Alexis Petridis in the Guardian: “As with last year, there’s a sense that the Mercury prize is out to avoid controversy by sticking with the tried and tested: proven commercial or critical successes… the cumulative effect of the list is to somehow make current music look less interesting than it actually is.”
Me not agree… or would at least suggest that there’s an element of missing the point with this view. Yes, the nomination cache for this year’s Mercury Music Prize (list: here) is conservative, but to hope for otherwise is to forget the reasons for this particular beauty pageant to exist; which are, in no particular order: to increase record sales for the twelve shortlisted acts; to satisfy the music industry’s intrinsic need for self-congratulation; to generate extra profit for the corporate sponsor – in this case, an organization hoping to associate itself to perceived allure by getting you to spend their money, only to have to repay with interest. Someone somewhere will buy a copy of the winning album with the credit card in question, which if nothing else provides a nice, closed, post-modern loop.
Emmys, Grammys, Bookers, Oranges, TV Choices… like a needy child with hardcore dependency issues, mainstream creativity has grown increasingly reliant upon self-awarded laurels with which to buttress the reputation it perceives with its own, jaundiced eyes (“My muse is not a horse, and I am in no horse race,” Nick Cave once said about an awards ceremony; an all-too-rare dissenter in this age of self-congratulation). The Mercury has always been a ridiculous affair (full list of historical nominations here), unable to be representative on any level beyond the token by its very own, self-defined constituency (every year one thing jazz, one thing folk, one thing urban, one thing PJ Harvey, and five inoffensive guitar acts well on their way to stadium gigs). Sure, it’s pleasing this time around that the King Creosote / Jon Hopkins record has received some of the recognition it deserves… but to ask if it is better or worse than the Tinie Tempah opus is akin the weighing the merits of camenbert over a nice walk in the park. Better to simply purchase the Anderson / Hopkins thrill and ignore the stupid Mercury altogether.
Decent records previously nominated (also known as: me, searching for a tune for beneath the words): New Wave by The Auteurs. Red Rice by Eliza Carthy. Pulp’s This Is Hardcore. And this, from the LP Cuckooland:
Robert Wyatt / Lullaloop