The England Swings Show - Bringing you the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom!


What we do. 

The England Swings show is a weekly radio program that focuses uniquely on music from the United Kingdom. It can be accessed on Sundays at 6:00 p.m. Eastern Time in the United States. You can listen :

• In Northern Virginia, on Cox or Verizon cable channels 37 or 837.
• In Reston, Virginia, on Comcast channel 27.
• Anywhere else in the world, at

This is the official website of the show, and information relating to it will be posted here. This will include a weekly blog, including the playlist of the show, some analysis and review of the British top 5 songs, and album reviews. The first of these follows below!

Playlist, Top 5, and Reviews : April 19, 2010

Our weekly blog takes flight (sorry, speaking in cliches) with the playlist from last night's England Swings show ; 

I Blame Coco - Caesar
La Roux - Bulletproof (La Roux)

Dr. Feelgood - Milk and Alcohol (Private Practice)
Rox - My Baby Left Me

Camera Obscura - French Navy (My Maudlin Career)

Black Sabbath - Laguna Sunrise (Black Sabbath Vol. 4)

Tunng - Hustle (And Then We Saw Land)
Herman's Hermits - I'm Into Something Good

The Fab Four Freakout : 

Cilla Black - It's For You
Beatles - Taxman (Revolver)
Beatles - It Won't Be Long (With the Beatles)

Ash - Joy Kicks Darkness (A-Z Vol. 1)
Lightspeed Champion - The Big Guns Of Highsmith (Life Is Sweet! Nice To Meet You)

Hollies - Long Dark Road
Merseybeats - I Love You, Yes I Do

Paul Weller - No Tears Left To Cry (Wake Up the Nation)

Pipettes - Stop the Music (Earth Vs. Pipettes)
Aztec Camera - Jump (Knife)

...and this week's top 5 songs in the UK : 

5). Kelis - Acapella (new)
4). Plan B - She Said (-1)
3). Professor Green - I Need You Tonight (new)
2). Scouting For Girls - This Ain't a Love Song (-1)
1). Usher - OMG (+1)


Some big shake-ups and movers in the Top 5 this week, with two new entries and a song that's risen a space to take over the top. Let's talk about them, shall we?

Kelis comes back strong, and after a long absence, with "Acapella", charting at number five this week. And what do we have here? For many, it's a clear distance away from anything the ex-Mrs. Nas has done before. It's electronic, it's techno, and there's barely a trace of the old R&B/Hip-Hop Kelis in there. 

But it's not really that big of a leap, if you think about it. Cast your mind back six years to "Milkshake", and you might realize that that song was actually a minimalist, near-techno tune. 

She just called up David Guetta and asked him to Guetta-ize her already established sound. 

And the results are spectacular. The vocals, definitely sung rather than just rhymed, are a revelation; Kelis can wail! The harmonies are great, the rubbery synth backing, paired with a rough and nasty drumbeat, make for an entertaining and hooky tune. On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I'm giving Kelis an 8.5.

Plan B drops back a space this week with "She Said". In the meantime, his new album "The Defamation of Strickland Banks" hits the top of the UK album charts. The vocals in the song, done slightly high-pitched, but not Michael Jackson pitched, are effective. The Plan drops a rap in the middle which fits like a glove, and even mentions the Zutons "Valerie", which I've championed as a seminal song of the 21st century. Can't go wrong with that!

Between Plan B and Usher, we've got two songs that go "oh oh oh oh oh" in the top 5. What are the chances? 

I give Plan B an 8. 

Okay, I'm trying hard to like Professor Green's "I Need You Tonight", but I'm not succeeding so far. Taking an INXS guitar line from the song of the same name, the Professor has a rather whiny rapping style. The words? Oh, they're okay - I've heard worse. "I blow 'ot and cold like the A/C". 


I'm really hoping that A/C in the UK doesn't also blow hot. 

It all sounds mishmoshed together, as if the Professor discovered the rhythm while he was out for a club night, and then just spit all over it. Not my favorite song of the week. I'm going with a 5.

Scouting For Girls, after having a phenomenal two weeks at the top of the UK charts, drop back a place with "This Ain't a Love Song". 

It looked like the British press was beginning to come around with the release of this single, knowing that it was not only catchy as all get-out, but well constructed (just listen to those background vocals). 

But then the album came out. 

Every review I've read of the record has used "execrable" as the least of epithets to describe it. I haven't listened to it yet, but I'm betting it's full of killer pop tunes, just like the single. Watch for an upcoming review. 

Sometimes the British don't know how good they've got it with their own music, and that's too bad. 

I love "This Ain't a Love Song". I'm giving it an 8.5.

And - good news! - I've reassessed the Usher song that's made it to the top! Last week I didn't like it a lot. This week I only don't like it a little bit. 

It came to me about midweek. The song came out of nowhere to echo around my head, and I realized that the "oh oh oh" part actually works. In my head, it wasn't the "oh"s themselves that reverberated, it was the background noise of what sounds like an entire stadium cheering. Cool touch, and it continues during crucial parts of the song. There's also a drunken synth in there that I like. 

The words are still stupid, but I'm gaining some respect for the construction of the song. I'm going with a 7 this week.


Ash - A-Z Vol. 1

This is not an album. 

Ash has sworn off the things. Instead, they've become an exclusively singles band, and have swung halfway through the ambitious "A-Z" project by releasing a single every two weeks since late last year. There have been thirteen of them so far, so what better thing to do than to release a non-album compiling them? Thus, "A-Z, Volume 1". 

So I won't review this as an album. At least not right away. Let's discuss the singles. 

"True Love 1980" : It's bouncy, synth driven, and has great harmonized vocals. It's a little bit 1960s, a little bit modern. It's not bad. It gets an 8 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.

"Joy Kicks Darkness" : One of the more successful tunes, it has a double-tracked guitar lead, a marching drumbeat, and lots of energy. Classic Ash, it's like a volcanic cloud.
It gets an 8.5.

"Arcadia" : Nearly classic Ash, but not as nuanced as "Joy". Still pretty good, though. Lots of swooping "ooh-ooh-whoa" background vocals. 7.5.

"Tracers" : chunky, but not very funky. Good vocals, but here I have to generalize : 

What's going on with Ash's lyrics? Almost without exception, they're cliched and stunted. They're full of sentiments that have been expressed before countless times, and better, by both other bands and Ash themselves. Did the band pull out a book of "cliched love song lyrics" before they began this project?

This song drops to a 6.

"The Dead Disciples" : Okay, I know this isn't an album, but does every tune (single! sorry!) have to go "da-da-DA-da-da-da". Let's mix it up a little, Ash. You've done better. You CAN do better. This song is about as generic as it gets. 5.

"Pripyat" : Finally a change of pace. A piano! The song becomes anthemic, but it's a tepid anthem. The lyrics : "All alone in the dead zone" "In the land of wolves, the horses run free". 

No. 6.5.

"Ichiban" : Here we've got wall-of-sound rock guitars that morph into a quick-paced blooz influenced number. Rompy! I'm going with a 7.

"Space Shot" : Guess what this song uses as a metaphor for a relationship. Yep. This one's a bit more indie pop, featuring good vocals and harmonies. Lyrics? Still stupid. Tune? Tasty, but not gourmet. 7 here. 

"Neon" : There's a promising beginning, with string synths and a great guitar/piano thing going on. After a while, though, the promise vanishes, and the song sounds like Westlife if McFly was standing next to them. 6.

"Command" is simple, rootsy, and crunchy. It looks like the lyrics are improving here, but the overall effect is McFly-ish again, without the Westlife. It's okay. It's certainly nowhere near as transcendant as Ash has done before. I hate to live on past glories, but "Free All Angels" was a landmark. Ash just plays around with the fringes of their past glories here. This one's a 7.

"Dionysian Urge" : And just when you're about to give up, there's this little gem of a song. Beautiful echoey piano lines, birdlike guitar notes - it's all there. Ash can still do it. 

Oh, the lyrics are still a bit unoriginal and naive, but the tune makes up for it here. This one gets an 8.5.

"Song Of Your Desire" : a bit noisy, but with good guitar riffs. Everything fits together here, so I'll give it a 7.5.

"War With Me" : Hey, not bad! Cleverly paced, and the lyrics are good! Catchy, pop-oriented, classic. As an album ender - 

Oh, I forgot for a moment - this isn't an album. Okay, as the last single released in the first half of "A-Z", it's an appropriate closer. 

So let's pretend for just a moment that these thirteen singles represent Ash's musical development during the past six months. If we total all the ratings . . . let's see . . . 

It's about 7.2, more or less. That's not great, but it's not bad, either. What surprises will Ash bring us in the next thirteen singles?