First of all, thanks to everyone who has come here to read the blog. Now it's time to move up and out - we have a new website at It's a vast improvement on this one, and there are loads of other fe
Ladies and gentlemen, Americans, Britons, Music Lovers, and all others : 

You are cordially invited to the opening of the new website at 

The England Swings Show is proud to announce that we now have a fully-featured and pretty darn awesome website, with all sorts of accoutrements, information, downloads, and much more. Here are some of the features, and this is just the beginning!

 - A song request link, where you can ask for a particular tune to be played on the England Swings show. 

- A blog site, with show playlists, analysis and review of the British charts, album reviews, and announcements. 

- A concert calendar. Since the England Swings show is based in the Washington, DC area, we have compiled and posted information about any and all British groups that are coming to our town. You can hover and/or click the links for each entry to go to the show's venue, and reserve your tickets!

- A updated-weekly download of the UK Music News segment of our show - you can listen to it and download it from the same place!

- AND! For all the unsigned groups and performers from the UK, a place where you can upload your songs. We are hoping to become the premiere venue in the USA for UK performers just getting their start. We will play your music on our show, and you can make it available on the site to all our visitors. And yes, it's all free! Just follow the "upload music" link on the site. 

In the future, we'll continue to add more features. Do you have some things you'd like to see? Let us know, and write to us (or post in the blog) to give us some feedback on our new venture. We can't wait to hear from you!

We're very excited about it all, and we want to let you know that it wouldn't have been possible without our good friend (okay, he's my cousin, too!) Dana, webmaster extraordanaire. You can contact him for all your web design needs at Let him know what a great job he did!

Of course, there's also a new England Swings Show today! As always, we will play the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom. We've got new songs by the Arctic Monkeys, the Pigeon Detectives, Joy Formidable, and more. We'll also play some older tunes by Queen, the Clash, the Searchers, and more! 

We'll also have our usual features, including The Fab Four Freakout (featuring a rare interview with Paul McCartney), the UK Music News (the King . . . and Queen?), and a countdown of the Top 5 songs in the UK right now. 

You can hear us :

In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channel 37

In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27

Anywhere else in the known universe :

As always, the ruckus starts at 6:00 p.m. ET. Hope you can join us for a couple of hours of amazing tunes!

Come visit our website at, and tune into the show : we promise to satisfy your urges for great British music!

Jim Burke

The England Swings show

Only a few people here and there have heard of Elbow in the United States. They got their start in 2001 with the excellent album Asleep In the Back, and have quietly put out three other albums during the noughties. It was only with The Seldom Seen Kid that they managed to start getting some dividends on their dues. That album won the prestigious UK Mercury Prize, which gained them widespread acceptance. It didn't hurt that the album contained the anthemic "One Day Like This", which ended up soundtracking several sports events, advertisements, and other mainstream items in Britain.

Needless to say, the new album was highly anticipated. There was discussion that Elbow might have let it all go to their heads, and that the record would be a repeat of "One Day" ad infinitum. 

I'm happy to report that that didn't happen. We should have known that the band had too much class for that. 

That's not to say that there aren't several anthem-oriented songs on the album, but in general, we've got a mostly quiet, confident follow-up to their past work. 

The record starts with "The Birds", which goes from a soft and subtle beginning into a strongly written and performed chorus. As always, Guy Garvey (the lead singer) has come up with turns of phrase and odd poetic juxtapositions that never fall into cliche : "The birds are the keepers of our secrets/As they saw us where we lay" . . . The song has an insistent guitar line, underlaid by another, fuzzier guitar, and clicking percussion that holds the tune together. Nice.

But it's nothing compared to one of the album's masterpieces, the beautifully constructed "Lippy Kids". Garvey posits the tune as a "defense of the British teenager", maligned for wearing hoodies and hanging on street corners : "Do they know those days are golden?/Build a rocket, boys!" The song is full of little touches, which is something that Elbow have always excelled. There's a tiny, quavering whistle that turns up every once in a while, and the chorus is replete with gorgeously hummed background vocals. Most of the instrumentation is based on soft piano and strummed guitar, counterpointed with a solidly plucked bassline. This is Elbow at its best. And it would work in a stadium. 

There are several other very good songs here. "Neat Little Rows" rocks a little harder, and Garvey does a Strokes-like filter on his vocals. It all sounds average until the chorus kicks in, with chimes and the words "Lay my bones in cobblestones/Lay my bones in neat little rows". 

"Jesus Is a Rochdale Girl" also appeals. The song has a tentative and quirky feel, with acoustic guitar and an electric piano that at first sounds as if notes are being hit randomly on it. By the second time that piano line comes along, you realize that it's not only purposeful, but perfect. 

"The Night Will Always Win" continues the understatement and beauty. Gliding in on a single organ chord and an accompanying single piano note, the song takes off into anthem territory the moment Garvey begins the vocals. 

Speaking of Garvey's vocals, I'm sure that many have noticed a considerable similarity between him and Peter Gabriel. I'd say that, if you're a fan of anything Gabriel has done, you'd love this album (and most of what Elbow does, really). In a way, Elbow are as progressive as Genesis ever was, and are successors to the best prog from the 1970s, peacefully carrying the torch. 

I wish I could say the album was perfect, but there are a couple of minor flaws. There's an over-reliance on a choir that can best be described as funereal. This surfaces in "The River", which should be pastoral, but ends up dirgelike. We get the same thing again in the one true misstep on the record, the mercifully short "The Birds (Reprise)". Here we've got not only the Walking Dead Choir, but for some reason the song's vocals (I'm not even sure it's Garvey) are affected and jarring. This one should have gone on the floor in the editing process. 

No matter, though, because it's made up with "Dear Friends", which features a lovely interplay between guitar and piano. 

In some ways, this is the most consistent album Elbow has made since "Asleep In the Back". It gives a band that not only has maintained cleverness and integrity, but that continues to add to its sonic palette in unexpected and beautiful ways. I'm also guessing the subtlety of the band has limited its expansion into an American audience; they keep themselves so low-key that even those listeners accustomed to the Decemberists and Arcade Fire haven't picked them up on their radar. I'm hoping that will change : Americans - check out Elbow! You're missing some great stuff!

On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I give Build a Rocket, Boys! an 8.5.

You can also read this review while checking out our AWD

Here's the playlist from last evening's England Swings Show : 

View - Grace (Bread and Circuses)
Everything Everything - Final Form (Man Alive)
Zombies - She's Not There

Marsha Ambrosius - I Hope He Cheats On You (With a Basketball Player) (Late Nights & Early Mornings)

Guillemots - Walk the River
David Guetta ft. Rihanna - Who's That Chick (One More Love)

Def Leppard - Bringing On the Heartache (High 'n' Dry)
Clash - London Calling (London Calling)

The Fab Four Freakout : 

John Lennon/Elton John - I Saw Her Standing There (live)
Beatles - Blackbird/Yesterday (Love)
Beatles - For No One (Revolver)

Elbow - Lippy Kids (Build a Rocket, Boys!)

Birdy - Skinny Love

Gil Scott-Heron & Jamie xx - I'll Take Care Of U (We're New Here)
Breakage - Fighting Fire

Anne Briggs - She Moves Through the Fair
Nick Drake - Northern Sky (Bryter Layter)

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

5). Wiz Khalifa - Black and Yellow (new)
4). Lady Gaga - Born This Way (non-mover)
3). Rihanna - S&M (Come On) (non-mover)
2). Jessie J - Price Tag (non-mover)
1). Adele - Someone Like You (non-mover)


This is the most static I can remember the British charts being since I can't remember when. Four non-movers this week, and only one new entry. It's looking like the American charts!

Except for the new track, I can't add much to what I've already said about this week's Top 5, but I'll try : 

Let's start with Wiz Khalifa. Cameron Thomaz (his real name) doesn't sound like he came out of the rusting town of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Instead, I would have sworn he was from Atlanta. This is mostly because this week's number 5 in the UK, "Black and Yellow", could have been placed next to Nelly's "Country Grammar" in 2000 without missing a beat. Even though the song is imitative of a style that's been done many times over in rap, it's still a bouncin' tune. The song reached number one in America a little over a month ago, but - unlike many songs on the American chart - it hasn't stuck around. 

The key to the tune is a kicking deep bass drum, along with the vocal harmonies. It's all ephemeral, but it does the trick. It's all bragging, as usual ("got a watch so full of rocks I can't tell what the time is"), but there's a friendly feel to the tune that pulls the listener in. On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I give it a 7.5.

Now we come to the non-movers. The first was supposed to be the release of the year, Lady Gaga's "Born This Way". The song sits atop the USA charts for yet another week, bringing the total to four. 

And it's the Lady's worst track. It's busy, it's scattered, and it's vaguely annoying. Where is the clever arrangement that was there in "Poker Face" and "Telephone"? Someone was asleep at the switch. I give the song a 5 on the scale. 

Speaking of being asleep, the non-mover at number 3 is Rihanna's "S&M (Come On)". There's no doubt that this song is one big hook, but I mean . . . come on. I'm thinking Rihanna is probably spending more time on burnishing her public image as a sex queen rather than actually BEING a sex queen. And - I hate to bring this up, but - this was the woman who experienced getting beaten up by Chris Brown, and now she's singing about how much she loves getting beaten up? Why didn't she just stay with him, then? I know that Brown has been made the villain of that particular little piece, but seeing how Rihanna puts herself up to the public, I begin to have my doubts . . . 

Hey, the song ain't bad. It's just the depravity of the situation that rankles. I give the song a 5. 

Jessie J, after "rocking" Saturday Night Live last weekend, remains at number 2 for the four-hundred-thirty-fifth week. The song's fortunes are beginning to rise in the USA - it has risen to number 78 this week. 

The problem is that Americans are not big on optimistic Spice-Girlish songs. They'd much rather be miserable with Eminem and Rihanna, or with Nirvana and derivatives. If they can't suffer in their songs, then forget it. Jessie is trying to whoop it up and her heels are not so high that she can't have a good time. I predict that this song just MAY get into the top 20, but no farther. 

Whereas the British just eat this stuff up, don't they? Jessie won the Brit Award, and her album would have reached number one if it weren't for Adele. 

Me, I wouldn't rather be miserable, but I have to look askance at the sheer blah-ness of the tune. I give it a 5. 

Lotsa 5s this week, I know, so you'll be pleased to hear that I think more highly of Adele, whose "Someone Like You" maintains the number one position for the fourth week in a row. This is a feat not achieved since Lily Allen's "The Fear" back in 2009. 

But what a gorgeous tune. Understated, classy, and worthy of its time at the top. I give it an 8 yet again this week. 

There'll be a review of the new Elbow album a little later this week, so come back and visit us, won't you?
Off we go again, bringing you the best, brightest, newest and coolest music from the United Kingdom! This week, we have an array of auspicious and tantalizing treats for you to hear. They include : 

- New songs by the View, the Guillemots, and MORE new Elbow. 

- Older tunes by the Zombies, Def Leppard, and the Clash.

- The Fab Four Freakout : featuring a rare song collaboration between John Lennon and Elton John

- UK Music News : British artists lock up the American charts!

- Top 5 Countdown : the most popular songs in the UK TODAY.

We can be heard :

In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channel 37
In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27
Anywhere else in the world :

Join us today!
Well, another year, another R.E.M. album. 

Ho hum. 

As usual, the record was preceded by a fair amount of hype. "The best album they've done since 'Out Of Time'!" some said. "R.E.M. returns to form!"

Well, not exactly. The group has slowly slid into irrelevancy during the 2000s, and there's not much here to arrest that descent. 

Look at the band's history : bursting out of Athens. Georgia in the early 1980s, R.E.M. sounded like they were from some alternate universe. The music they did was brilliant, and had very little in common with anything that was being done during that time. They released four brilliant albums ("Murmur", "Reckoning", "Fables of the Reconstruction", and "Life's Rich Pageant"), and then managed to achieve mainstream success by hardening their sound with "Document". They had a huge hit in "Losing My Religion" - again sounding like nothing else prevalent during that time. They peaked in the 1990s with "Out of Time" and "Automatic For the People". 

In the last ten years or so, though, they've released sporadic records that tarnish their legacy. The best of these is the 2001 album "Reveal", which at least maintained some integrity and cleverness. As for "Around the Sun" and "Accelerate", well . . . not so much. 

Now comes the nicely titled "Collapse Into Now", which is in some respects better than the two previous albums, but still not quite there. 

There's a diversity of sound that the group has returned to, and that's a good thing. We've got some crunchy rock numbers here ("Discoverer", "Mine Smell Like Honey") counterbalanced with some acoustic-based, mandolin-y tunes ("Uberlin", "Walk It Back"). We've got a bonafide Michael Stipe verbal-diarrhea freakout, with Patti Smith on vocals, no less ("Blue"). 

But Stipe's lyrics are at best mildly interesting, and at worst mundane. The amazing wordplay that was a landmark of R.E.M. seems sadly gone for the most part. Not only that, but Stipe's voice has roughened a bit over the years, and whereas before he sounded unique and deep, now he occasionally just sounds whiny. 

Some of the tracks are worth a listen, though : 

"Me, Marlon Brando, Marlon Brando and I" has a nice harmonic sound, with double-tracked vocals and silvery acoustic guitars. "Walk It Back" is blowsy and bluesy. "All the Best" is a straightforward rock blast, with Stipe pushing his voice up an octave in the vocal so that he sounds surprised he's singing the song. "Alligator Aviator Autopilot Antimatter" is aggressive, and brings Stipe back to those alphabetical lists he's always seemed to love. 

There are lots of missteps, too, such as the folky "Oh My Heart". Here we have yet another paean to New Orleans after the storm : dude, that was six years ago. Get over it. This song adds nothing to the vast library of songs, poems, books, television shows, and movies that document that time. Also, "Every Day Is Yours To Win", with it's vaguely echoed vocal and mundanity of the words ("I cannot tell a lie/It's not all cherry pie"), is like a parody of the band in its glory days. 

As much as I've always loved and respected this band, I'm thinking it's about time to write them off. I've always had high expectations of R.E.M., and in recent years they've managed to not come anywhere near reaching them. I'll have to see what the B-52s do to satisfy my Athens jones. 

I can't say that it's all bad, but I can't say that it's very good, either. I give "Collapse Into Now" a 5 on the England Swings scale of 1-10. 
First, the playlist from last night's England Swings Show : 

White Lies - Strangers (Ritual)
Manic Street Preachers - Postcards From a Young Man (Postcards From a Young Man)

Yardbirds - Over Under Sideways Down
JLS ft. Tinie Tempah - Eyes Wide Shut

Elbow - Neat Little Rows (Build a Rocket, Boys!)
Yuck - Georgia (Yuck)

Sweet - Ballroom Blitz
Paul Mauriat - Love Is Blue

The Fab Four Freakout : 

Beatles - Child Of Nature (demo)
Beatles - Hey Bulldog (Yellow Submarine)
Beatles - Nowhere Man (Rubber Soul)
Beatles - Love Me Do

Wombats - Addicted To the Cure
Elvis Costello - Senior Service (Armed Forces)

Taio Cruz ft. Kylie Minogue - Higher

Young Marble Giants - Colossal Youth

Streets ft. Clare Maguire - Lock the Locks (Computers and Blues)
Only Ones - Another Girl, Another Planet

Electric Prunes - Get Me To the World On Time

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

5). Adele - Rolling In the Deep (-1)
4). Lady Gaga - Born This Way (re-entry)
3). Rihanna - S&M (Come On) (non-mover)
2). Jessie J - Price Tag (non-mover)
1). Adele - Someone Like You (non-mover)


We'll have to admit it's been a noneventful week in the British Top 5. Besides the re-entry of Lady Gaga's "Born This Way", things have mostly remained as they were last week. This is unusual for the British charts, so let's consider it a lull that comes, perhaps, before a storm of new entries in the near future. 

The problem is, I've discussed the five songs at the top ad infinitum already. So this week, I'll pretend this is a tweet instead of a blog, and succinctly give some key words about each song. I'll also note the American success - if any - of the songs. 

Adele - Rolling In the Deep. Hasn't gone away. Seven weeks in top 5. Strong, retro, chunky. England Swings scale of 1-10 : 7.5.

Adele's track has made remarkable progress in America, climbing to number 13 this week. All this, mind you, almost exclusively on sales, because the song doesn't fit established radio genres in the USA. The top 40 stations aren't playing it. The adult contemporary stations, if they're playing it at all, are keeping it in low rotation. I mean, what do you do with a retro-soul, bluesy track, no matter how catchy or excellent? America does not know. Except they're buying it. 

Lady Gaga - Born This Way. Ms. Germanotta's weakest single. No innovation, just noise. Busy and nearly boring. ES scale : 6.

"Born This Way" debuted at the top of the American charts three weeks ago, and it's still there. You'd think America would have figured out that it's not that great of a tune, but I'm guessing it's "inspirational" message is appealing to someone out there. I don't want to think about who that might be. The British gave the Lady her lowest ranking in ages with this song, as it didn't rise above number 3, and only stuck around two weeks. This re-entry is due to the fact that the video was released this week. 

Rihanna - S&M (Come On). Catchy. Cynical. Marketing ploy. Deliberately "edgy" to promote Ri-Ri herself. ES scale : 5.5.

This tale of kink has managed to gain a couple of spaces in the USA charts this week, rising from 7 to 5. Here's hoping it goes no further. That woman needs no more encouragement. 

Jessie J ft. B.o.B - Price Tag. Spice Girls. Nice arrangement, dumb words. Jessie's looking for love in all the wrong places (come to think of it, so's Rihanna). ES scale : 6.

Not yet anywhere near permeating America's consciousness, Jessie's song went from 99 to 93 this week. She performs this Saturday on SNL (sadly, one of the few venues on American television to showcase newer artists). Perhaps this will lead to success. 

Adele - Someone Like You. Top track from "21". Poignant, beautifully done. ES scale : 8.5. 

And our Miss Adkins entered the USA chart with this song this week at 65. Not bad, but again, I'm guessing America won't know what to do with it. If the terrestrial radio stations aren't playing "Rolling", I can't imagine them picking up on this. Shame, really. 

That's all for now - album review later this week!
Once again, the England Swings show takes to the airwaves (well, kinda) to bring you the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom. What have we got for you this week . . . ?

Well, good stuff. There's new tracks by White Lies, Elbow, the Wombats, and Taio Cruz, as well as older songs from the Sweet, Elvis Costello, and the Only Ones. That's just part of the music we're playing, and we have all of our regular features : 

The Fab Four Freakout : featuring an early version of a famous Lennon song, done by the Beatles

UK Music News : The latest stories from the world of UK music

Top 5 Countdown : the best selling songs in the UK right now

We begin at 6:00 p.m. ET this evening, and we can be found : 

In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channel 37
In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27
Anywhere else in the world :

Listened before? Then you know all about it! Never heard the show? Come on and tune in, it'll be a treat!
So here's the deal with Jessie J : she broke right out of the box at the beginning of the year with the hit "Do It Like a Dude", and followed that up a month later with "Price Tag". She'd actually been around behind the scenes before that, writing songs for Rihanna and Miley Cyrus (She co-wrote "Party In the USA"). 

So with all the popularity (and not a small amount of notoriety), she pushed her album release date forward, and it came out yesterday in the UK. 

And what a vast disappointment it is. 

I had my suspicions that things might not go well when I first heard "Price Tag". "Dude" was hilarious, but "Tag" reminded me of something the Spice Girls might have rejected in 1996. The tune itself was clever, but the words (and the arrangement, really) seemed to fall into the "optimistic" school of British pop, as exemplified by all the stars and rainbows thrown out in the early 2000s by the Steps, S Club 7, and many others. Top that with the basic cynicism of the track : Jessie wants us to forget the price tag? Well, it's about 14 pounds British. Not forgetting. 

The album confirms my worst fears. There are so many sappy and optimistic songs on this record, that the listener can only come to one conclusion : Jessie has absolutely nothing to say. 

She manages not to say it for a near-unbroken set of 13 songs, with only her first single "Dude" standing out. I was hoping for clever and cocky, I got dumb and cocky. There are few worse combinations. 

It's almost pointless to discuss the individual tracks here, but I'll try. The best of the lot - and that's not necessarily a compliment - are frontloaded, with "Nobody's Perfect" and "Abracadabra" having arrangements that are, while not unique or innovative in any way, at least tolerable. In these songs, and in "Price Tag", Jessie keeps the squeaking, squalling vocals that she does under control. 

It all starts to go downhill with "Big White Room", the first of several sappy ballads on the record. Here, she swoops and swirls with that voice, proving herself a distraction to her own music. The track is actually a live performance, dropped unceremoniously amidst studio tracks, which shows the chutzpah we're dealing with here. She manages to stroke her own ego at the end by intoning "History in front of your eyes, guys!" If it wasn't for the complete self-centeredness of the rest of the album, I'd think she was kidding. 

The rest of the album varies between R&B semi-ballads ("Casualty of Love", "LOVE"), sloppy "happy" and "inspirational" tunes ("Rainbow", "Who You Are"), and a couple of minor surprises. 

The first of these is "Momma Knows Best", where Jessie struts (and sounds a bit constipated) over a Big Band arrangement. It's a break from the rest of the schlock, but it's also a bad Christina Aguilera imitation.

There's "Who's Laughing Now", addressed to all the haters. It steals a riff from an old early 2000s British R&B song, and once again has a fairly nice arrangement spoiled by stupid lyrics. 

Then there's "Do It Like a Dude", which is the only song on the whole album that seems to be aimed at listeners over the age of, say, 12. Jessie's at her best when she's obscene and funny : 
"Dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty dirty sucker/You think I can't get her like you, you @#$!" It's not exactly smart, but at least it shows a sense of humor. 

So here's the bottom line : Jessie can arrange great tunes, although many of her arrangements are derivative. Lyrically, though, she's an empty vessel - there's simply nothing there. Of course, she IS young, and perhaps she'll get better. Until she starts doing honest material, though, we've got a second-rate British Pink here, and that's too bad. 

I give "Who You Are" a measly 4 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.