Tuesday, September 08, 2009 

Mercury music prize hilarity.

Worst winner since M People.  A shame that Burial didn't release his album a yet later, as he would have surely won against the line-up this year.

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008 

Mercury prize shenanigans.

It's time for the Mercury Prize again, the award everyone likes to pretend is slightly more democratic and not based on pure popularity and record sales like the Brits are. Before we even get to the eventual winner and doubtless yet more disappointment over the unjustified win, there's the nominations themselves:

There's the usual token jazz record and token folk record, alongside the complete crap, provided admirably by Adele and Estelle. The small mercy is that Duffy wasn't nominated as well.

Again though, it's the amount of completely overlooked albums that rankles most. Seriously, no Portishead? No Mystery Jets? No Foals? The Foals album seems to have split opinion, or at least has on Drowned in Sound, but Portishead and the MJ albums have been both critically acclaimed and have apparent mass support from fans. Then there are the records you would have liked to have been nominated, but which were never probably going to stand a chance. Future of the Left, High Contrast, with the best drum and bass artist album in years, Johnny Foreigner, Youthmovies, Los Campesinos!, Errors, iLiKETRAiNS, ¡Forward, Russia! (although their debut was better), Wild Beasts (I confess I haven't been sold on their charms yet, but many others have been), These New Puritans, all would have been welcome additions, if only because of the extra interest it would inspire in them, not to mention the sales.

Going by that methodology, the appearance of Adele, Radiohead, Robert Plant and TLSP on the list is worthy of critique. Can anyone truly say that any of those is a worthy album of the year? I doubt even the most ardent Radiohead fanboy would say that In Rainbows is either their best work or the record they should have won the Mercury for (that would have been OK Computer), and while the TLSP album isn't terrible, Alex Turner is hardly lacking publicity or cash.

As for the rest, most are decent choices. British Sea Power still haven't recreated the majesty of their debut with Do You Like Rock Music? but it's still a vast improvement on Open Season. Elbow probably deserve some sort of recognition, mainly because of their consistency, but I doubt will trouble the judges too much. I haven't heard much by her, but Laura Marling has always struck as a slightly more intelligent Kate Nash/Lily Allen hybrid, although her contribution to Young Love by the Mystery Jets helped make it the song it was. Neon Neon have hardly broken any new ground, but again Gruff Rhys perhaps deserves something simply because of his work rate, when not with either the Super Furries or doing his solo stuff, of which Candylion was probably better than Stainless Style.

Which leaves us with Burial, whom is surely the most worthy potential winner on the list. Remaining completely anonymous, he's delivered two majestic, transcendent albums of mournful downtempo dubstep, with Archangel alone deserving of a prize. His anonymity might though count against him; he's hardly likely to turn up and perform, or even collect the prize if he wins, and last year Lauren Laverne claimed that the award was decided on the night after the Klaxons' performance. Let's just hope against hope that it isn't Adele.

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Wednesday, September 05, 2007 

The usual Mercury nonsense.

Is anyone really that surprised that the Mercury judges picked a relative outsider for this year's prize? It's not as if they haven't made a habit of it in the past; picking M People in 1994 against Parklife and more than decent albums by both the Prodigy and Pulp; Roni Size's drum and bass excursion in 1997 against OK Computer; Talvin Singh in 1999; Ms Dynamite in 2002 instead of the Coral's top 10 of the decade debut, as well as Doves' finest album and the Electric Soft Parade's exhilarating Holes in the Wall; and then Antony and the Johnsons two years ago. Last year's selection of the Arctic Monkeys was safe and disappointing, especially considering how their follow-up this year is so much better in all departments, and when it was up against entries from Guillemots, Hot Chip and Thom Yorke.

All of which is to be a little unfair to the Klaxons. They have never been "new rave", which was a term dreamt up by the NME to summarise a number of bands that had emerged that had taken to using synths and whom unlike other recent indie groups didn't sneer at "dance music" in general. Only really Atlantis to Interzone, Magick and the (poor) cover of Grace's Not Over Yet have been influenced by "rave". The real "new rave" movement is being lead by Justice, Digitalism and Simian Mobile Disco (James Ford, half of SMD, did incidentally produce Myths of the Near Future, but he also twiddled the knobs on Favourite Worst Nightmare) and arguably, bands like CSS and New Young Pony Club, who owe much more to dance music than the Klaxons ever have.

Much chortling
has been going on over the Grauniad's rather mean review which gave Myths one star, especially considering that it's a solid debut, led by the brilliant singles. It's just that the other tracks are more than a little dull; most of the remixes have been far better. If effort alone was the deciding factor, then Maps' We Can Create, created in James Chapman's Northampton bedroom would have been the run-away winner, a thrillingly melodic trip through shoegaze, noise and My Bloody Valentine-ism. Other worthy candidates should have been Bat for Lashes, which was the favourite with the bookmakers, the Arctics for coming up with a far superior record to their debut within a year and the Young Knives, whose album I, err, previously described thusly:

Never forgetting that wit and humour have just as much of a place in music as they have in everything else, the Knives' debut is filled with the sort of infectious melodies and riffing that the Libertines followers have utterly missed. The singles, The Decision, She's Attracted To and Here Comes The Rumour Mill are joined by the insanely catchy chorus of Mystic Energy, the slow-burning In The Pink and the ode to dead towns that is Loughborough Suicide. That they're great live too is simply a bonus.

A nomination for ¡Forward, Russia!'s self-financed debut, Give Me A Wall wouldn't have gone amiss either, although we can at least be glad that the insanely overrated Ms Winehouse and yet another awful band riding the Libertines' shirt-tails, the View, didn't win.

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