This article originally appeared on Noisey
Thinking about a national anthem involves thinking about national pride and thinking about national pride should bring you out in hives because being proud of the happenstance of your place of birth is like being proud of being left handed, or having decent balance.
I take no pride in being born in England, have no overwhelming urge to sacrifice myself for queen and country and no particular desire to label myself as British. Any attachment I have to a national identity is sentimental at best and self-mythologising at worst. Britain, to me, is silent couples sat in central London branches of Burger King; rain-lashed walks down out of season promenades; Sunday night National Express coach journeys; Orange Wednesdays; Gillette Soccer Saturday; Mars Bars; Sounds of the Sixties on Radio 2; brown settees; net curtains; dog shit; Traffic Cops; midnight mass on Christmas Eve; self-perpetuated mild melancholy; Adrian Mole; grain silos; conkers; rail replacement bus services; six cans for a fiver; sausage, chips and beans; Television X; National Trust property tea rooms; Dani Behr. It's an island of nothingness, and an island that revels in its own lack of worldly and global significance. We're a nation of Hyacinth Bucket's and we quietly like it that way. Pride, in anything, anything at all, for us, comes before a fall. Pride is what we experience before we're pegged down a notch or two.
Alas, being a country, we have to have an anthem foisted upon us, a murmured burr to bumble through at sporting events and royal appointments. Ours is a particularly dreary one. Express readers occasionally pause their paroxysms over immigration to bemoan the England squad for not wholeheartedly bellowing along to God Save the Queen like eleven blood and thunder patriots about to storm the Somme. It lacks oomph, lacks welly, lacks pizazz and gusto. It's dreary.
But we are a dreary nation. So when Noisey asked me to think of a suitable replacement, planting me in a hypothetical future Great Britain and ceeding a form of sovereignty to me, I knew I had to pick something that reflected the grey skies and quiet sadness of this once great island. There were tropes I wanted to avoid, like the obvious signifiers of booze Britain, a cheekily knowing nod to the likely lads in Fila tracksuits necking Castlemaine to Kasabian. I wanted to turn away from idyllic pastoralism and sadsack Smiths-ian jangle. I wanted something that was somewhere between the Jam and Jerusalem.
With that in mind, I've understandably gone for this happy hardcore-inspired, trancey house chart topper from the post-2000 electronic duo Ultrabeat:
At this juncture I need to stress something important: this isn't some snide, sneering, jokey answer that allows me to peer down and peck on provincial club culture like some class-tourist vulture. Ultrabeat are the sound of a country that works all week and spends the weekend pissing it up the wall. We drink to excess because we're unable, or unwilling, to speak out about the daily injustices that rave our hopes and decimate our dreams. We don't talk to our mates about anything important. We conduct romantic relationships through the medium of jointly-watched Nextflix dramas. We keep mum to mum. "Pretty Green Eyes" sounds like that magic moment six VKs and three pints in when your tie metaphorically loosens and you feel yourself on the verge of a kind of personal metamorphosis from downtrodden drone to loudmouthed free spirit, before reigning it in because you might cause a scene and causing a scene is the worst thing one can do.
There's a genuine sense of yearning sentimentality at the heart of "Pretty Green Eyes", something that chimes with one of the primary identifiers of the British psyche: we're a bunch of moaners who revel in misery business. We cause ourselves problems in order to internally tutt and moan about them. We only fancy Lucy in accounts because we know she won't fancy us back. We only go on holiday so we can feel depressed when we go back to work. We only get the bus to make sure we sit next to a bloke eating fried egg rolls at 7am. We roll about in lower-league sadness and hope that it goes quietly unnoticed. Yet, paradoxically, we also want to cause a fuss. We want to call the egg-eater a twat, want to draft our notice in the easyJet departure lounge and ask Lucy to the pub then marry her the next day. But we won't ever do those things. Ultrabeat's song hums with that feeling of self-service resignation.
Does it make me proud to be British? No. Does it make me happy to be British? Not particularly? Is it more British than fucking rolling hills, Alex James' cheese farm and London Pride? Definitely.
The Liverpool duo make music for nights lost to tropical alcopops, speed, flat lager and post-kebab fingering. They make music you only hear when you're back home for the weekend, when old ossified friendships loosen into ones that feel like they'll last a lifetime, when old side streets and corner shops re-etch themselves on the back of your hand. "Pretty Green Eyes" is a record that's uniquely, undeniably British. It's cheap, it's nasty, it's cloying. It's utterly perfect, utterly transcendent, utterly brilliant.
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