Psst! Wanna know a secret?
Young Fathers are about to win the 2014 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize. You’re wondering, perhaps, how I know this. Truth is, I don’t. They’re among the outsiders, but it’s the classic no-money-down bet: if they win I look like a sage, and can nod my head in knowing victory; when they join the ranks of the losers, shaking the hand of the much more fancied winning act, I can, with a completely straight face, announce that “well, what I mean is, it would have been nice if they had won, wouldn’t it?”.
Wanna know another secret?
I’ve left one of the winners off the spotify playlist. I wanted it to be complete; I tried, but I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I wonder if you can guess who is missing.
Primal Scream - Don’t Fight it Feel it
Might as well start at the top, with inaugural winners Primal Scream, who took the trophy and the big flappy cheque in 1992, thanks to the unexpectedly brilliant Screamadelica - an album so good even staunch guitar-loving indie and shoegazing types couldn’t get enough of it.
Suede - Sleeping Pills
Hopefully you see where this is going now - occasionally I’ll have to resort to obvious tracks (or, in some cases, whichever one appealed slightly more than the others when listening to a winner’s album for the first time earlier today…), but I’m as likely to pluck out an album track worthy of re-loving.
Suede won with their self-titled debut in 1993, beating The Auteurs by a single vote. In my original attempt at Mercury coverage, in which I was trying to construct an alternative history of the award, this was going to be the foundation for a hilarious line about how, after The Auteurs had actually won that year, a conspiracy theory later emerged in which it was alleged that the vote was rigged in favour of Suede, only some suit cocked it up. Unable to shake off these rumours, Luke Haines would become increasingly unstable, before turning his paranoic bitterness into a humourless and violent album called After Murder Park.
Gomez - 78 Stone Wobble
Be honest - when was the last time you listened to Gomez?
I said be honest.
Well you should go back and give them another listen, because there’s a lot more to enjoy there than you might imagine if you thought 1998 winner Bring It On was a bit of a one-off.
Badly Drawn Boy - Fall in a River
After winning the award in 2000 with The Hour of the Bewilderbeast, Badly Drawn Boy - some say - went off the rails a bit. But then who among us truly knows how they’d handle the short, sharp shock of celebrity that leads to making a video with Joan Collins?
And who among us has written a song as simple yet as beautifully atmospheric as Fall in a River, and then stretched it out into a seven-minute dream?
Dizzee Rascal - Fix Up, Look Sharp
19 years old, and wins with his debut album Boy in da Corner in 1993. Basically including this here to make it seem like this is the Dizzee Rascal I know and love, when the truth is more like pulling embarrassing nightclub shapes to Holiday. Don’t judge me.
Antony and the Johnsons - My Lady Story
If this prize wants continued (or recaptured) relevance, it could do a lot worse than reward artists such as the 2005 winner Antony and the Johnsons: talented, remarkable, impressive, tender, affecting…
Elbow - The Fix
Talking about killing two birds with one stone. “Richard Hawley’s been robbed!” declared Alex Turner when The Arctic Monkeys won in 2006 with Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not. You have to admit he had a point. So here’s the former Pulp and Longpigs man, now appropriately established as a mellifluous and much-loved solo artist, joining 2008 winners Elbow.
PJ Harvey - The Last Living Rose
The only two-time winner of the prize, winning with Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea in 2001, and Let England Shake ten years later. Two quite different albums, one unique talent.
James Blake - Retrograde
Confession: I never did quite get round to digging into last year’s winning album, Overgrown. That said, I’m not a complete dolt; I did accidentally spend a fair amount of time captivated by Retrograde.
Young Fathers - LOW
This entry might be getting a hasty edit in an hour’s time, but what the hey, and let’s hear it for blind optimism.
Ladies and Gentlemen, I give you your 2014 winners, Young Fathers, following their Scottish Album of the Year award with more silverware.