Playlist, Top 5, and Album Review : July 12, 2010 - England Swings - The BEST music from the UK
 
We returned to the music of the United Kingdom this week, after an Independence Day special of all-American tunes. Here's what was played.


Feeder - Call Out (Renegades)
Klaxons - Echoes


Tremeloes - Here Comes My Baby
Kele - Walk Tall (The Boxer)


Mark Ronson & the Business INTL - Bang Bang Bang


Fleetwood Mac - Hypnotized


Elvis Costello - The Other Side Of Summer (Mighty Like a Rose)


Magnetic Man - I Need Air


The Fab Four Freakout : 


Beatles - Rock Island Line
Beatles - Revolution 1 (The Beatles)
Beatles - Thank You Girl


Coral - 1000 Years
Rose Elinor Dougall - I Know We'll Never


Winifred Atwell - Black and White Rag
Blue Men - Orbit Around the Moon (I Hear a New World)


Bombay Bicycle Club - Ivy and Gold
Narcoleptic Dancers - Rastakraut


Jam - That's Entertainment (Sound Affects)
Vipers - Don't You Rock Me Daddio


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


5). Yolanda Be Cool & D Cup - We Don't Speak Americano (new)
4). Eminem ft. Rihanna - Love the Way You Lie (new)
3). B.o.B. ft Hayley Williams - Airplanes (-1)
2). Katy Perry - California Gurls (-1)
1). JLS - The Club Is Alive (new)


TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW


This week, there's a lot of crossover between the American and the British top 5. A total of three songs are doing well in both countries. This is not something that happens too often; usually the charts are miles apart. 


It should be noted, though, that the songs that are in the British charts are done by Americans. What would be truly unusual is for that situation to be reversed, and for British artists to be dominating the American charts. Although there's been an influx this year of English performers into American consciousness, I'm not expecting the latter situtation described above to happen anytime soon. 


So let's take things slightly out of order this week, and first examine the crossover hits.


Occupying chart positions 4, 3, and 2 in the UK, and respectively positions 2, 4, and 1 in America, we find Eminem, B.o.B., and Katy Perry. 


The Eminem song is called "Love the Way You Lie", and features a guest appearance from Rihanna. The first question I have to ask is : What is up with her? Ever since her brush with notoriety, the songs she finds herself participating in have approaches that are, well . . . I suppose one way to put it would be "edgy", but the proper description is perhaps "questionable morally". We had her suicide song, then we had her graphic depiction of sex song, and now we've got masochism. 


Meanwhile, we have Eminem showing absolutely no trace of his former sense of humor. He mostly just sounds vaguely ticked off and tired. He's walking a tightrope nowadays; he knows his particular brand of rap is somewhat outdated, but he's still commercially viable. One more album, and perhaps that balance will be gone. 


I realize that the song has become a hit, but I'm unsure why; chalk it up to brand recognition. There's very little redeeming factor in the tune; on the England Swings scale of 1-10, I'm giving it a 4.


Along comes another song with a foreboding sense of heaviness and depression - B.o.B.'s "Airplanes", along with new Goth flavor Hayley Williams. 


Here's the thing, B.o.B. just sounds mostly ephemeral and a bit silly, rapping around the edges of the two hits that he's had. First we had "Nothin' On You", in which Bruno Mars took the hook - and let's face it, that's all people remember. Now we've got a single line sung by Hayley, along with goofy ol' B.o.B. buzzing around it like a fly. The man leaves the hooks to others, and just brushes the periphery in his own songs. 


I'm giving this one a 4 as well.


Summer anthem "California Gurls" drops a place in England this week, while maintaining the top in America for five weeks. The USA, as usual, never quite knows how to let go of a tune. 


This one's not so bad, though, sounding fresher and - thank heaven - less depressing than either of the other songs discussed here so far. Klass Klown Snoop Dogg offers his usual paraphrasing of the main theme, and Katy does a great hook. As anthemic as the song has become, it's for the most part a clever pastiche. I give it a 7.5.


In America, the rest of the chart is taken up by one song well past its prime - Usher's "OMG", and up-and-coming Travie McCoy with the near-novelty song "Billionaire". 


And in the UK, we've got some diversity. Add to the two depressed American hits and the anthem two other songs that will never, never make the charts in the USA. 


Yolanda Be Cool and D Cup are a duo and their producer from Australia, and they have jumped on and perfected the trend begun this year by Gramophonedzie's "Why Don't You?". Here, an old, jazz-oriented song from the distant past is given a reworking into a club floor-filler by the addition of a modern techno sensibility. Yolanda and company have taken a 1950s Italian dance tune and made it current and - I'll say it - awesome. Using a cut-up technique incorporating the original horns and vocals from the song, they've put together an irresistable piece that deserves its high chart placement. 


Go and listen if you haven't heard it; I guarantee you'll smile. 


I give the song an 8.5.


Crashing in to the top of the chart, JLS totes up their third number one with "The Club Is Alive". 


Mind you, I thought their first hit "Beat Again" was catchy, but a bit annoying. The second one, "Everybody In Love" was much better, with the sort of addicting refrain that the best pop songs have. 


This one is sort of in between. Using many more special vocal effects, including autotune, and based on a club synth riff, it's successful, but only to a point. It has to occur to the listener that the song could practically be by anybody - if S Club 7 were around nowadays, this is exactly what they might sound like. It's all a bit generic. 


It's probably too happy to ever be an American hit, not that they'll try. 


I give it a 6.


ALBUM REVIEW


Feeder - Renegades


Where have all the Feeder fans gone? "Renegades" is their fifth album, and they managed a mundane number 16 in the British album charts this week. This is a long way from they heyday of chart hits, most of which took place in the early 2000s.


It might be because Feeder have made no concessions to modernity in their music. Listening through this album was a chore, because there's a sameness to nearly every song. It's all crunch and drang, with very little let up. The record could have easily been made ten years ago, or - in thrall to their influences - twenty years ago. 


There's a fair amount of energy on the album, nevertheless. The first two tracks, while not exactly sounding fresh, crash along with nearly out-of-control guitar riffs backed by metal-lite groundings. "White Lines" is grinding and chunky, and first single "Call Out" is rapidly paced and aspires to anthemic status. 


Part of the problem here is the vocals. There's a one-dimensionality to them throughout the record that's bothersome. Lead singer Grant Nicholas is not a great singer, but he's adequate most of the time. Here, though, the voice is flattened and generally non-emotional. When any feeling comes into the singing, it's fairly generic. Witness the tune "This Town", where the vocals are done rapidly and (one suspects) in a phoned-in manner. "Home" suffers from the same problem.


The only other song on the album that begins to approach effervescence is "City In a Rut", which is a good approximation of songs like "Just the Way I'm Feeling" or "Buck Rogers". 


As a matter of fact, when one goes back and listens to the older material by the group, the lack of effort on the new album becomes clear. Remember "Tumble and Fall"? That song worked. "Turn" had a nice blending of sounds. 


There's very little on the album that matches these songs. It's like the band decided to throw in some semi-tunes, turn it up to eleven, and then wrapped it. 


The worst offender? The longest song on the album is "Down To the River", which starts with a promising acoustic guitar, and then is promptly gutted by some badly sung "Oo-whee-oooh"s and crunch less than a minute in. It's like Feeder doing a parody of Feeder. 


The band has unfortunately passed tolerable levels of listenability with this record and have moved into nearly unlistenable. It's a shame, too, because the potential here for a great pop-rock group has been squandered. 


One explanation of the current sound of the group is that they've gone more generic in order to capture an American audience. They're nearly miserable enough, but even undiscerning "modern rock" American listeners who worship Three Days Grace will pick up on a note of lack of effort here, I think. 


I'm giving Feeder a 4 for this album on the England Swings scale of 1-10. You might want to cherry-pick "White Lines" and "Call Out", but the rest is a wasteland. 



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