Playlist, Top 5, and Album Review : August 16, 2010 - England Swings - The BEST music from the UK
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. 

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