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Aston Villa as told by The National

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Brooding and melancholy. Invested yet self-centered. Affecting and beautiful but brutally honest in equal measures. Our favorite club or our favorite band?

Glastonbury Festival 2017 - Day 3


Photo by Ian Gavan/Getty Images

Resonance, when two separate objects come together and in some seemingly supernatural way connect, is a decidedly creepy experience. As a teacher in a previous life, ringing tuning forks in front of children and seeing their eyes go wide as the hum of one fork begins to vibrate the other is a true joy and grounds for them the magic of science in something truly breathtaking. Like standing in the middle of nowhere on a clear night seeing the Milky Way for the first time and not learning about but experiencing the expanse of the universe.

Even an explanation of resonance is almost impossible to keep from being experiential. Observation detached from experience works for science as a method, but doesn’t seem as if it would work for the scientist. An innate curiosity and joy of discovery driving that method pushes us to explore and create. Resonance as a concept explains that.

This will be an exploration of the resonance of my favorite bands lyrics with my favorite football club. In true The National fan form, I’m taking something simple, internalizing it, complicating it, looking at it as pretentiously as possible, finding some humor and some horror in that all the while knowing exactly what I’m doing, likely hating myself for it well before the end of it, but running through it anyway and eyes scrunched against the bright sun...move on to something else.

Aston Villa and The National have quite a few common threads of resonance. Aston Villa is a team filled with players and individuals who can, by any self-reflexive definition of the word “tenuously,” be connected to The National. Feeling wronged emotionally? Pointing fingers of blame? Leaving on bad terms? Crying to yourself over the fear of dying unfulfilled? It’s all there on the pitch and the gramophone.

While connecting these threads, I’ll avoid the joke “Both were better in 2010” because while, yeah, that’s obviously true for Aston Villa, I’m steering right into the skid in regard to pretension here, remember? Low hanging fruit will be eschewed for worse jokes that probably don’t land or for earnest yet poorly explained emotional appeals. Also High Violet is my favorite album and arguing between albums about bands that are definitively great is endlessly boring.

Being that it took nearly zero effort to get this to 2000 words to cover seven individuals, this initial exploratory post is not meant to be exhaustive. I’ll be glad to engage on twitter @robbjkjones anyone who could suggest others and will likely return to this concept again in the future.

Links to YouTube lead every section. Check them out and go see The National when they’re in your neck of the woods.

Mr November – Mile Jedinak

Australia v Honduras - 2018 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers: Leg 2 Photo by Brett Hemmings/Getty Images

The English are waiting and I don't know what to do
In my best clothes

I'm the new blue-blood
I'm the great white hope
I'm the new blue-blood

I won't fuck us over, I'm Mr. November
I'm Mr. November, I won't fuck us over

We know that Mile Jedinak knows what to do when he gets on a pitch. He’s been amazing for Villa, but what position will he play? Will he take over in a midfield position? It’s my hope that he’ll play at the back, but he needs direction from Steve Bruce as to what his role will be. The English are certainly waiting to find out.

Even on the heels of his magical hat trick for the Socceroos, Jedinak will not be required to put the ball in net, but to contribute on the defensive which he has been more than capable of in his time at Villa Park. Wherever he’ll go, Villa were most successful with him on the pitch last campaign and he looks to be fully back in form now. If he can hold the Villa back line with stalwart James Chester, he will be my Man of the Month and our Mr November.

Though we may not know *where* he’ll play, we certainly know what he *won’t* do.

I won't fuck us over, I'm Mr. November
I'm Mr. November, I won't fuck us over

Anyone’s Ghost – Scott Hogan

Aston Villa v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images,

You said I came close
As anyone’s come
To live underwater
For more than a month

You said it was not inside my heart
It was
You said it should tear a kid apart
It does

Probably my favorite lyric of the National’s speaks to one of our most underwhelming participants. Scott Hogan hasn’t come close to justifying his transfer fee paid to Brentford and hardly any of that is down to his own play--he’s had a ton of energy on the pitch and played well in the Carabao Cup. In his time since last January’s transfer, he’s had hard luck with injuries, has been unlucky with opportunities in the box and even was unlucky to be in the exact spot to deny Conor Hourihane’s match winner against Middlesbrough that would have brought two points—though what he was doing on the goal line anyway is suspect.

With that said Hogan sounds like a grinder and I’ve only read good things about him. It must be awful for him to go through this spell and to not find a rhythm on the pitch and with his teammates. There were articles I’ve read of him being moved in January and that would really be a shame if he only has 2017 to show for his Aston Villa career.

Mistaken for Strangers – Ross McCormack (runner up Robert Snodgrass)

A-League Rd 6 - Melbourne v Western Sydney Photo by Robert Cianflone/Getty Images

The initial reason I picked this song was because of how hilarious it was to see Jon Kodjia try to dice up three defenders at a time while McCormack had kittens wide open screaming and throwing his hands up to the sky. Robert Snodgrass has played that part well this year as he’s been unmarked wide looking to gain territory while Jimmy Danger judges his distance from net.

As I listened to it, though, and considered more than the prima facie “Mistaken for Strangers” title which was meant to reflect Kodjia’s disinterest in his teammates, I realized that I could type out the entirety of the lyrics, but literally every word is perfect for Ross McCormack--go listen to it! Matt Berningers lyrics come from a narrator who comes across as so incredibly entitled and wounded, unsure of why he or she is stuck in their current situation, fighting against fitting in and doing everything they can to passive-aggressively show that they’re not accepted. Every word drips of bitter internalization of misinterpreted interactions. I mean, it’s perfect to define McCormack’s Australian exile and the constant shade he throws back across the globe about how well things are going.

Bloodbuzz Ohio – Randy Lerner

Aston Villa v A.F.C. Bournemouth - Premier League Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

I still owe money to the money to the money I owe

Bloodbuzz Ohio is a song about connecting with your roots and that weird sense of returning to your childhood place with the debts and scars that we feel internally from our upbringing. There’s not a sense of closure here—there very rarely is in The National’s lyrics. Rather a sense of presence and acknowledgement, and often that acknowledgement points to bitterness or the numbing that your mind goes through in a depressing drunk.

The song, however, is about returning—not about still being there. We have to remember that we’re not in Ohio anymore. For Villa fans, it’s important to remember with Randy Lerner that, while we still carry some of those scars, we’re not there anymore.

Hat tip to James Rushton who suggested this pair and it made me laugh a lot when considering the following lyric:

I was carried to Ohio in a swarm of bees

Is the dark humor of wishing ill on our debtors a sign of acceptance or baggage? Who cares. It’s hilarious imagery.

Exile Vilify – Gabby Agbonlahor

Aston Villa v Liverpool - Premier League Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images

This is a deep cut, recorded for the game Portal 2 and even with The National being one of my favorite bands I didn’t know this song existed until this pairing was suggested, again by Rushton, but man is it perfect for Gabby. I’m going to post the entirety of the lyrics here because it was so unknown to me and it truly needs zero explanation.

Exile
It takes your mind again
Exile
It takes your mind again

You've got sucker's luck
Have you given up?
Does it feel like a trial?
Does it trouble your mind
The way you trouble mine?

Exile
It takes your mind again
Exile
It takes your mind again

Oh, you meant so much
Have you given up?
Does it feel like a trial?
Does it trouble your mind
The way you trouble mine?

Does it feel like a trial?
Now, you're thinking too fast
You're like marbles on glass

Vilify
Don't even try
Vilify
Don't even try

You've got sucker's luck
Have you given up?
Does it feel like a trial?
Does it trouble your mind
The way you trouble mine?

Does it feel like a trial?
Did you fall for the same
Empty answers again?

Vilify
Don't even try
Vilify
Don't even try
Vilify
Don't even try
Vilify

Dr Tony Xia – Abel

Aston Villa  v Wigan - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Nathan Stirk/Getty Images

Abel, come on, give me the keys, man
Everything has all gone down wrong
I see water on the bridge
Well, you better hold my hand through this
Turn around, turn around, take me back
I can't calm down
Turn around, turn around, take me back
I can't calm down
Well, my mind's not right
My mind's not right

This is probably the one I’m the most afraid of. One of the most explosive songs of The National’s catalogue is going to Dr Tony, our chairman with the explosive tweets. There have been plenty of stories broken and team issues clarified by Dr Tony’s availability on social media and that’s back and forth between being a good and bad thing. Access is fun for fans, but all in all I’m going to lean on the side of it being a negative.

Some of the best owners in sports seem to know how to get out of the way and let the people they hire take care of things on the field, the court, or the pitch and only involve themselves into the things they can control. Xia comes in on the heels of an awful ownership group that required a near exorcism for the club and though he hasn’t been around long, his first season was filled with key missteps that saw the team finish middle of the table in the Championship. We need to turn around, we need to be taken back, but has the river fully receded or is the water on the bridge just rain?

Dr Tony is clearly brilliant. You can’t be as successful as he is without ability and talent. Is he applying them in the right places to help the club succeed? We hope so. Does he have more realistic expectations than the Champions League in just a few seasons and a plan to get there? I hope so. I hope after this season we’re heading back up and not seeing Villa forced to hemorrhage talent due to Financial Fair Play regulations and spiraling. If so, we could be singing “Tony come on, give me the keys man. Everything has all gone down wrong.”

Day I Die – Us, the Villa fans

I get a little punchy with the vodka just like my great uncle Valentine Jester did
But he had to deal with those people like you who made no goddamn common sense
I’d rather walk all the way home right now than to spend one more second in this place
I’m exactly like you Valentine, just come outside and leave with me

Let's just get high enough to see our problems
Let’s just get high enough to see our fathers’ houses

The day I die, the day I die
Where will we be?

Actually, I might be more afraid of this one.