Here's the playlist from Sunday's show : 

An Army Of Lights - An Army Of Lights
Ash - Carnal Love

Rod Stewart - Maggie May (Every Picture Tells a Story)
Pearl & the Puppets - Make Me Smile

Robert Plant - Angel Dance
Alesha Dixon - Drummer Boy

Barron Knights - Pop Go the Workers
Bonzo Dog Band - Rhinocratic Oaths (The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse)

The Fab Four Freakout : 

Beatles - Love Of Loved (Decca demo)
Beatles - The Fool On the Hill (Magical Mystery Tour)
Beatles - Love Me Do

Phil Collins - (Love Is Like a) Heatwave
Fever Ray - Mercy Street

Stealers Wheel - Everyone's Agreed That Everything Is Just Fine

Cribs - Housewife
Jay Sean ft. Nicki Minaj - 2012 (It's Not the End)

Leapy Lee - Little Arrows
Jack Penate - Have I Been a Fool (Matinee)

...and this week's Top 5 songs in England :

5). Katy B - Katy On a Mission (new)
4). Roll Deep - Green Light (-3)
3). Flo Rida - Club Can't Handle Me (non-mover)
2). Eminem - Love the Way You Lie (non-mover)
1). Taio Cruz - Dynamite (new)


Two new entries come into the top 5 this week, as the former number one tumbles three places. There are also two non-movers, and one of those has been in the top 5 for a record (this year) eight weeks.

Katy B reaches the number 5 position this week with "Katy On a Mission". Since the song is produced by Benga, I think we might safely say that this is the highest that a single that's dubstep-oriented has climbed. Of course, dubstep has morphed over the last year to become a viable, commercial form of music : it's become less formless and more immediate. This song retains some of the tropes of the genre : we've got the deep, nearly subsonic bass, the choppy drums and synth. Katy does a nice, echoey job on the vocals. On the England Swings scale of 1-10, the song gets an 8. It's a breakthrough!

Roll Deep rolls itself down several spaces to number 4 this week with "Green Light", and there are some similarities between this song and the Katy B track at number 5. The Roll Deep track is not as choppy, but the overall feel of the song is comparable. We've got killer bass synth here doing things that would be impossible for a human to replicate. There's a hook, and it's a good one. All in all, though, it seems a bit . . . punier, somehow. I give it a 7.

Flo Rida maintains his spot at number 3 with "Club Can't Handle Me". The tune here is adequate, but it's the vocals that make the song here; Flo himself taking the lead competently, and great backup vocals. David Guetta's production is complex and affecting. I'm still going with an 8 on this.

Eminem. Still at number 2. Still ugly. I just can't see the attraction here, but apparently millions of others do. I suppose I could be wrong about the lack of originality and the plain venality of the song.

But I don't think so. I mean, you can't exactly play it at parties, can you? Or can you? The storyline is depressing, the tune itself is mediocre and mundane . . . no. No turnaround on this one. I give it a 2. 

It's no surprise that Taio Cruz goes straight in at the top with "Dynamite"; if it weren't for that Eminem abomination it would be number one in America, too. 

Taio, along with Jay Sean, represent the new wave of British pop, and this time it's crossing over to the USA. One piece of evidence for that is the fact that the song was released long ago in America, but has just come out in the UK. 

The best way to describe this kind of music is as pop with a blend of American style R&B and techno. I don't think the genre has been named yet, but I'm pretty sure we'll be seeing a lot more of it. It's British, yes, but in some ways it's disguised as American. I'll propose the name EurAnglicanicana.

Okay, maybe not. 

The song is muscular, clean, and has a monstrous groove. I give it an 8. 


Hoosiers - The Illusion Of Safety

You remember the Hoosiers from a couple of years ago? They were kind of in the mold of the Kooks or the Twang, but sillier. "Worried About Ray", "Goodbye Mr. A", both a bit frantic, but a fair amount of fun. 

For their sophomore album, the Hoosiers have changed just enough to gain some credibility, but not enough to alienate the legion of folks who liked their initial sound. They're still silly here at times, but not nearly as much as they used to be. They've . . . 


Witness the single from the record, "Choices". It's more sophisticated musically than any of their former songs, and lead vocalist Irwin Sparkes has gotten his yelp under control. It's still got a pop hook, but even after several listenings, it doesn't become annoying. There's an assurance here that the band didn't have before. 

"Choices" is followed on the album by a couple of other good pop songs. "Bumpy Ride" actually could be a Sugababes song, but whereas they would make it sound artificial, the Hoosiers make it organic and confident. "Who Said Anything (About Falling in Love" is a song that might do Take That proud, but because Irwin Sparkes has a unique vocal style, the middle-of-the-road tropes have some freshness. 

A little later on, the old jokey feel comes back. "Lovers In My Head" and "Live By the Ocean" are closer to the "old" Hoosiers, especially the former. "Glorious" takes on the goonier aspects of Queen and does them faithfully. 

Still, the album tends to keep one's interest until two-thirds of the way through, when we're confronted by "Made To Measure" and "Giddy Up". The first of these songs is about as generic as can be, and the horseclop rhythm of the other is banal and verges on obnoxious. 

The Hoosiers save a surprise for nearly last. "Sarajevo" is the longest track on the record, and hardly a second is wasted. Sparkes does an effective vocal, the song is serious and meaningful, and constructed beautifully. There's a variety here that, while not completely lacking in the rest of the record, becomes effective. 

It's a shame they had to follow it with "Little Brutes", which is not a jokey song, but just comes off as ugly and headache-inducing. Not a wise choice on their part, if you'll pardon the pun.

All in all, the Hoosiers show us here that they've got the chutzpah to become a major band. There are missteps, sure, but for the most part, the band is evolving for the better. Let's hope they keep it up. 

"The Illusion of Safety" gets a 7 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.

The best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom can be found this week - and every week - on the England Swings show 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 :

Today, we'll be featuring new music by Ash, Robert Plant, Alesha Dixon, and the Cribs, and older tunes from Rod Stewart, the Bonzo Dog Band, and even  . . . Leapy Lee!

Our usual features : 

The Fab Four Freakout : Beatles music, today featuring a rare demo!
UK Music News : important stories from the world of UK music
Top 5 Countdown : the best-selling songs in the UK TODAY featuring a new number one!

Come and join us and get your fill of great music!
Here's the playlist from Sunday's show : 

Iron Maiden - El Dorado (The Final Frontier)
Stromae - Alors On Danse (Cheese)

Nick Lowe - I Love the Sound Of Breaking Glass (The Jesus Of Cool)
Bryan Ferry - You Can Dance

Robyn - Hang With Me

Shadow Kabinet - Save Me (Hark)

Tee Set - Ma Belle Amie
Robert Palmer - Addicted To Love

The Fab Four Freakout : 

Beatles - Sheik Of Araby (Decca Demo)
Beatles - Rock and Roll Music (Beatles For Sale)
Beatles - I'll Get You
Beatles - Michelle (Rubber Soul)

Manic Street Preachers - I'm Leaving You For Solitude
Tinie Tempah - Written In the Stars
Sandie Shaw - Long Live Love
Laura Marling - The Needle and the Damage Done

Hurts - Wonderful Life
B. Bumble & the Stingers - Nut Rocker

...and this week's Top 5 : 

5). Ne-Yo - Beautiful Monster (non-mover)
4). Yolanda Be Cool & DCup - We No Speak Americano (non-mover)
3). Flo Rida ft. David Guetta - Club Can't Handle Me (-2)
2). Eminem ft. Rihanna - Love the Way You Lie (non-mover)
1). Roll Deep - Green Light (new)


This week's top 5 is basically last week's, with three non-movers. There's only one new addition, and that's at the top. There are two songs that have been in the top 5 now for seven weeks, which is unusual for Britain - it's much more typical to have long-lasting songs in the American charts. 

Ne-Yo holds steady at number 5 with "Beautiful Monster", and I have to admit that after three weeks, I'm still not completely enamored of the track. It's pleasant enough, but it's also fairly forgettable. The best thing about it is the bubbling synths, which are the aural equivalent of a jacuzzi. Other than that, it's standard fare. 

The song has, for some reason, dropped completely off the American charts this week; I can't find it anywhere in the Hot 100. I'm not sure why this occurred - it was in the 50s last week. Has it somehow become chart-ineligible in the USA?

I give the song a 6 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.

One of the songs vying for longevity this week is the anthem "We No Speak Americano" by Yolanda Be Cool and DCup. I had initially thought that the song was too odd to become a huge hit, but I underestimated the British public on this one. The mixture of old-school horns, fuzzy vocals, and modern studio technology has held on to hit status for ages. 

I have to admit to being a bit tired of it, but I still give props to its staying power. I give it a 7.

Flo Rida seems to be catching the current genre of pop-techno-R&B to perfection with the number 3 song this week, "Club Can't Handle Me". Whereas his first hit "Right Round" sounded sketchy, this is full-formed. Chalk that up to collaborator David Guetta, who Euro-fied the tune so that it fits right in with today's pop, rather than the rap holdover it might have been. The tune is doing well in the USA as well, and seems to be heading for a top ten berth within a few weeks. 

It only spent a week at the top of the chart in the UK, but it was well-deserved. I give the song an 8.

I've pontificated for weeks now on the ugliness of the current Eminem/Rihanna abomination, but I guess the buying public isn't listening. The song remains at number 2 on the British charts, present in the top 5 for seven weeks, and has topped the American charts for five weeks. 

Stop buying and listening to this horrid track, would you? There are so many things wrong with it that I can't list them all. One I'll mention again - there's no SONG in this song. It's so minimal, and such a vehicle for Eminem's middle-aged musings on domestic violence, that it can hardly be said to be there at all. 

I give it a 2. 

Hey, Roll Deep is back, along with Wiley and several other grime-encrusted cohorts. "Green Light" goes right in at the top of the British charts, even though it's nowhere near as good as former hit "Good Times". This track is more straightforward, with no idiosyncrasies. We've got a straight synth riff, with a deep bass sound. We've got the female singer mouthing cliches like "Put your hands up" and "take it to the floor". We've got several fellows adding in that whiny grime ouevre, It's a casebook modern mainstream grime adaptation! Roll Deep were among the originals; it's a bit ironic that they spend their energy following their solo artists such as Tinchy Stryder. 

I'll give this one a 6. 


Iron Maiden - The Final Frontier

Like AC/DC, the Maiden just keeps going on and on. It's a enigma that, instead of happy pop groups carrying on careers for thousands of years, some of the groups with the longest track records are metal bands. Aren't they supposed to be all dark and monstrous? How can they get along with each other for 35 years?!

Along with the Australian diehards, Iron Maiden is probably the premier metal band on the planet nowadays. Although they tend to release things sparsely, their aging fanbase is still out there, and is still ecstatic when new material comes along. The album was driven by that base last week to the top of the British charts, which is a remarkable accomplishment; it's as if a current number one album was made by, say, Gilbert O'Sullivan. 

Maybe he's working on that album right now.

So what's this like? Well, I think I can safely say that if you're an Iron Maiden fan in the past, you'll love it. If you weren't, and never will be, then don't bother. 

For those who are fans, this album represents a bit of a stretch from past records. There's the usual bombast and crunch here, for sure, and some songs seem tailored to placate those who were wearing black leather in 1978. First single "El Dorado" clunks along, with muttering guitars and queasy vocals, disguising the fact that it's a heavy-handed swipe at modern financial culture. "Mother Of Mercy" is a crush-ballad that is also political - it basically says "war is bad for soldiers and other living things". "The Alchemist" is a bit more lithe and liquid, but is unmistakeably metallic. 

It's the rest of the album which may throw the traditionalists into a tizzy. Some reviews have used the word "prog" to describe what Iron Maiden is doing here, because there's more texture and contrast in the songs. 

No. Not prog.

What it IS, though, is a step forward for a perennial band like this. They've incorporated 1980s dynamics, and have actually managed to inject some variety into the old monster mash. There's still no song that stays away from crashing full-blown into heavy pretension, but sometimes it takes a little longer. 

Take "Isle Of Avalon", for instance. We've got guitars at the beginning that hark back to Boston and Foreigner, and it takes nearly three minutes for the heavy lifting to begin. Even then, it's a softer parade than usual, and then it kicks back into the initial rhythm. Not bad. And a bit of a surprise. 

By the way, there's only one song on the album that's shorter than five minutes, and most are overlong opuses closer to 8 or 10 minutes. Be warned.

"Starblind" is also a bit more nuanced than one might expect, but of course it eventually kicks into that "dun duh-duh-dun" rhythm that seems like it's the default metal setting. 

"Talisman" actually starts with acoustic guitars (!), and some overblown lyrics sung as if constipation had set in. "The Man Who Would Be King" follows, with another softer beginning which drops quickly enough into crunch, and then back to soft again. There's more texture here, for sure, but prog? Unless you consider the dynamics of Nirvana prog, that ain't happening. 

The album-ending piece, at a whopping eleven minutes, is "When the Wild Wind Blows", complete with wind sound effects and apocalyptic words. It starts soft, and then - well, you know. 

As I said above, if you're not an Iron Maiden fan, there's probably not a lot here for you. If someone has ordered you to explore metal, this might not be a bad place to start. The textures and nuances won't be as big a shock to the system as some others. 

Especially if you're an eighties holdover that considers Journey as the epitome of music. 

I give this album a 7 on the England Swings scale of 1-10. 
It's that time again, when the England Swings show brings you the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom! Each week, we pick old and new songs indicative of the British music scene, and 'cast them to you live from Fairfax, Virginia on Fairfax Radio. This week, we've got new songs (Iron Maiden! Manic Street Preachers! Robyn!) and old songs (Nick Lowe! Robert Palmer! Sandie Shaw!), as well as our usual features : The Fab Four Freakout : The Beatles, this week featuring one of their demos for Decca Records in 1962. UK Music News : Festival tragedy in Europe. Top 5 Countdown : the top songs in the UK TODAY, with a new number one! You can hear the England Swings show 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 : Tune in today!
The playlist from last night's show : 

Blood Red Shoes - Heartsink (Fire Like This)
Sky Larkin - Kaleide (Kaleide)

10cc - Rubber Bullets (10cc)
Everything Everything - MY KZ, UR BF

I Am Arrows - Green Grass
Paul Smith - North Atlantic Drift

Genesis - Anyway (The Lamb Lies Down On Broadway)
Swinging Blue Jeans - You're No Good

The Fab Four Freakout : 

Beatles - Hello Little Girl (Decca Demo)
Beatles - Old Brown Shoe
Beatles - Honey Don't (Beatles For Sale)

B.o.B - Kids (from the BBC Radio 1 Live Lounge)
Arcade Fire - We Used To Wait (from the number one album in the UK)
R.E.M. - Good Advices (Fables of the Reconstruction, recorded in London)

Biffy Clyro - God and Satan (Only Revolutions)
Katy B - Katy On a Mission

Lulu & the Luvvers - Shout
Herman's Hermits - Silhouettes

...and this week's top 5 in the UK : 

5). Ne-Yo - Beautiful Monster (-4)
4). Yolanda Be Cool & DCup - We No Speak Americano (-1)
3). Saturdays - Missing You (new)
2). Eminem ft. Rihanna - Love the Way You Lie (+2)
1). Flo Rida ft. David Guetta - Club Can't Handle Me (+1)


The British charts are like a yoyo lately, with songs whipping up and down the top 5 so fast that it's hard to keep track of them. Contrast this with the American charts, in which the top 5 has consisted of seven songs for the past month. In the same time frame, 11 songs have been in the British top 5. 

There are two songs that have managed to stick around for all that time in England, and we'll discuss them in a bit. 

Let's turn our attention first to the song at number 5, which is the sadly deposed number one from last week, Ne-Yo's "Beautiful Monster". What happened here? Is Ne-Yo the new McFly/JLS in the UK? This is a pattern that one usually sees with releases targeted to tweens/early teens; the records that adults buy tend to stick around a little longer. 

Also, it has to be noted that this song is actually dropping on the American charts, and has yet to crack the top 40. It's beginning to get some airplay, so that may change, but right now the tune is languishing in the lower reaches of the top 100. 

It's lack of success could actually be attributed to the fact that the tune doesn't crack, it plods. It's not a BAD song, by any means, but it doesn't have the energy and flash of many of this year's releases. It treads the same ground that's been done in myriad forms recently, with a burbling synth and harmonized vocals. It doesn't stand out. 

On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I give it a 6. 

Now, to address those songs that are hanging around : 

Yolanda Be Cool's "We No Speak Americano" has been in the top 5 for six weeks now. That's because it's a lot of fun, and has a unique sound that's refreshing. The mixing of ancient 1950s pop songs and modern techno may be just getting started; there will be more to come. This one, while not the first, is the one that brought the whole idea to the masses. It reached number one in the UK, and in twelve other countries (of course, there's no sign of it in America, except perhaps in the dance clubs). I think we can safely say that it's the European anthem of the summer of 2010. 

Yes, I'm getting tired of it, but I will probably resurrect it years from now at parties. I give it a 7.5.

The only new entry this week comes from the girl-group quintet the Saturdays, with "Missing You". It could be argued that the heyday of this kind of musical production in the UK has passed. Atomic Kitten, the Sugababes, Girls Aloud - all gone. The Saturdays are trying to carry on the tradition, but the oomph is missing. 

"Missing You" was tipped to be the chart-topper as late as Friday last week, but apparently didn't sell as well on, um, Saturday as the competition. 

The song is not bad; it's a little mournful and anthemic, and tells a good story. It's got the usual mega-synths, and the whole girl-group echoed vocals thing going on. I give it a 7.

The other song that won't go away is that execrable Eminem and Rihanna thing. Number one in America for four weeks, in the British top 5 for six weeks, and the less I say about it at this point the better. If you'd like a deeper analysis of this affront, check the blogs from past weeks. Today, I'll limit myself to a word :


I give it a 3.

Flo Rida, along with David Guetta, has a rare riser on the British charts, with "Club Can't Handle Me" coming in at the top of the chart. Good! It's got a great hook, Guetta does his usual impeccable production, and Flo is in good voice. Again, here's a song that's taking longer to insinuate itself into the American consciousness; it's at number 24 on the Billboard charts. Will it make it farther? Probably, but it might take some weeks. 

I give this one a 7.5.


Tom Jones - Praise and Blame

Tom Jones : great musician, or musical interpreter, or washed-up performer?

Praise and Blame : an honest, sincere return to roots, or a cynical ploy to make the singer relevant?

Let's face it, it's been done before. Johnny Cash. Neil Diamond. It's a 21st century cliche; take a singer from the Dark Ages of the last 50 years, and put them in the studio with minimal instrumentation and a set of songs that harken back to the days of simpler tunes and original compositions. 

On the face of it, this is exactly what Mr. Jones has done. We have a mash of gospel, blues, and early rock 'n' roll tunes here, "interpreted" by Tom in his own style. 

It starts off rather well, with "What Good Am I?", a Dylan song. There's a single beaten drum, acoustic guitar, and a wavery electric guitar in the last part of the tune. Tom sings unadorned, and sounds his age here. 

The first single from the album was "Did Trouble Me", a tune by folk singer Susan Werner. Again, we've got a slow and effective arrangement, with Tom sounding ancient and perhaps in pain. There's a small amount of bombast that still comes through in the voice, but the song sounds sincere and honest. The banjo accompaniment helps. 

"Nobody's Fault But Mine" also comes off pretty well, with a slow blues swing and words that are nearly croaked rather than sung. "If I Give My Soul" is also pretty good, again with a slow and acoustic based feel. 

It's when Tom does the more raucous numbers that troubles begin. "Lord Help" has a rock guitar line that gets monotonous quickly. There's a Elvis-like interpretation of "Strange Things", with thrumming guitars and a gospel choir. The problem here is that Tom sounds weaker, while he's going for the same "What's New Pussycat" kind of vocal that he's always done. He oversings the John Lee Hooker song "Burning Hell". "Don't Knock" is brassy and blah. 

So what exactly is Tom doing with this album? Critical acclaim has accrued because many feel it's Tom's "return to roots". I have to ask, though - what roots? I always thought Tom came full-blown out of Cardiff with big-swing numbers like "It's Not Unusual" - when did he ever sing gospel and blues? And how can you return to roots you never had? 

There are some sincere and affecting moments on the album, but they're few and far between, really. Most of it is Typical Tom, belting out Big Numbers. This is the same person who made "Sex Bomb" and sang the Arctic Monkeys, no doubt. The man has been searching for relevance for over ten years now; much of what is on this record is simply the latest in a successful marketing coup. 

That's not all, though. If Tom can manage to do an honest rendition of "Did Trouble Me" and "If I Give My Soul" here - and he does - one realizes that the truth lies somewhere in between an honest record and a ploy. 

At least he's not doing "I Bet You Look Good On the Dancefloor". 

I give this album a 6 on the England Swings scale of 1-10. 
There's so much stuff on the England Swings show today that we don't know how we'll do it all! We've got : New music from Blood Red Shoes, Everything Everything, and Paul Smith Older tunes from 10cc, Genesis, and the Swinging Blue Jeans The Fab Four Freakout with one of the original Beatles demos! UK Music News - latest news stories from the music world in England A special set of American music connected to the UK The top 5 countdown, with a new number one! The England Swings show continues to bring the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music to your television and/or computer, weekly at 6:00 p.m. : In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channels 37 and 837 In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27 Anywhere else in the world : Tune in today, you'll love it!
Last evening's England Swings show was pre-recorded, because I had a concert to go to. That doesn't mean we didn't play some great stuff : 

Tame Impala - Solitude Is Bliss
Swedish House Mafia - One (Your Name)

David Essex - Rock On
Teenage Fanclub - Baby Lee (Shadows)

Bombay Bicycle Club - Rinse Me Down (Flaws)
Feeder - Renegades (Renegades)

Elton John - Levon (Madman Across the Water)
Merseys - Sorrow
Shirley Bassey - Get The Party Started (Get the Party Started)

The Fab Four Freakout : 

Beatles - Like Dreamers Do (Decca Demo)
Beatles - While My Guitar Gently Weeps (The Beatles)
Beatles - You Won't See Me (Rubber Soul)
Beatles - Hold Me Tight (With the Beatles)

Fugative - Bad Girl
Ian Brown - Fear (Music Of the Spheres)

Donovan - Wear Your Love Like Heaven
Dave Dee, Dozy, Beak, Mick, & Tich - Okay
Eric Burdon & the Animals - San Franciscan Nights
Cliff Richard & the Shadows - Do You Wanna Dance

Amy Winehouse - You Know I'm No Good (Back To Black)
2:54 - Creeping

Example - Kickstarts (Won't Go Quietly)
V V Brown - Shark In the Water (Lights)
Smiths - How Soon Is Now

Basement Jaxx - Romeo (Rooty)
Richard Harris - MacArthur Park

Lloyd Cole - No More Love Songs
Who - Anyway Anyhow Anywhere

We didn't play the top 5 songs in England this week, but here they are : 

5). Wanted - All Time Low (-4)
4). Eminem & Rihanna - Love the Way You Lie (non-mover)
3). Yolanda Be Cool & DCup - We No Speak Americano (-1)
2). Flo Rida & David Guetta - Club Can't Handle Me (+3)
1). Ne-Yo - Beautiful Monster (new)


Boy band drops! American rapper and Euro producer rise! And a new number one!

Oh, and that damn Eminem song still hasn't gone away. 

It was a week that didn't muster much movement in the top 5. Let's look at the songs : 

The Wanted take a considerable dive from the top to the bottom of the top 5 with "All Time Low". As I said last week, the song is pretty interesting. The Wanted are being promoted as a boy band, but if this first single is indicative of where the band is going, it might be a good ride. 

The orchestration, synthesizers, and layered harmonies make a great song. I give it an 8 on the England Swings scale of 1-10.

That damn Eminem song still hasn't gone away. 

Oh, I said that already. I've also expressed my growing dislike for this song. The tune is driven by bile and ugliness, and I won't buy into Eminem's "comeback". There's something to be said for aging gracefully; Marshall Mathers ain't doin' it. 

I give this song a 2. 

Yolanda Be Cool and DCup have dropped back another space, from two to three this week. That's okay, too - whereas I like the song, and appreciate its cleverness, I have to admit that it's beginning to wear out. 

I'm curious to see if the song was a hit in Italy . . . ?  

I like the fact that the song has been such a huge hit in the UK, because that just shows how the British public can still accept diversity in music. Look at the top 5 this week : a brand-new group, a rapper, a retro-techno song, a fused R&B-electro jam, and another R&B song. That's diversity!

Yolanda and company get a 6.5 this week.

The big riser this week is Flo Rida & David Guetta's "Club Can't Handle Me", a song which exemplifies modern popular music. It's a mix of American swagger with European bounce, and like so many songs nowadays, it's impossible to classify. The song is making strides in America as well, having risen 19 spaces in a week's time, from 52 to 33. It's going to continue, I think, because it's such an effective hybrid. You can sing along with the whole thing, unlike most rapper/producer collaborations where there's a rap part that just doesn't quite fit. Flo is in fine voice here, which is a surprise - most of us might have thought he wasn't capable of something like this. 

The song gets an 8. 

Blasting into the top position, Ne-Yo's "Beautiful Monster" doesn't seem to be having much success in the USA. It's actually dropping on the American charts, from number 53 last week to number 70 now. It's just starting to get some airplay here, though, so that may change. As usual, though, the UK is miles ahead of the USA. 

The song has a nice jivey feel to it, with synthesized bass nearly imitating a digeridoo in its tone. The vocals are nicely harmonized, and the hook is . . . 

Well, it's average. I'm thinking a few more listens before it kicks in. I'll give it a 6 this week.


Best Coast - Crazy For You

It's another amazing obscurity this week in Best Coast. Some background : 

Best Coast is a duo from (where else?) California that consists of Bethany Cosentino and Bob Bruno, with Bethany taking the bulk of the attention on vocals. 

The band has managed to put together a lo-fi masterpiece in "Crazy For You". The recipe goes like this : 

Take strummy, occasional drony guitars (think R.E.M.), and put it together with a touch of 1960s girl-group harmonies drenched in reverb, add a Jay Reatard sensibility of lyrics so dumbed-down that they're purposefully ironic, and decidedly poignant at the same time. Apply a little J Mascis slackerism. 

What have you got? That's what Best Coast sounds like, and it all hangs together wonderfully. 

There's not much point discussing individual songs on the record, because each one follows the pattern outlined above. Nearly every song is as good as the others. None of them are over three minutes long, so they never wear themselves out. The album is so bright and catchy that the sound itself doesn't wear out. 

Another recipe for the UK readers : You know Glasvegas, right? Well, add in a sense of humor and a tendency to not overdo everything, and you've got Best Coast. Can you imagine Glasvegas throwing out lyrics like on "Goodbye" : "I lost my job/I miss my mom/I wish my cat could talk"? 

There's a theme to all this, too : nearly all the songs are about regrets. Bethany is constantly missing someone, or wishing she hadn't walked away, or hoping that what she did in the past didn't drive someone elsewhere. Of course, her persona comes across as so lazy and stoned, that you just know she'd do it again. 

Spinal Tap : "There's a fine line between clever and stupid."

Best Coast is toeing the clever side of that line. 

I give "Crazy For You" an 8 on the England Swings scale of 1-10. It's fun stuff!
The England Swings Show airs today at 6:00 p.m. ET, with the best, brightest, newest, and coolest music from the United Kingdom. Today, there's one difference from the usual - the show is pre-recorded rather than live. However, there's still wonderful music, features, and inscrutable charm.  Tune in :

In Northern Virginia : Cox and Verizon digital cable channels 37 and 837
In Reston, Virginia : Comcast channel 27
Anywhere else in the world :

Join us for a couple of rollicking hours of the best of Britain!
Arcade Fire - The Suburbs

It must be quite a burden, in today's world, to make "art" with your music. 

Look at the music near the top of the album charts.In the UK, we've got Eminem with his middle-aged ranting; it's all a large noise signifying very little. It's also number one in America this week, followed by bragsta rap from Rick Ross and R&B retreads from Sheryl Crow. 

None of these qualify as art, that's for sure. So what if you're a group smart enough to actually have thematic repercussions to your music, that makes records smart enough to be considered as a bit more than just endless twanging or moaning?

What if you're Arcade Fire?

In the past, there's been little doubt as to the musicality of the members of the group; they've made a couple of the most critically acclaimed records in the 21st century. It was smart stuff, for sure, but it wasn't terribly accessible. They probably should have gone by the name Arcane Fire. 

With their new album "The Suburbs", the muddy waters of their past albums have been systematically sieved and filtered, to the point that "The Suburbs" is not only smart and resonant, it's listenable. 

It's art, basically. 

The album is rife with themes and observations, most stemming from the head of Win Butler, who grew up in the vast suburbs of Houston, Texas. Suburban areas are part of modern civilization, and are consigned to "developed" countries such as the USA, Canada, and the UK. Those who passed their formative years there are insulated from the chaos of city life, and are also sheltered from the realities of rural areas. "The City", in suburban terms, is either where grown-ups go to work, or a seething pit of crime and vice that you're meant to stay away from. 

Arcade Fire (in the form of main songwriter Win Butler, anyway) has some serious nostalgia for the life less lived in the suburbs, but that comes with the requisite amount of bitterness and criticism of the articifialities of that existence. Suburbia, to Butler, is an endless drive up and down empty streets, while waiting for something to happen. Nothing EVER happens, though - that's the dichotomy of suburbia. 

Musically, the album cuts through the heaviness of former Arcade Fire meanderings, and goes in a mostly straightforward direction. Opening track "The Suburbs" is a light piano driven ditty. "City Of No Children" sounds a little like a muted U2. There are flashes of Springsteen in "Half Light II (No Celebration)". "Deep Blue" sounds like Neil Young. 

So you can see that the group has done their homework. 

It's lyrically, though, that the band reaches its potential. The descriptions of dimly-lit playgrounds, towns "built to change", and the deadness of feeling all hit the mark in describing suburban existence. There are a couple of digs at modern technology as well; "Deep Blue" is indeed about that IBM computer that beat Garry Kasparov at chess, and there are references to putting down cell phones and laptops and embracing the "wild" nature of the world. 

A lot of thought, attention to detail, and love has gone into making this record. As Arcade Fire continues to evolve, they've become one of the few bands to actually see the art in the world of music, and to carefully begin to practice it. That's something that can't be said about Katy Perry. 

I'm giving "The Suburbs" a whopping 9 on the England Swings 1-10 scale. 
Playlist & Top 5 : August 2, 2010Here's the playlist from last night's England Swings show : 

Teeth - See Spaces
Plan B - Prayin' (The Defamation Of Strickland Banks)

Slade - Mama Weer All Crazee Now
Villagers - Ship Of Promises (Becoming a Jackal)

O Children - Dead Disco Dancer
Skream - Listenin' To the Records On My Wall

Feargal Sharkey - A Good Heart
Frank Ifield - The Wayward Wind

The Fab Four Freakout :

Beatles - Strawberry Fields Forever Mix 26
Beatles - This Boy
Beatles - Komm Gib Mir Deine Hand
Beatles - I Me Mine (Let It Be)

Tom Jones - Did Trouble Me (Praise and Blame)

Tricky - Murder Weapon

Abba - The Name Of the Game
Robert Fripp - North Star (Exposure)

I Am Kloot - Proof (Sky At Night)
Singing Nun - Dominique

...and this week's UK Top 5 : 

5). Flo Rida ft. David Guetta - Club Can't Handle Me (new)
4). Eminem ft. Rihanna - Love the Way You Lie (-2)
3). Travie McCoy - Billionaire (new)
2). Yolanda Be Cool & DCup - We No Speak Americano (-1)
1). Wanted - All Time Low (new)


Well, look at all that fresh blood dripping into the top five this week! Three new songs, and two hangers-on from previous weeks. Also, the higher reaches of the charts have become a little less urban and a little more diverse. 

We start with the new song at number 5, in which David Guetta continues to ingratiate himself into the New American Hip-Hop Community. And this time he does a bang-up job, making Flo Rida sound smooth and debonaire with "Club Can't Handle Me". Flo sounds less like a rapper here than an R&B singer, which is also a surprise. Who knew he could sound like this?

The song is slick and streamlined, but like the best of Guetta's work, it doesn't sound crowded. I notice that the song is sitting at number 54 on the American charts right now, but the tune has enough appeal to become a major hit in the USA. 

On the England Swings scale of 1-10, I give it an 8.

Now to one of the tunes that won't go away, and probably never deserved to be there in the first place. Eminem's "Love the Way You Lie" drops to number four this week, while maintaining the top position in the USA. 

And I'm sorry, but the song is just ugly. It's interesting the first time you listen, but after that it's a bit like seeing a plane crash. Over and over again. It's got a false and insincere intensity that grates on the nerves. It tells an unattractive story. It doesn't even have a decent backing tune. 

Maybe I just don't get it, but I can't think of many songs less deserving to be a hit on either side of the Atlantic. I want it to go away. Soon. I give it a 3. 

Now, why would Mr. McCoy change his name to the diminutive "Travie"? "Travis" is perfectly good - it worked for that group that did "Why Does It Always Rain On Me?".

"Billionaire" is at heart a novelty song, but it's not a bad one. It's a bit clever, a bit catchy. It's sparse, though, and has a definite 1970s feel to it. That might be part of its charm. It's just downright cute. 

Already a hit in the USA, the song crashes into the British charts at number three this week. The British have already demonstrated an affinity for the singer's former group, with two songs by Gym Class Heroes reaching high places in the charts. So I guess it was inevitable that this song would do well. I'll give it a 6. 

Yolanda Be Cool and DCup continue to do well with "We No Speak Americano", even though it drops a place this week to number 2. It's one of those songs that shows the amazing capacity of the British charts to absorb literally anything - can you imagine this song becoming a top 40 hit in America? Not gonna happen. 

The song manages to keep its hook for weeks on end. I'll admit to a small amount of annoyance at it nowadays, but you've got to admire the chutzpah of the whole thing. I'm still giving it an 8 this week.

And speaking of the capacity of the British charts, another thing that happens with alarming frequency is the entrance of complete unknowns, the build-up of buzz that lasts for nearly a week while some new talent(s) capture the imagination of the public and come out of nowhere to land at the summit. 

That's the case this week with the Wanted. What's that you say, Americans? Who are the Wanted? Well, that's just what I'm talking about. So here's the section where I explain yet another new band :

The Wanted are a pre-fab five band found through auditions in the UK, who have managed to become the biggest band in the UK in a mere week's time. They're kind of a boy band, but the song they've released applies orchestration and great vocals to create a kind of "indie boy band" sound, if it's possible for such a thing to exist. 

Nevertheless, "All Time Low" is a great song, reminiscent of the Temper Trap, or some of Take That's best songs. The future of the band remains a bit cloudy; much will depend on which direction they go in during the coming months. One day, Americans, you might hear more about them. For now, though, the number one hit in the UK belongs to them, and I give the song an 8. 

Album Review . . . tomorrow!

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