Playlist, Top 5, and Album Review : August 24, 2010 - England Swings - The BEST music from the UK
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. 

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