I don’t know if you can remember as far back as last night, but Young Fathers won the 2014 Barclaycard Mercury Music Prize in what many uninformed commentators have described as “an upset”. Meanwhile, the blogosphere’s most prescient minds were busy letting everyone know they predicted the win.
RRP unashamedly includes itself in this category, by the way…
FTR - I've just added Young Fathers to a playlist of #MercuryPrize winners.
— Record Rewind Play (@recrwplay) October 29, 2014
Meanwhile, the rest - those pitiful wretches who didn’t randomly shout out YOUNG FATHERS WILL WIN!! quick enough - were left to root around their archives to dig out the earliest blog post in which they vaguely mentioned Young Fathers as proof they’ve been backing them longer than anyone else.
Yeah, check the timestamp.
Tweet of the night, though, was this humdinger:
Oneupmanship from media types tonight re: Young Fathers. Obviously I saw them live back in 1620, when they were known as the Pilgrim Fathers
— lazerguidedmelody (@lazerguidedblog) October 29, 2014
Down the years the award panel has handed over-sized cheques to many worthy winners, something covered in this playlist’s companion piece Emergent Thrumming – a Playlist of Mercury Prize Winners; the shortlist system working as it does, though, many credible nominees have failed to land the prize. Or, to put it in media-speak, they have been snubbed.
Let the unsnubbing begin!
Saint Etienne - Nothing Can Stop Us
I don’t think anyone felt particularly snubbed when the prize was first awarded back in 1992. I would think it takes a certain amount of hubris to be nominated for the inaugural award and then get stroppy if you don’t win it. A strong if weird first shortlist included Erasure, The Jesus and Mary Chain, Simply Red, U2, John Tavener & Steven Isserlis, Jah Wobble’s Invaders of the Heart and Saint Etienne - at the time still in rotating-vocalist mode until settling on Sarah Cracknell after the release of Nothing Can Stop Us.
Therapy? - Screamager
I994 - and in only its third year, the prize delivered a surprising winner that led to a great deal of head scratching and bafflement that hasn’t since diminished. I have nothing against M People, and you can’t deny Heather Small could belt out a tune like no other (and will forever be remembered fondly by RRP for her contribution to the BBC’s version of Perfect Day), but it was a choice that seemed designed to attract ridicule. The 1994 shortlist included Parklife by Blur, His n Hers by Pulp, Music for the Jilted Generation by The Prodigy, Wild Wood by Paul Weller, as well as Michael Nyman, Shara Nelson, Ian McNabb and Take That: a typically diverse shortlist, and one that laid itself open to accusations of being arbitrary. To then give the award to the massively popular soul-dance album on the list just seems ill-considered.
Cornershop - Good Shit
I don’t begrudge Gomez their 1998 win, really. But When I Was Born For The Seventh Time is surely the better album any which way you choose to slice them. Sorry about the SFW title alteration for the video, by the way: not my decision, obviously.
The Chemical Brothers - Under The Influence
In a (sort of) word: Wip3out.
The Delgados - No Danger
The millennium bug didn’t kill us all! And the Mercury judges celebrated by giving the 2000 award to a shambling, ambling and amiable beanie-hatted troubadour. And a worthy winner Badly Drawn Boy was, too, even if it did mean that The Delgados missed out. They had to make do with the Spirit of Scotland Award instead.
The Thrills - Big Sur
2003 was not a vintage Mercury Year. Of the non-winners you could make a kitsch case for The Darkness (Permission to Land), and Lemon Jelly’s Lost Horizons was much loved at the time, but Vehicles and Animals isn’t even Athlete’s best album, and you could say the same for Radiohead and Hail To The Thief.
The Thrills reached #3 with So Much For The City, and scored another top ten album with Let’s Bottle Bohemia. After the disappointing Teenager in 2008 the band was dropped by EMI, since when they have been adrift in the temporal void known colloquially as “indefinite hiatus”.
Richard Hawley - Coles Corner
Alex Turner was right. Consider this justice restored.
Fionn Regan - Put a Penny in the Slot
Fionn Regan is the kind of artist who only gets nominated for the Mercury Prize once, especially so now that competition in the token folksy nominee section is so fierce. In 2007, his debut album The End of History lost out to flavour of the month Klaxons.
Friendly Fires - Skeleton Boy
Speech Debelle won, Friendly Fires didn’t. I don’t know how much more needs to be said.
King Creosote & Jon Hopkins - Bats in the Attic
With Diamond Mine in 2011 and Immunity in 2013, Jon Hopkins is now a two-time non-winner of the award. King Creosote, meanwhile, has been knocking out brilliant albums for years now without the slightest whiff of a solo nomination from the Mercury hive-mind, so let’s raise a glass to the pair, and celebrate their charming and nuanced collaboration on Diamond Mine.
Field Music - Sorry Again Mate
One of the pleasing aspects of Young Fathers winning this year was knowing that they had sold fewer albums than the other shortlisted artists (except Polar Bear, who are less than 100 sales behind). If you’re going to shortlist albums with around 1500 sales, it seems only fair and just to then hand them awards every now and then. Field Music, who are on record as saying they earn about sixpence a year from their music even though a lot of people seem to spend a lot of words on saying how wonderful they are, could have benefitted from the same consideration.
Anna Calvi - Carry Me Over
Let’s hear it for another two-time non-winner. Carry Me Over is a spectacular tease of a track, both live and on her 2013 album One Breath.