Thursday, September 06, 2007

Belated Mercury Musings

I've been out of the loop a bit due to having spent the last few days on an intensive and highly fulfilling residential music course in an isolated property on the coast of Devon. So I missed yesterday's Mercury announcement completely.

I guess Klaxons are exactly the sort of over-hyped media fodder regular readers of this blog might expect me to rail against venomously, but I actually think they have some merit. Not, I must concede, because they are doing anything especially original (to me they sound more like early Super Furry Animals than a 'rave' band) but because some of the songs are clever, punchy and viscerally exciting.

Yet the nagging question remains - is this really the best record a British artist can come up with? Will it be remembered as a classic, pioneering achievement in even 10 years' time? Frankly, I doubt it. Like previous winners Franz Ferdinand and Arctic Monkeys, Klaxons seem designed far more for instant thrills than serious longevity. What has happened to the long term career trajectory in this country's fractured and damaged music industry? When exactly did it become a common assumption that artists make their most radical and innovative statement with their debut albums, leaving them nowhere left to go?

Surely the strident leap in delivery and sheer quality Amy Winehouse has made between her first and second albums deserved some recognition, in spite of her turbulent lifestyle? If her first album suffered a little from overbearing force of personality, this album amply demonstrated her sheer class as a performer and artist. Has there been a better collection of songs with such timeless quality released in the past twelve months? Plus it's now been five years since PJ Harvey was the last woman honoured with the award.

Alternatively, when will this prize actually justify its existence by selecting one of the 'token' nominations as a winner? The most subtle, inventive and engaging album in the shortlist by some distance was Basquiat Strings, misguidedly presented as a nomination for drummer Seb Rochford, rather than for the group's leader and composer, the highly talented cellist Ben Davis.

So it's been yet another missed opportunity for this beleagured cultural institution and with every year the judges strip away yet more value from what was initially a worthwhile and important concept.

1 comment:

ian said...

I don't think that Amy Winehouse has made such a great leap between her albums. I think the first one was great.