Here's what we played on the England Swings show last night :
Bullet For My Valentine - Your Betrayal (Fever)
Riva Starr - I Was Drunk
Clash - Should I Stay Or Should I Go (Combat Rock)
Kele - Everything You Wanted (The Boxer)
La Roux - Bulletproof (Acoustic)
Fanfarlo - Fire Escape (Reservoir)
Petula Clark - I Couldn't Live Without Your Love
Foundations - Any Old Time You're Lonely and Sad
Jamie Cullum - Don't Stop the Music (The Pursuit)
Jamie Lidell - I Wanna Be Your Telephone (Compass)
The Fab Four Freakout :
Sir Mix-A-Lot Vs. Wings : Baby's Got Silly Love Songs
Beatles - Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except Me and My Monkey (The Beatles)
Beatles - When I Get Home (A Hard Day's Night)
M.I.A. - Lovalot (Maya)
Al Stewart - Song On the Radio (Time Passages)
Groove Armada - History (Black Light)
Monkees - When Love Comes Knocking At Your Door (More of the Monkees)
...and this week's top 5 songs in England :
5). Eliza Doolittle - Pack Up (new)
4). Katy Perry - California Gurls (non-mover)
3). B.o.B. - Airplanes (-2)
2). Eminem - Love the Way You Lie (+1)
1). Yolanda Be Cool & DCup - We No Speak Americano (+1)
TOP 5 ANALYSIS & REVIEW
This week the British charts continue to reflect the American charts, with three songs still crossing over to appear to both country's Top Five. There's one new entry, and a lower song rises to the pole position.
The Eliza Doolittle ditty "Pack Up" manages to climb from the lower reaches of the top ten to end up at number 5 this week. If you're hearing her for the first time, go and check out "Skinny Genes" from earlier this year - although it didn't become as big of a hit as this song, it's still very good.
"Pack Up" does manage to maintain the Doolittle style; it sounds old-fashioned and bouncy, with horns, sweetened strings, and a lovely "tweet-tweet" from Eliza herself about two-thirds of the way through. Eliza is a major new retro talent; I'm not sure she'll become as big as, say, Amy Winehouse, but she's got the chops. I'm giving "Pack Up" an 8 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
Katy Perry has performed the anthem of the summer of 2010 with "California Gurls"; the song has struck a chord (excuse the pun) with audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Look at the statistics :
- Six weeks at the top of the chart in the USA
- Six weeks in the top 5 in the UK, two of those at number one
Having a hit at the top of the American charts for that length of time is not unusual, but anything over a couple of weeks in the top 5 of the UK is more of an achievement.
I don't feel a need to describe the song; if you haven't managed to hear it somewhere yet, then you must listen to news radio all the time (and I'm pretty sure it's turned up there, too . . . ). It's rather hard to say anything negative about it by now; I could just say I'm a little tired of the song. I give it a 7.
After one week at the top of the chart in the UK - and no concurrent number one in America - B.o.B. drops two spaces to number three this week.
Good. Whereas I don't actively dislike the song, it's rather inconsequential and borders on silly.
All this while being dead serious and a bit depressing. Hayley Williams of Paramore is the "guest", but - as I've said before - it's only her part that's remotely memorable. B.o.B. is not the best modern rapper. He's not whiny like many British rappers, but he's also fairly lightweight. I give this song a 5.5.
Speaking of active dislike, Eminem rises a place to number 2 with the middle-aged spew of "Love the Way You Lie". The story of a couple (literally) at each other's throats, the song has just become less attractive - as a matter of fact, downright ugly - in recent weeks. I'm sad to report that the tune has risen to number one in America this week. I guess there are a ton of dysfunctional people out there who can relate. Me? I give it a 3 this week.
Yolanda Be Cool and DCup, a duo and their producer from Australia, have managed to make it all the way to the top with "We No Speak Americano", and that's good news! This is what I love about following the British charts; we've got the American dross, sure, but only the British (in the English-speaking world, anyway) would send a song like this to the top. Three cheers!
I think I've described the song before, but if you're only reading this for the first time : the group has taken an old hit from Italy, chopped it and rolled it into a retro-modern melange in just the right way. Danceable, loose, and fun, the song deserves to be a hit. I give it an 8.
Bombay Bicycle Club - Flaws
With their debut album "I Had the Blues But I Shook Them Loose", and their previous EPs, BBC (!) established themselves as, well, a quirky indie group. Unfortunately, the release of the album coincided with the drop in credibility of quirky indie groups, mainly because there were so many of them. BBC had a unique sound, but the songwriting was not quite good enough to propel them into the major leagues.
With the new album "Flaws", the group has solved that problem by going in a completely different direction. The path they've chosen is one that is fairly well-trod nowadays, but guess what? They do it REALLY well.
The first album must have given them the confidence to bring out the REAL Bombay Bicycle Club, which is not quirky and indie, no.
They're quirky and folky instead.
Modern folk of the last couple of years stems from several sources : there's the "freak-folk" of Devendra Banhart and kin, and there's the heart-on-sleeve beautiful meanderings of Bon Iver. In the UK, we've had the rise of Mumford and Sons, Laura Marling, and several others.
BBC's "Flaws" takes the best elements of all this, and melds it together into an album of soft, subtle tunes, every one of which features an acoustic guitar and the vocal stylings of Jack Steadman.
Steadman has an odd, but effective voice. He sounds tremulous and unsure, providing a contrast to the surety of the instrumentation. Said instrumentation, as a matter of fact, is ALL acoustic, with occasional banjo and barely touched drumming.
The album features Bombay Bicycle Club covering itself - songs such as "Dust In the Ground" and "Jewel" have appeared previously in different forms. There are also a couple of covers of other artists.
The album is listenable as a whole, and is remarkably consistent in its atmosphere, Describing one song is much like describing them all, but there are some that have stood out to me :
"Ivy and Gold" is the single released from the record, and features a marvelous guitar riff that sounds like it came straight from a few hundred years ago. Modern folk is influenced in some respects by ancient folk, and I can hear Fairport Convention and Steeleye Span in here.
"Leaving Blues" is short and sweet, featuring only voice and guitar. It sets a melancholic tone that ranks up with the best of similar songs about separation and isolation.
Opening track "Rinse Me Down" has a simple vocal line and beautiful guitar work.
I have to admit that I liked the tune of "Fairytale Lullaby" but that I thought the lyrics were a bit twee and hipple-ish. That was before I found out that the song was the cover of a hippie song from the proper time period by John Martyn. Okay. Now I like it unreservedly.
The last song on the album is a cover of Joanna Newsom's "Swansea", and BBC has turned it into a Fleet Foxes tribute, in a way. That's not to denigrate it; it sounds beautiful.
Hopefully, BBC have now found their place in modern music and will treat us to future records that maintain the quality of this one. I give "Flaws" an 8.5 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
Hot enough for you?
The England Swings show originates near Washington, DC, where the temperature yesterday reached record levels, peaking at over a hundred degrees Fahrenheit.
And today's not much better.
So, if you're in a similar situation (and even if you're not) you should tune into the England Swings show today for a refreshing blast of cool music. As a matter of fact, we play the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom! Today we have new tracks by Bullet For My Valentine, Riva Starr, Kele, and M.i.A. We have older songs by Jamie Cullum (that one's for Sarah), Petula Clark, the Foundations, and more. Much more!
Our usual features :
Fab Four Freakout : with Beatles music. Imagine a crossover between Sir Mix-A-Lot and Paul McCartney. Then listen in to hear it.
UK Music News : Mercury Prize nominations!
Top 5 Countdown : the biggest songs in the UK right now, with a new number one!
You can hear us at 6:00 p.m. ET :
In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channels 37 and 837 In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27
Anywhere else in the world : http://www.fcac.org/webr
Tune in, cool off, be enlightened!
I'm a day late getting this written this week; but (to coin a cliche) better late than never!
Here's the playlist for Sunday's show :
Dinosaur Pile-Up - Birds and Planes
Frank Turner - Try This At Home (Poetry Of the Deed)
M.I.A. - It Takes a Muscle (/\/\ /\ Y /\)
Brian Eno & David Byrne - Mea Culpa (My Life In the Bush Of Ghosts)
Orphan Boy - Popsong
Scouting For Girls - Famous (Everybody Wants To Be On TV)
T Rex - Jeepster (Electric Warrior)
Dave Clark Five - Can't You See That She's Mine
The Fab Four Freakout :
Beatles Vs. James Brown - James Brown Can Work It Out
Beatles - Dig a Pony (Let It Be)
Beatles - All Together Now (Yellow Submarine)
Marina & the Diamonds - Oh No! (The Family Jewels)
XX - Islands (XX)
Michael Holliday - Hot Diggety
Rolling Stones - (I Can't Get No) Satisfaction
Kevin Ayers - See You Later/Didn't Feel Lonely (The Confessions Of Dr. Dream)
Hoosiers - Choices
Tired Pony - Dead American Writers (The Place We Ran From)
Taio Cruz - Dynamite
...and this week's top 5 songs in the UK :
5). Professor Green ft. Lily Allen - Just Be Good To Green (new)
4). Katy Perry - California Gurls (-2)
3). Eminem ft. Rihanna - Love the Way You Lie (+1)
2). Yolanda Be Cool & DCup - We Don't Speak Americano (+3)
1). B.o.B. ft. Hayley Williams - Airplanes (+2)
TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW
This week is a bit unusual in the top 5, because the list consists mostly of risers. The charts move quickly in the UK (as compared to their glacial American counterparts), and whereas it's not uncommon for one song or so to rise from within the top 5, this week we have three out of the five songs in that situation.
We also continue to have a massive crossover with the American top 5. Three songs (the same songs as last week, actually) can be seen in the top 5 charts from both countries. Again, one or two is common.
So let's look at them :
Professor Green manages to score a second top 5 hit this year with "Just Be Good To Green", which is the only new entry this week at number 5.
I have to admit, I'm not seeing the attraction here. Green's music is neither interesting or innovative in any way. Once again, he's taken a popular song from the past and added nothing of any consequence. His rapping style sounds whiny. Even Lily Allen doesn't sound like herself here.
In this case, the song is "Just Be Good To Me", already remade once as "Dub Be Good To Me" in the 1990s. Green has managed just to make the song sound sloppy and shambolic. On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I give it a 3.
Katy Perry is still holding onto the number one position in America with "California Gurls", now in its sixth week. There's no denying that the song is anthemic and hooky, and that Katy - along with Snoop Dogg - has put together a summer monster. On top of all that, the song is just FUN, with all sorts of little Easter eggs in it, including giggles and car horns.
That said, the song is beginning to wear out its welcome. Thank goodness the UK had the sense to keep it at number one for only two weeks. I'll give it a 7 this week.
At number 3, Eminem and Rihanna have the tale of dysfunction called "Love the Way You Lie". I've said it before - Eminem is floating on the edge of irrelevance, and this just may be his last balancing act. Depressing in intent and execution, the song mopes and grumbles along, with Em doing his best ticked-off vocal. Musically, there's not much going on here, with clicky drum patterns, vague keyboard and guitar orchestration, and not much else. I'm giving the song a 5.
Yolanda Be Cool and DCup manage to climb three places to number 2 this week with "We Don't Speak Americano", and I'm happy to see it. The song - for those of you unfamiliar - adapts a 1950s Italian pop song by Renato Carasone, using the now-common cut-up technique, and adding a club beat. Again, here's a song that's fun to listen to, about as far removed from the tunes it's sandwiched between in the top 5. I've got the feeling that the trend of adapting really old songs like this is just getting started. I give the song an 8.
Rising two places, the B.o.B. song "Airplanes' has now managed something in the UK that it hasn't been able to achieve in the USA - it's reached the number one position. It's been stuck in second or third place for weeks now in America.
Hayley Williams of Paramore does the refrain "Can we pretend that airplanes in the night sky/Are like shooting stars/I could really use a wish right now". Do we have a comment on light pollution here? No, instead it turns into a whine about how B.o.B. wishes he wans't rich and famous with all the problems he's been having.
Okay. That's believable.
Bobby Ray is probably the American counterpart of the moaning stars of British grime, like Tinchy Stryder. He's doing a pop adaptation of modern rap, but he doesn't have the flow to make his material that interesting. Therefore, he just comes off as insincere and a bit silly. I think I mentioned before that he just seems like a guest star on his own songs, and that holds true here. You won't remember the rap from the song; you'll just recall the Hayley Williams chorus.
I give B.o.B. a 6.
M.I.A. - /\/\ /\ Y /\
M.I.A. represents the future of music. Incorporating world beats and using the studio as her main instrument, she unlocks the potential of what CAN be done nowadays, and she does it.
If you've heard this album, you'll probably be one of the first to notice that the previous record, "Kala", was just better. On Maya (let's agree not to type out all those forward and backwards slashes each time), we've got considerably less use of music from all over the globe. It's been replaced with nearly industrial beats and lots of noise. Witness the first full track, "Steppin Up", which assails the listener with power drills, motors, and filtered vocals.
"XXXO" is the single, which has not achieved anywhere near the influence of "Paper Planes". It's also the second song on the album, and - even with the aural attack of the first tune - Maya sounds just the least bit . . . bored. Never the best singer, she tends to adopt a laconic semi-rap style on this album, and it's beginning to wear out. The chorus of "XXXO" sounds a bit less laid-back "You want me be somebody that I'm really not" has a bit of energy behind it. I also think that it's indicative of how M.I.A. approaches language and lyrics - if there's a word in the way, even if completes a sentence properly, then just drop it. I've got to have a modicum of respect for that.
"Teqkilla" is chicken-scratchy and a bit overlong. "Lovalot" is better, with a sinuous rhythm, but here she's gone back to her style of barely rapping.
We get to some really good stuff with "It Takes a Muscle". A mutated reggae tune, it has an irresistable chorus which, through some studio trickery, is perfectly effective.
Some other highlights : "Born Free" was the first track released from the album, along with it's controversial video. It's not the easiest song to listen to, beginning with a marching-band-gone-insane drum, and basing the rest of the tune on manic drums and bass. A few listenings make it less impenetrable. "Tell Me Why" has an intriguing chopped-up choral accompaniment.
Other than the above, the rest of the album has some innovation, but M.I.A. seems to be having difficulty striking a balance between making her material accessible, and following her own muse of oddity. I suppose that's the prerogative of someone who is as much of an original thinker as she is, but it's rather hard on the listener.
I still think that M.I.A. is the future of modern music. She continues to push boundaries, but sometimes she's well over the border. I don't want to see her go the way of Dizzee Rascal and fall completely into sold-out pop music, but I would also like to see her reach a wider audience by just toning it back a bit.
I'm giving this album a 7 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.
Here we go once again, bringing the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom to Northern Virginia and the rest of the world! The England Swings Show is today at 6:00 p.m. ET : In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channels 37 and 837 In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27 Anywhere else in the world : http://www.fcac.org/webr Cablecast and webcast! On the show today, we'll be playing some new tunes by Dinosaur Pile-Up, M.I.A., Scouting For Girls and more. We'll also have older songs by T Rex, the Dave Clark Five, and Kevin Ayers. More of those, too! We'll have our regular features : The Fab Four Freakout : The Beatles with . . . James Brown?! UK Music News : Take That! Together Again! Top 5 Countdown : the biggest songs in the UK right now, with a new number one! Tune in and get your dose of the British musical empire!
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.
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.
After a brief hiatus for Independence Day, the England Swings Show is back today with the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom! You can hear it all at 6:00 p.m. ET : In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channels 37 and 837 In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27 Anywhere else in the world : http://www.fcac.org/webr Today, we've got new music from Feeder, Mark Ronson, the Coral, and more. We've got older tunes from the Tremeloes, Winifred Atwell, Elvis Costello, and more. We've got our usual features : The Fab Four Freakout : The Beatles do Leadbelly! UK Music News : A report from the T in the Park festival. Top 5 Countdown : the biggest selling songs in the UK today, with a new number one! When the World Cup is over, tune in and give us a listen - you'll be glad you did!
In honor of Independence Day, the England Swings show deviated from its usual format yesterday and played sets of . . .
American music. That's right! Music by Americans!
It was a pre-recorded show, as the station was closed for the holiday. Here's what was played :
Razorlight - America
Everly Brothers - I'm On My Way Home Again
Steely Dan - Reeling In the Years
Big Star - September Gurls
Janelle Monae - Wundaland
Gaslight Anthem - American Slang
Bobby Fuller Four - Let Her Dance
Beach Boys - Don't Worry Baby
Association - Along Comes Mary
George Strait - Run
Band - When You Awake
Kings of Leon - Revelry
Vampire Weekend - Horchata
Yeah Yeah Yeahs - Zero
Drake - Find Your Love
Neko Case - People Got a Lotta Nerve
Byrds - My Back Pages
Todd Rundgren - Love Of the Common Man
Low - Laser Beam
R.E.M. - Green Grow the Rushes
Strokes - Last Nite
Rickie Lee Jones - Night Train
Buffalo Springfield - For What It's Worth
Fifth Dimension - Stoned Soul Picnic
Hoagy Carmichael - Old Buttermilk Sky
Jimi Hendrix - Burning Of the Midnight Lamp
Roger Miller - Walking In the Sunshine
Glen Campbell - Wichita Lineman
Although we didn't play them, here's this week's top 5 songs in the UK :
5). K'naan - Waving Flag (-3)
4). Enrique Iglesias ft. Pitbull - I Like It (new)
3). Kylie Minogue - All the Lovers (re-entry)
2). B.o.B. - Airplanes (new)
1). Katy Perry - California Gurls (non-mover)
TOP 5 ANALYSIS and REVIEW
Two new entries in the top 5 this week, as the song at the top stays static, and the Last World Cup Anthem manages to hold on another week.
K'naan's "Waving Flag" drops from 2 to 5 this week, not nearly as steep a dive as the Dizzee Rascal concoction, which dropped out of the top ten altogether. K'naan stayed because it's basically a good song, and it doesn't draw borders. Not England-specific, the song is a true World anthem that anyone from any country can rally around. Featuring tribal drums, a chorus of "oh"s that is adaptable to any language, and the requisite crowd noises. I'm guessing it will become a perennial, and will crop up every four years from now on.
On the England Swings scale of 1-10, "Waving Flag" gets an 8.
Enrique Iglesias is a conundrum. His heyday in the American cultural milieu was ten years ago, with a string of hits that culminated in "Hero", released just before 9/11.
Since then he's gone on to have 5 top 20 hits in England, and his presence in the Latin music world has barely diminished - most of his English speaking fans are probably not aware that he has the number one hit on the Latin charts in the USA right now, in collaboration with Juan Luis Guerra.
The new hit is called "I Like It" and it's a collaboration with Miami rapper Pitbull, who has had some success in the UK himself. It's a Eurotechno fiesta, driven by pumping synths, an occasional falsetto vocal from Sr. Iglesias himself, and a momentary slip into the old R. Kelly hit "Fiesta".
Enrique has good musical instincts, I'll give him that. No matter what the current trend (and Eurotech is indeed the flavor of the moment), he can be relied upon to offer up a reasonable imitation. Yesterday, at our mixed Spanish/English Fourth of July celebration, I played "I Like It" for our visitors, and got many expressions of surprise that it even WAS Enrique. However, they loved the current tune in Spanish, "Cuando Me Enamoro".
The song itself is not bad, but it's also a bit like being hit with a beachball, it leaves no lasting impression. I'll give it a 6 this week.
Released physically this week, Kylie Minogue's (excuse me, she goes by just "Kylie" now) "All the Lovers" jumps back into the top 5. I'm guessing that she was hoping for a number one position, but that didn't happen. The song charted to number 4 week before last on downloads, so watching it return to the charts as the physical comes out says that a lot of Kylie's fanbase isn't buying online. That means they're either very young or very old. I'm thinking it's the latter.
The song, fraught with a deep bassline and a generic synth backing, is just fluffy and inconsequential. I give it a 6.
It's no real surprise that the B.o.B. song with Hayley Whatsername, "Airplanes", has charted high in the UK. While Britain doesn't have a strong desire for American rap, especially since they have now developed their own full-blown performers, the more pop-oriented songs tend to rise above the rabble. You won't find Young Jeezy on the UK, charts, but the rap-lite performers like B.o.B.? Sure.
Of course, the song itself is just downright stupid and vaguely depressing. It's all about the problems with fame, and how Bobby Ray just wants to go and ride the subway with all the proletariats again.
Yeah, right. That's believable.
So along with the insincerity of the lyric, the tune itself is just sort of middling and minimal. Nothing to see here; move along.
It gets a 5 on the scale.
Here's Katy Perry still at number one! Snoop Dogg provides one of his silkier spits on "California Gurls", and the song has that killer chorus, funky bass, and Katy's idiosyncratic main vocal. Oddly enough, the whole thing could have fit in about 1978 with not too many noticing.
I give Katy a 7 this week.
Kele - The Boxer
It took Kylie 20-odd years of hard work to drop her last name, so Kele is up on it all about eight years earlier. Huh.
The best description I can give of "The Boxer" is that it's a melange of the old Bloc Party and the new Bloc Party.
Now here's the rub : all of the indie-people that I know have dismissed the new Bloc Party, while all agreeing that "Silent Alarm" was one of the best records in the 21st century. So they won't be happy with about two-thirds of this album.
For those of us not wallowing in indie times past, though, most of the record ain't bad. Let's talk about the newer sounding stuff first :
"Walk Tall" is a rousing lead off, based on the military cadences that so many movies about basic training have made popular. It also features grinding synth work, indicative of the shock of the new Bloc. "On the Lam" also uses heavy-duty industrial synth, and Kele sings the song in a filtered vocal, occasionally speeding up his voice to make his own girl chorus. The song devotes its last minute or so with an odd buzzy phone ring and call radios.
That leads us to "Tenderoni", the first single released from the album. Guess what? There's more synths! The song has the feel of a release of a Euro-producer like David Guetta. The rhythm is not straightforward, but stutters and groans. The effect, though, is pleasing.
We return to samples of telephone messages ("Please hang up and try again") on "New Rules", with minimal instrumentation - it's mostly just a bass line. "All the Things I Could Never Say" has a chopped-up synth line that carries on for perhaps too long.
Finally, in "Yesterday's Gone", the synths flutter, but don't necessarily wow. Here's the crossover between old and new that might appease the nostalgics, because the song also features a chorus that is very old school Bloc.
Okay, now for the rest of the old :
Guitars surface first on "The Other Side", which is still fairly modern and choppy, but has the meandering buzz of "Silent Alarm". It goes a little beyond that particular sound, though, by bringing in a choppy fringe and vocals even more laid-back than formerly. Halfway through, the percussion takes over, and left me with the nagging impression that I'd heard it before.
I had. Excuse the obscure reference, but it uses the same combination of instruments as Joni Mitchell's "Dreamland" circa 1975. But it uses them well!
"Everything You Wanted" has a good example of the yelping vocals that Kele made famous on Bloc Party's first releases : "Silent Alarm" fans, take notice. Also, note that "Unholy Thoughts" could have fit right in on that album.
"Rise" is another hybrid, sounding very old at first, and then kicking the synths into gear about two-thirds of the way through.
So do I recommend this album to you? It depends. If you're an advocate of the old Bloc Party, there are moments here that you should hear. If you're among the half-dozen or so that appreciates what the group has done recently, you'll probably love it. My suggestion for everyone : listen to the whole thing, and then simply upload it to your music software and eliminate the ones that don't catch your fancy. That's what I'm doing.
But I'll probably keep some of the songs from both sides of the spectrum.
I give "The Boxer" a 7.5 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.