory serves, we (actually, think it was probably me) were penalised late on at either a ruck or a scrum, the opposition kicked to the corner and, eventually, turned pressure into points and snatched a lead we didn’t have the time or opportunity to regain.

And that is as close as my playing career got to Kingsholm – thankfully, my journalism career went there and a lot further – and in the list of great rugby heartbreaks, it doesn’t really register.

Nor do my experiences match up to those of the experts who have spearheaded the criticism of referee Craig Joubert after Scotland’s rather more high-profile loss to Australia in the Rugby World Cup quarter-final.

Yes, Joubert was wrong to run off the pitch without shaking hands with the players. It is one of the key tenets which rugby holds onto as part of the mutual respect among all concerned (regardless of what some of the physical battering involved may suggest) that it believes (rightly, much of the time) elevates it above other sports.

And he was rightly castigated – although ex-internationals, generally with a Scottish accent, suggesting he should “never referee at this level again” within minutes of it happening, did little to uphold the traditions of the game they claim to be defending.

Why Joubert ran off has not been proved. Suggestions have ranged from the need to use the toilet to fearing for his safety – amid isolated reports of a bottle being thrown at him – but they need to learn the facts before making quite such outlandish reactions. Especially one persistent rugby irritant.

But, more worrying to rugby’s image – both of itself and from the watching sporting world – is the way so many experts, ex-players, fans, keyboard warriors and, most worryingly, World Rugby, dived into┬áthe torrent of abuse and blame Joubert has received in the minutes, hours and days following his award of the deciding penalty against Scotland.

Let’s look at this coldly.

World Rugby took 24 hours to review and assess the controversial offside decision before categorically stating Joubert was wrong (an appalling decision which far outstrips any mistake made by the South African).

Experts either made their judgements from the safety of the stands – a long way at Twickenham – or, having seen the replay from every available angle and speed. They could not agree on anything other than Joubert should have gone to the video referee (TMO), something he was not able to do in that situation and which, for the first few games of the tournament, they had been telling us was being called upon far too often.

The Twitterati didn’t bother too much with any evidence (rather like the despicable cowards who attacked Wales wing Alex Cuthbert after their defeat to South Africa).

Joubert had one view, very little time and no confession from Aussie scrum-half Nick Phipps that he had intentionally grabbed at the ball – an act which, in the letter of the law, would turn┬áthe penalty into a scrum.

No, Joubert had no help but made a perfectly justifiable decision based on the evidence in front of him – and how on earth is he supposed to judge what was going through Phipps’ mind, especially as the player himself was appealing for the penalty?

Not Phipps’ fault, nor the unfortunate, penalised Jon Welsh, nor Joubert. Right or wrong, his decision was perfectly understandable. Unlike the reaction of his bosses at World Rugby who should not be pointing fingers, but looking at how they could help him.

Less technical laws relying less on interpretation and more on hard evidence for starters. More convenient, more efficient TMO rules for seconds.

And all that from a decision which would have been forgotten if it had happened at any other stage of the match – rather like the other decisions which are now being pored over (and spuriously tweeted out by another former international) from throughout the 80 minutes.

Take it to extremes, there was a case for a knock on in Scotland’s ultimately winning try against Samoa in their final group game. Rule that out and Japan qualify, not Scotland.

Didn’t hear too many complaints about the referee then.

That’s extreme and, to be honest, absurd. That’s sport with all its infuriating frailties which somehow add up to the drama that makes it special.

The result stands, whatever evidence anyone comes up. Or at least until some bright spark with too much time and money comes up with the idea of a legal challenge, based on a verdict on Joubert already delivered by World Rugby.

But above all, Scotland did not lose solely because of that decision or any other made by Joubert. They conceded five tries, they threw a risky lineout to the tail when defending a lead in the dying moment, they conceded 30-plus points (which would have been a lot more if Bernard Foley had been on form with the boot and Australia had played anything like they can) and over the course of 80 minutes, made other errors.

As did Australia, as did Joubert. And that’s sport. Why the best team doesn’t always win and why we can’t always pick the winners.

Unless you are betting on Southern Hemisphere teams that is.

The rugby has been supplying much of the soundtrack of the last few weeks, but there’s also been the little matter of starting out on the D songs on the A-Z iPod Challenge.

And wading into the shallows of a new letter has been distinctly uninspiring with plenty of less than great album tracks and little to really grab the attention from Uncle Earl to Pavement.

There’s been a few exceptions, the ever-reliable Ryan Adams popping up (twice) with Damn, Sam (I Love A Woman That Rains) while the Dan section produced several listenable tracks, most notably Johnny Cash’s reading of Danny Boy and Daniel by Veronica Falls, one of those bands who keep going up in my estimation as this trek goes on.

Unlike an awful lot of rugby fans.

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