Wednesday, 1 September 2010

Reading Festival Review - Saturday

A day that featured no less than three outstanding performances from three very different acts, this was almost worth the weekend entry fee in itself. The great thing about Reading is that you can flick from great comedy to music, and this proved it: even missing the likes of Kevin Bridges and Jason Byrne, Frank Turner and Pendulum; there was still more than enough going on on Saturday to keep me thoroughly entertained.

3OH!3 (NME Stage)

Having spent the morning enjoying the sights of Reading town centre, I only made it back to the festival for 3OH!3 at 2.30. It might have been the two times within a minute that I could hit by cups of (thankfully cold) liquid, or the fact it was the first band of the day, but this set really didn’t do it for me. They played the hits and got the crowd jumping, as well as making a 3-0-3 gesture with their hands (you join your thumbs and index fingers in a circle to make the ‘o’ in the middle, and then raise the other fingers to get three on each side. Sneaky eh?), but their back catalogue of songs were far less impressive – getting the crowd to sing along with lyrics is normally a winner, but I honestly couldn’t stomach publically chanting such profound lines as ‘I'm gonna have a house party in my house / I'm gonna pour booze down my mouth’. They were far from bad, but also far from as good as I was hoping, although that was possibly because I was subconsciously hoping Katy Perry and/or Kesha might be there…

I’d have paid… rating: £7. It’s hard to pick out why, but they just didn’t wake me up.

I Blame Coco (Festival Republic Stage)

Putting aside Gaggle the day before, I’ve always really enjoyed seeing bands on the smaller tents – you can get a lot closer, its louder and the atmosphere is a lot more intense. I Blame Coco, fronted by Sting’s daughter Coco Sumner, were a good example of this – musically they were nothing too special, but the atmosphere in the tent was really good. The highlight was ‘Self Machine’, which is well worth looking up for its catchy chorus that shows off her voice well. In general female singers at Reading are such a rarity that when they are around they make a welcome change.

I’d have paid… rating: £7. In fairness, the fact that they were worth as much as a band with two recent top 10 singles is pretty impressive for a band I’d never heard before

JJ Whitehead (Alternative Stage)

This was only a short portion of his set, when we arrived early for Milton Jones. There was some of the funniest material of the weekend here (‘Breast size for guys is like Coke vs Pepsi: we’ll express a preference, but really we’ll have whatever’s on tap. As long as its not flat’), but equally some jokes bombed and he came across as fairly uncomfortable and nervous – on more than one occasion he complained about the noise from the main stage, which is one of the problems of situating any spoken-word venue in an arena where rock music is also being played. Perhaps under difference circumstances he would have been better, but its always hard to get into a comedian who doesn’t seem confident in his own material.

I’d have paid… rating: £2. Assuming the first part of the set was at the same level as the bit we managed to catch, he’d definitely be worth a fiver to see at a comedy club, but isn’t at the level where he could fill a theatre.

Milton Jones (Alternative Stage)

I was torn what to expect with Milton Jones – on the one hand some of his one liners on Mock the Week are absolutely hilarious, but equally I have to admit I was sceptical he could last a full set of such short jokes without repeating older material, especially after that affected Steven K Amos for me the day before. In the end though I couldn’t have been more wrong – the material was from start to finish at the very least laugh out loud funny, on more than one occasion worthy of applause, and probably the most entertaining comedy I’ve seen live, certainly at Reading. Particular highlights include an ongoing joke about his many Grandparents, but genuinely almost the entire set was brilliant. His style of comedy might divide people, but if you’re into one-liners he was every bit as good as Jimmy Carr was when I saw him last year

I’d have paid… rating: £25. After a fairly slow start to the day, this set really got us going. The comedy line-up was really impressive on paper this year to the point where on the poster Milton Jones wasn’t even a headliner, however for me he totally stole the show.

Darwin Deez (Festival Republic Stage)

Our otherwise excellent clash-finder (from website – it’s definitely worth printing one off rather than paying £7 for the official programme, which is handily worn around the neck so everyone can see you got ripped off…) mixed up the stage time for Darwin Deez, so it was purely by chance that we found out when he was playing. Given I only knew (and wasn’t especially impressed by…) ‘Radar Detector’ this probably wouldn’t have bothered me too much at the time, however with hindsight would have been a travesty: this was (up until this point) probably the single best set I’d seen in two and half years at Reading. The music was surprisingly good, but it was totally overshadowed by the show that the band put on: they repeatedly got the crowd involved and performed hilarious choreographed routines worthy of an OK-Go video. We managed to cut through the crowd to be just a couple of rows from the front, and the atmosphere was brilliant – everyone in the tent couldn’t help but have a smile on their face. By the time ‘Radar Detector’ came on everyone, myself included, had been completely won over, and it provided a fitting singalong to end an incredibly entertaining gig. Picking out a highlight is tough when the entire gig was consistently so good, but the moment when they got a security guard up on stage to dance with them sticks in the memory. Also a special mention to the very attractive (if scarily androgynous) guitarist/dancer, who managed to pull off a baggy t-shirt and pink hat better than any girl I’ve seen. An outstanding set.

I’d have paid… rating: £30. What made these guys even more impressive is that they were so entertaining on a budget of literally nothing – bands on the Main Stage could learn from their example of bringing entertainment in a form that wasn’t an over the top light show or some clich├ęd fireworks.

Dizzee Rascal (Main Stage)

I have to say, while I like a fair few of Dizzee’s singles, I’ve never been convinced by non-rock music at Reading – it’s great to dance to in a club, but perhaps for that very reason it doesn’t transfer that well to a live performance simply because it’s nothing special. To be fair to him he played to his crowd with a Nirvana based mash-up and the (enormous) crowd were all jumping for ‘Bonkers’, so clearly a lot of people enjoyed it a lot – bear in mind it wasn’t so long ago that 50 Cent lasted barely 10 minutes at Reading. So no offence to Dizzee who did a very decent set, it just wasn’t especially my thing. Also the number of people on each others shoulders where we were meant that even a glimpse of the big screen was a rarity, let alone seeing Dizzee in the flesh (although he was handily dressed in bright red, presumably for maximum visibility).

I’d have paid… rating: £10. It’s undeniably fun to be in an enormous crowd singing along to ‘Bonkers’, but for me it just wasn’t especially more entertaining than doing the same in a club – it was just as sweaty and you got about as good a view of the man himself.

The Libertines (Main Stage)

While I’ve heard a lot about them from various older and wiser people than me, my limited gigging/festival career had never yet produced a genuine ‘you just had to be there’ show; probably the closest I’ve come was Rage Against the Machine at Reading two years ago, who had an absolutely mental crowd, but unfortunately just weren’t my type of music at the time. On that night, having watched the breathtaking Guantanamo Bay themed start to their set, I went to the NME Tent and watched Pete Doherty’s Babyshambles perform what I thought was a very entertaining set to an almost empty tent. So perhaps it was meant to be that two years later, that very same man was at the centre of what will surely go down as the set of the festival, one to perhaps rival Rage in 2008 as the best of recent years.

I have to admit I didn’t know very much of The Libertines before the festival, the only song I knew at all well was ‘Can’t Stand Me Now’. When my friends persuaded me that I had no choice but to see them I had youtubed a few others and been very impressed, but given the band split up when I was barely even a teenager I have to say I was totally unprepared for the completely unreal atmosphere of anticipation they inspired in the crowd. At Leeds the night before they had had to briefly halt their set because the crowd was crushing so much, and even before the set started it was totally clear why. As the band came on to the vaguely surreal but still incredibly poignant sound of Vera Lynn (I think?), it had already become clear that this was something special.

With no new material to slow down the set, the band played what I later learned was essentially a greatest hits set, and it came off perfectly. The crowd around me knew every word to every song, while I had the advantage of being constantly surprised by a string of songs with great melodies and lyrics that even I could see the emotional resonance of – I’m definitely not the first, or even the thousandth, person to point it out, but it was impossible not to connect to a recently reunited band famous for their rock’n’roll antics singing ‘What became of the Likely Lads?’. That song was one of my favorites, along with the beautiful ‘Music When the Lights Go Out’, and ‘I Get Along’ was an outstanding finale. I don’t know the band’s back catalogue well enough to know if they could have pulled out another thirty minutes of material, but if they could have then this would have been a headline set that far outdid any I’ve seen in its atmosphere and scale. Magical.

I’d have paid… rating: £60. In fairness the case could be made that, for a genuine fan at least, seeing this gig would have been bordering on priceless – it’s still unclear if they’ll ever play together again. Alas my student-sized wallet couldn’t stretch too far, but even though I almost felt like a trespasser in a religious ceremony, this was still something very very special.

Arcade Fire (Main Stage)

Even as I begin to write this, I can already feel the combined wrath of everyone with any musical influence, given that every review I’ve read of this set so far has been almost rhapsodic in its praise, but I just didn’t get the hype. Perhaps it was the come down off The Libertines, and the fact that the crowd where I was (on the second barrier, which in fairness had been manic just thirty minutes earlier) weren’t especially into it. Their music wasn’t bad at all, but it felt, to me at least, as if they should have been playing a 3rd of 4th headliner slot – for 45 minutes or so it was fine, but the total lack of any recognisable hit for a non-fan meant it lost momentum and in the end I left to go and see Ash. I humbly accept the criticism of everyone who knows anything about music, and if it salvages any credibility I have to say I watched some of their highlights on TV and slightly regretted missing the second half of the set, but on the night it simply didn’t do it for me, and having failed to get into the enormously overcrowded Festival Republic tent for Ash I called it a night. Sorry.

I’d have paid… rating: £15. Well I wouldn’t really, had I somehow gotten hold of a ticket I would have sold it for £15 to a fan and let them laugh at my stupidity and enjoy their night.

Overall Value: £156.

After a slow start this was definitely the best single day I’ve ever seen at the festival in three years: Milton Jones set the bar high; Darwin Deez pushed it up a little further, and The Libertines smashed the bar into tiny little pieces. If that much metaphor mixing makes sense…

Tuesday, 31 August 2010

Reading Festival Review - Friday

Given it began with walking out of my opening set of the day after less than 2 songs and ended with Axl Rose shouting into a switched off microphone, this was actually a very very good days music. Flitting between 4 stages I managed to catch a lot of different acts, from the comedy of Steven K. Amos to the mosh pits of Lostprophets, with other great performances from NOFX and Mumford and Sons along the way.

Rather than some boring scale of grading acts like a score out of 10, I've opted to give each band the amount of money I would be willing to pay to see them, based on the set they gave. I wanted to see if, even if the camping experience was ignored (which is in some ways priceless, and in other ways muddy), I managed to get my £192.50's worth out of the weekend. This takes into account a lot of things - I'd obviously pay more to see a band I hadn't seen before, or a band I wouldn't be able to see again.

Enjoy the review.

Gaggle (Festival Republic Stage)

Seeing that, while every other stage had music starting at midday, “Gaggle” were supposedly starting at 11.30, we decided to check them out. In the end they were delayed half an hour anyway, but we figured we’d stick around. Our expectations for the band on the bottom of the bill of one of the smallest stages at the festival were obviously low, but in the five minutes that I saw Gaggle managed to undercut them. For those who don’t know this act, Gaggle consisted of approximately ten girls in fancy dress chanting to the accompaniment of very loud drums. Two of the girls were carrying a large sign, which read ‘This is merely a distraction from the inevitable’. I can only assume this was a self-deprecating pun, the aforementioned ‘inevitable’ being their total lack of tune. To be fair on them, friends who stayed for the whole set thought they got a lot better after the opening two songs. On the other hand, I couldn’t even last those opening two songs…

I’d have paid… rating: £0. You would genuinely have to pay me to see them again.

Young Guns (Main Stage)

I missed the opening few minutes of these guys because of Gaggle, but what I did see was fairly impressive. The music was decent, if uninspiring, and they did their best to get the crowd involved. Also you got the feeling that they were genuinely incredibly excited, almost to the point of being overawed, at the chance to open the festival – something I found made me warm to them. On top of this they engaged with the crowd with some fairly amusing banter including a Reading-residents-specific joke about playing at the Face Bar (a dive of a venue in Reading) which showed that they knew their crowd and also probably explained why playing the main stage at Reading was so exciting to them.

I’d have paid… rating: £5. They were nothing special, but were definitely entertaining and made an effort, and compared to Gaggle they were mindblowing.

Surfer Blood (NME Stage)

With a name like that, my expectations of this band were floating in some bewildering nether-space between Jack Johnson and Death Metal. Sadly they weren’t quite that interesting – the atmosphere where I was was fairly muted. Entertainment was provided by the drummer/pianist with an enormous mop of hair, who managed to hit his cymbal so hard that it fell over leaving a roadie to desperately scramble to remedy the situation. If that doesn’t sound interesting, you probably wouldn’t have liked this band,

I’d have paid… rating: £2. Staying until the end was at least partly due to their being not too much else on.

Emo Phillips (Alternative Stage)

I only caught the very end of his set when arriving for Steven K Amos, but it only served to maintain the impression I got of him from my youtubing him: I really don’t see what the fuss is about. What I saw seemed to mainly consist of saying uninteresting things in an incredibly annoying voice, which just didn’t do it for me. A friend of mine said he was an ‘acquired taste’ and he was advertised as one of the biggest comedy draws, so perhaps I just need to see more

I’d have paid… rating: £0.

Steven K. Amos (Alternative Stage)

Having seen (and been very much impressed by) Steven K Amos on Live at the Apollo, and knowing that he was coming straight from a well reviewed show at Edinburgh, I had pretty high expectations of this. It was funny, and in particular he improvised to the audience very well (an unfortunate pair of girls who chose to leave midway through the set from a position right in front of the stage were repeatedly asked why their were being racist, which they dealt with by putting up their hoods and refusing to make eye contact. Unfortunately a lot of the material was stuff I had heard before, which I guess can be the curse of appearing on TV as a comedian. Still, definitely worth watching though.

I’d have paid… rating: £8, although had I not seen him before I’m sure it would have been more

NOFX (Main Stage)

I must admit that a significant part of the reason I went to see these guys was to get a good space down the front for Lostprophets, but with little idea what to expect (my only previous experience of them being their absolutely hilarious song ‘She’s Nubs’, which I was gutted they didn’t play) I was very impressed. They combined their energetic and well received music with a near constant string of jokes and banter with the crowd, and were generally very entertaining. Particular highlights were ‘Eat the Meek’ and ‘Franco Un-American’ (you know a band has done well at festival when you liked them enough to look up song titles when you got home a few days later), and also a string of Mexican and Jewish jokes set to music (“what did the Mexican boy get for Christmas? My bike.” being probably the closest to being repeatable in polite company). Unlike a lot of bands on all stages they genuinely put on a show, so even for those who didn’t know them they were a very entertaining use of 45 minutes.

On top of this, they also played a secret set in the Lock Up Tent on Saturday night, which according to a friend was even better than the mainstage, as well as a lot heavier. I’d have been tempted to go, but unfortunately they clashed with the Libertines…

I’d have paid… rating: £15. One of the few music acts that would have been entertaining even had their music been awful, I’d have been paying for comedy and music all in one.

Lostprophets (Main Stage)

In a line-up that almost entirely stretched beyond the grasp of my limited music knowledge, Lostprophets were one of the few familiar names on the bill – I’d already seen their headlining set last year on the NME stage, as well as watching youtube highlights of their Main Stage 2007 set countless times (definitely worth checking out). Playing in front of a huge banner that simply read “MEGA MEGA LOLZ LOLZ !!!! !!!!”, the band played hits such as ‘Burn Burn’, ‘Rooftops’ and ‘Last Train Home’ which could have been written just for such a festival occasion. The atmosphere down the front was electric and everyone was jumping (except when literally stuck in the mud in the areas that hadn’t been covered with wood chips) and singing along. I heard afterwards that their were some sound problems, but where we were it was plenty loud enough, and you won’t hear me complaining about a set with an atmosphere like that where I knew every word, other than the superfluous Guns N Roses cover.

I’d have paid… rating: £26. It would have been £25, but not only was the atmosphere great but I also succeeded in finding a pound in the mud on the floor. Great success.

Biffy Clyro (Main Stage)

Seeing as we were at the front anyway, it seemed a no-brainer to stay their for Biffy – I saw him from the back two years ago and was very impressed. I don’t know if it was the come-down from Lostprophets and NOFX, but this set seemed to slightly lack something – for large periods the crowd were fairly flat and lead singer Simon Neill seemed to lack the charisma to go with the peroxide blonde beard and bright pink jeans in which he was dressed. It wasn’t bad by any means, and the hits got people moving, but it just didn’t really come together as well as it might from where I was standing, particularly given this was a third headliner.

I’d have paid… rating: £8. I’m aware £8 wouldn’t get me into a Biffy Clyro concert. Which is why I don’t think I’ll be going to a Biffy Clyro concert.

Mumford and Sons (NME Stage)

I’ve become more and more of a fan of this band since I first heard ‘Little Lion Man’ about a year ago, and judging from the size of the crowd they had here a lot of other people felt the same. It’s often a struggle to get near the front for big acts in the tent, however here it was a struggle to even get near the tent, with the crowd spilling out on all sides. Having arrived just as the band were started I had to settle for a space just outside the tent on the right hand side near a big screen – normally this would have ruined the atmosphere but the enthusiasm of the crowd overcame this – one enterprising group of kids near us improvised their own mosh pit made up entirely of their group. The band have a very different sound to the majority of acts at Reading (my Mum watching the highlights at home described them as ‘folk’), and it most certainly worked – the atmosphere for songs like ‘Awake My Soul’ in particular was electric. The experience was probably slightly inferior to what it would have been in the tent itself, but was still enchanting in its own way – they certainly outplayed Biffy Clyro who had their third headliner spot on the Main Stage.

I’d have paid… rating: £10. This takes into account the lack of view – for a space near the front it would probably have been at least double this.

Guns N Roses (Main Stage)

What a mess. There’s so much to say about this set that its hard to know where to start. We had been joking all day about the chances of Axl Rose showing up on time, so it was probably optimistic to arrive early, but it meant we got a reasonable space in the middle of what was (initially) a very large crowd. As the minutes ticked by the atmosphere turned from excited to annoyed and finally to despairing – the group I was with lost half its members during the wait. I heard some people afterwards defending the band and saying it was ridiculous to expect Gun N Roses to be on time, however I think this misses the point. This wasn’t their gig, it was a festival, bands had chosen to see them when they could have been elsewhere – a friend of mine who did choose to see a different act and arrived an hour late got their in time to see the whole set. It was totally disgraceful and arrogant, and the lack of apology meant they had lost the crowd from the start – they came on to a chorus of boos, which continued sporadically throughout.

That being said, when they were on stage they put on a very entertaining show. The entertainment varied from the hits (by this point I knew ‘Sweet Child O’ Mine’, thank you Lostprophets) to spectacular guitar solos, particularly from DJ Ashba (or ‘Not Slash’, as my section of the crowd persisted in calling him), to the hilarity of Axl Rose’s array of costume changes, which only seemed to include variations on ‘pimp’ and ‘cowboy’. Bits of the set were as good musically as anything else in the week, but the crowd were cold and wet and the atmosphere was very and up and down, particularly during technically impressive but unentertaining piano solos. The stage set, so ridiculed by NOFX earlier, was spectacular if bewildering: the big screen behind the band alternated between showing live footage of the band, animations of fire, videos of women at least 20 years too young for Axl Rose and, most perplexingly of all, footage of Formula 1 cars. Overall it was definitely worth seeing, but equally far from perfect.

In most gigs, that would be all there was to say, but Guns N Roses had a finale that was certainly more interesting than any other act across the weekend. Having already overrun by 30 minutes, the organisers literally pulled the plug on the band before the encore, leaving Axl Rose to rant noiselessly through a switched off microphone. The band do deserve credit for staying around to play an acoustic version of ‘Paradise City’ through a megaphone to fans at the front (we couldn’t hear it, a friend who could said it wasn’t bad at all given the circumstances), but equally the situation was entirely of their own making – not only were they an hour late but they also padded their set with the aforementioned costume changes and instrumentals. As a non Guns N Roses fan it made for a fascinatingly farcical spectacle, but for fans of the band it was a lost half an hour of music, which is a shame.

I’d have paid… rating: £25. It was incredibly flawed in so many different ways, but it was a genuine musical event in its own way, as well as featuring some brilliant music. Of the £25 most would go to DJ Ashba, some would go to the effects team, and about 50p would go to Axl Rose on condition he didn’t change outfit in the process of receiving it.

Overall Value: £95

Not at all bad for the first day of three, wiping off almost half the ticket cost already.

Thursday, 5 August 2010

Inception: why the flaws don't matter

With the combination of a very successful director, a very original idea and a very strong cast, Inception always had a lot going for it. There is a lot of hype around the film, but it more than justifies most of it. Christopher Nolan has always been strong at creating films that look incredible; while in theory it is Ellen Page’s Ariadne who is the artist designing the film’s dream sequences it is easy to make the connection back to Nolan revelling in his medium’s new visual possibilities.

This isn’t to say the film doesn’t have weaknesses. Many people have commented that it simply doesn’t make sense, but I didn’t think it was too hard to follow: once you get past the opening scenes (confusing mainly because nothing has yet been explained) the amount of exposition in the first part of the film makes the vast majority of the second part simple enough to follow. However a more fundamental problem are the holes in the plot.

Just one example of this is that we have no real idea why (or indeed if) the entire project is in anyway morally justified. We are given literally a sentence explanation: if the project doesn’t succeed then there will be a global energy monopoly. The fact that this line is stated by the rival of this company who quite possibly just wants to weaken a competitor is glossed over by the film: clearly we are not supposed to question that the goodies are good, and the baddies bad: this in spite of the fact that Cillian Murphy’s Robert Fischer seems nice enough and probably not deserving of having his empire ripped apart (remember, he only wants this because he’s tricked into doing so).

Yet despite this and many other holes (a man who can afford to buy an entire airline cannot finance any other way of achieving what he wants?), Inception is still a terrifically entertaining film. Part of this is the relentless action: it is hard to have time to question what is happening if every five minutes is punctuated by an explosion, a gunshot, or the streets of Paris folding like origami.

On top of this however is a further enormous strength of the film: the characterisation of Dom and Mal (who I honestly thought were called Tom and Moll for the entire of the film). Some have criticised Mal as one-dimensional and bitter, but that seems to miss the entire point: the Mal we see in the film is not the woman Dom loved. The story is tragic precisely for this reason: the dream-Mal is a pale and deeply flawed reflection of her real life counterpart; yet the love Dom felt for her is so much that he cannot let even this malevolent double leave him.

The second fascinating dimension to the Dom and Mal story is the idea of the distinctions between dreams and reality. Mark Kermode, BBC 5Live’s excellent film critic, made the point that part of the confusion in the film (best shown at the beginning and the end) as to what is real and what is a dream is a reflection of this same dilemma that the central characters face.

This age-old philosophical problem is given life by the relationship between the characters: if it is impossible to tell whether we’re in real life or a dream (or a dream within a dream within a dream within limbo) then why shouldn’t we choose the option where we can stay with the one we love? The fact that Dom doesn’t give in to this temptation aligns him with us in ‘the real world’, but nonetheless the temptation is placed out there. This reminded me of the scene in the first Matrix film where Cypher betrays his friends in order to abandon the harsh ‘real’ world and return to the blissful dream, however here it is given much more subtle treatment, mainly due to the positive emotion that binds the couple together.

Overall then, this is a really really good film, that’s well worth seeing twice. The weaknesses in the storyline are more than made up for by the originality of the concept, the pace of the action, but most importantly the emotional connection between the characters. Oh and you get to stare at Ellen Page and/or Leonardo DiCaprio for two and half hours, so it definitely has something for everyone!

Sunday, 27 June 2010

Did we ever consider that Germany might be quite good?

You probably won't be surprised when you hear that, having watched the England-Germany World Cup match today, I feel like a rant.

What might surprise you is that it isn't actually about the England team. Sure, they weren't great, losing 4-1 can't just be put down to a disallowed goal (why didn't the commentators notice the massive parallels with 1966?). But at the risk of being proved horribly wrong when Germany play Argentina next week, maybe it might just be that Germany are quite good.

Everyone has been saying that this is a weak German team, and maybe compared to some of their past sides that might be fair. However the combination of Podolski and Klose up front, with midfielders including Oezil and Schweinsteiger, means that they are clearly a massive attacking threat. England's defence looked very average today, but given that the only goal we conceded in the rest of the tournament was a speculative long-shot, surely its fair to put a significant amount of the blame for the loss on some pretty outstanding German counter-attacking?

On top of that, the disallowed goal clearly had a massive impact. Both of Germany's second half goals came when counter-attacking when England had overcommitted up front. The defending was still poor, but equally the situations very possibly wouldn't have come about had the game been level at 2-2.

So, on the whole, it could easily have ended up differently had a few things gone differently, but on the whole was a fair result against a good side. Was this the reaction of most England fans? Of course not. Listening to 5live on the way home from the game the most common words flying around, from both callers and the pundits, included 'woeful', 'embarrassing', 'debacle' (although I have to say, I do like that word...); one caller had a list of England players who 'should never have played international football': it included every single player in the team other than David James, Ashley Cole and Steven Gerrard. One caller, combining both spectacular economic knowledge and expert football punditry, said that the entire team needed a pay-cut because we're in a recession. (No seriously, that's what he said). On the whole, everyone seemed very angry.

This brings us to a massive question about English sports supporters in general; why can't we deal with doing badly? The way things ended up today the blame is on the players for being so 'woeful', had the game finished 2-1 then the personal contact details of the referee would probably have been on the front page of The Sun tomorrow. This pattern of blame goes back a long way: in the last world cup we went out because Ronaldo cheated, in 1998 it was because Beckham got himself sent off. It also spreads across other sports: in the tennis this week the press have responded to Andy Murray being the only Brit in the second round by castigating the leadership of British Tennis.

The problem with all of this is the simple fact that, in sport, there has to be a winner and loser. The fact that England lost today was not simply a reflection on how they did, but was every bit as much to do with how Germany played. When Anne Keothavong went out of Wimbledon 6-4 in the final set having led 4-0 it wasn't simply because she's British and thus a choker, it was mainly because her opponent played some very good tennis. To lose in sport doesn't necessarily mean you were desperately unlucky or miserably talentless, its simply a fact of a pastime where 50% of competitors are unsuccessful.

I know that most of the ranting is because people care so passionately about sport in this country, and this is often a very good thing. Nonetheless it seems that being so keen to point the finger of blame at anyone and everyone rather than simply accept defeat with good grace is something that needs to be avoided.

On the plus side, having put an outside bet on Germany to win the whole tournament two weeks ago at 14-1, at least every cloud has a silver lining... :)