Wild Mercury Sound

The Nationwide Mercury Prize shortlist: wailing, gnashing of teeth to fade

John Mulvey

Just back from the Mercury Music Prize scrum down in Covent Garden. I realise that making a fuss about this sort of thing is playing into the hands of the organisers, on the grounds that any publicity is good publicity and all. And, yes, there are a bunch of records here that I like: the Arctic Monkeys (a deserving winner, I'd say), Amy Winehouse and the Klaxons, for a start. I guess as a measure of how healthy new British music is right now, it's OK. And the absence of Editors, The Fratellis, The Twang and so on is mildly satisfying.

But the thing is, if I understand it rightly, aren't the Mercurys meant to focus on the 12 best albums of the year, without any other criteria taken into account? If that's the case, are we honestly expected to believe that no-one over the age of 30 has made a good record in the past year? As far as I can tell, no artist here (with the exception of Seb Rochford) has actually released more than two albums.

I imagine the most disgruntled man omitted from the shortlist is Damon Albarn, who, I seem to remember, withdrew Gorillaz from competition a year or two back, but deigned to enter The Good, The Bad And The Queen this time. To no avail, clearly.

Jarvis Cocker's solo debut wasn't quite the classic I'd hoped for, but it still ranks higher than most of the stuff here. And while I imagine neither of them give much of a toss either way, Bert Jansch and Richard Thompson both deserve the Faithful Old Retainer's Return To Form slot on the shortlist previously occupied by Robert Wyatt, Scritti Politti, Bowie etc.

It's wrong to care, I know, but it's also good to rant. I should also say at this point that I've correctly picked the winner three years in a row, and this year I'm backing Jamie T to sweep to victory with a coalition of old Clash fans and NME kids; as the Lily Allen it's OK to like, ostensibly. Lily Allen is much better, of course, but what can you do?


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