Talent in a Previous Life

Because It's Never Just About the Music

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

First: Prize 

It's that time of the year again, where the sort of person who drives a 4x4, despite the fact that the nearest they come to going off-road is when they accidentally go up on the kerb when dropping Daisy and Rupert off at their local primary school, finds out what album they should buy to replace their now worn down copy of Franz Ferdinand's debut. Yes, the Mercury Music Prize shortlist has been announced and, whisper it, this year they've not done too bad a job.

Of course, it's not perfect. Coldplay's X and Y could be put up against 11 albums picked at random and be found wanting against pretty much all of them; Bloc Party are the sort of band who annoying students pick as their favourite as they think it means they're alternative and intelligent, rather than just dull and easily led; The Magic Numbers no doubt sound great if you see them on a sunny afternoon at a festival of your choice, but on record make you feel about as summery as an evening spent watching documentaries about penguins on the Discovery channel; while the less said about KT Tunstall's inclusion, the better.

Outside of that - and outside of the token entries for that matter, this year Polar Bear and Seth Lakeman are the ones recieving a mild sales boost thanks to their nominations - things look a bit brighter. First up, and we reckon that this might be worth a bet this year, though bear in mind that our previous predictions for this contest have always proven to be entirely wrong, is MIA. Her album, Arular, has been getting rave reviews from all the people who count, i.e. people whose opinions pretty much mirror our own, but might be a bit too leftwing for the panel's tastes. While she might be our favourite, the bookies are ignoring our, ummm, 'expertise' and are instead installing Kaiser Chiefs as their pick for the prize. The Kaisers do give good interviews and have a nice way with a poppy keyboard riff, but do suffer from the rather unfortunate problem that every time we hear one of their songs we love them less and less, thanks to there being quite a high irritation factor about their music. In small doses they're quite entertaining, however. Also on a 'potentially quite annoying' vibe are The Go! Team, who again work best on a singles, rather than album basis.

Proving that indie doesn't necessarily have to be a force for evil are Maximo Park who, despite having an incredibly shit name, provide angular joys, while we have a fondness for Hard Fi, mainly because Tied Up To Tight has the sort of na-na's that would keep even King Kong satisfied. They're being hailed as the new Clash, we can only hope they mean in a Rock the Casbah kindaway and not Sandinista!.

Finally, and pretty much uncategorisable, is Antony and the Johnsons, whose I am a Bird Now is one of the more beautiful records you're likely to hear this year, this is particularly true if you've spent the entire year listening to nothing but Atomic Kitten and James Blunt records. Despite it's gorgeousness, this is probably more of an outsider than the token folk and jazz entries and if this was to win we'd be nearly as surprised as when we realised that the Noise Next Door were being allowed to release more than one single.

Also announcing their shortlist today, and forgetting to include both The Faders and Fierce Girl is Popjustice.com, who have unveiled the artists in the running for their £20 Music Prize, awarded to the best pop single by a UK act over the last 12 months. Of course, their prize money is unlikely to be as life-changing as that of the Mercury, well, unless you're The 411 that is, who, should they win with Dumb, will be able to get a couple of bottles of White Lightning each and drink away the memories of what might have been.

Joining them on the list are the expected - and deserved - entries for previous winners Girls Aloud and Rachel Stevens, Wake Me Up and Negotiate With Love respectively, while Kaiser Chiefs make the double with Everyday I Love You Less and Less earning a place here as well, despite the fact that Oh My God! is clearly a better single.

Goldfrapp crash the party with Ooh La La, which we're not too keen on, mainly because it sounds a bit like a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club song, and anything that sounds like a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club song is going to be a bit rubbish, most notably when it actually is a Black Rebel Motorcycle Club song.

Flying the flag for dance are Uniting Nations with their surprisingly good Out of Touch and Mylo with his surprisingly disappoiting In Your Arms. Basement Jaxx are also there, going through the motions with Oh My Gosh! and demonstrating that once you've run out of ideas you should probably think about ceasing to release records.

Robbie's Radio makes the cut which, before we quietly dropped the feature a few months back, was one of our 117 Acest Things of all Time while Charlotte Church's Crazy Chick, which we've decided we now like a lot more than we originally did, also makes the list, and quite right too.

Finally, we come to what we hope will be head and shoulders above a shortlist which is already standing quite tall, Verbalicious and Don't Play Nice. Back when this was released we told you how ace it was and how you should all rush out and buy it, advice which clearly wasn't taken on board as it stumbled into the charts at a frankly disappointing number 11. Verbalicious herself seems to have vanished off the face of the planet and we can only hope that winning this accolade, which she surely will, will encourage her - or rather her record label - to release a second single and save her from the ignomy of having to do another series of that godawful Jasper Carrot sitcom.

mercury mercury music prize popjustice music prize