So last night the winner of this year’s Mercury Music Prize was announced as Speech Debelle’s debut Speech Therapy. I have to say that I was pretty underwhelmed by the decision: it’s not a bad album, but I wonder how many people will still be listening to it in a year, let alone 17 year’s time. Why 17? Because that’s how long the prize has been running.
To be fair to the judges, Debelle was probably as worthy a winner as any – looking at the short-list it’s hard to see any future classics: in fact it was probably one of the weakest selections since the prize’s birth in 1992. So, having had a look at all the winners since the prize launched I decided to pick what I think is the best winner of them all. And, in the end, I ended up back at the start.
The winner of 1992′s début prize was Primal Scream’s Screamadelica. Very few albums can claim to be truly iconic, let alone era-defining. Screamadelica can. With its blend of blissed out house and gentle rock & soul, Primal Scream provided a soundtrack to a million Saturday nights & Sunday mornings. The cover art became a badge for the rave genaration, like a clubbed up Watchman smiley. And they didn’t even include the amazing track that gave the album its name, which instead ended up on the brilliantly named Dixie-Narco EP and which you can see below: it’s good eh?
Since then there have been some other great winning albums, though scanning through the short-lists it does feel like more often than not, the best album has not been the winning one. Oasis’ Definitely Maybe, OK Computer & In Rainbows by Radiohead, The Verve’s Urban Hymns – all were left unrewarded – let’s not forget that in one year alone Parklife, Music For The Jilted Generation & Wild Wood were all beaten – by M People.
So if Primal Scream’s Screamadelica is the best ever winner of the Mercury Music Prize, which is the best album that was shortlisted but didn’t win? I’m torn between OK Computer, Parklife & Definitely Maybe. What do you think?
PS – Am I the only one who thought it ironic that in the same week the Mercury Prize was announced, T-Mobile, the brand that killed Mercury when it took over its One2One mobile operation, announced a merger with Orange which will see the T-Mobile brand itself killed off in the UK.
Screamadelica stained window by Gordon Watt on flickr
I’ve been continuing my nostalgia trawl through the 80s & 90s today, picking up albums by The Wonder Stuff & Mansun. But along the way I also stumbled across this 1998 stone-cold club classic: Music Sounds Better With You by Stardust (a one off collaboration by a bunch of French musicians, including one of Daft Punk).
It is, as I believe the kids say, a fu**ing choon. And, along with This Time by DJ Shadow, it’s one of those dance tracks that makes me feel strangely wistful. The fact that it’s 11 years old makes me feel down-right suicidal. Enjoy.
Stardust image by nateOne on flickr
Being a sad old man who spends his Sundays gardening and dreaming of roast potatoes, I tend to listen to Radio 4 on my drive to & from the station every day. However last night I was coming home a bit late so Radio 4 had switched from news & comment (Today & PM FTW!) to horrible plays. I therefore took the pretty radical step of jumping over to Zane Lowe on Radio 1 and within seconds I was very glad that I had.
The first tune I heard was a mash-up of Public Enemy’s iconic Bring The Noise (from the genre defining It Takes A Nation Of Millions…) with DJ Zinc’s 138 Trek (which I’d not heard before). I know that bootlegs or mash-ups are incredibly passée, but when they sound as fresh & vibrant as this, I couldn’t care if they’re as cool as John McCain’s wardrobe. Bring The Noise is truly one of the greatest hip-hop tracks of all time and is one that most people would be wary of messing with, especially as it’s already been reworked so well once before – admittedly by Public Enemy themselves, with a little help from their friends Anthrax (I don’t think any track excited my teenage self as much as this did, except perhaps for Rage Against The Machine’s Killing In The Name Of).
Wicked Devil, for that is the name of the genius responsible for the 138 Noise bootleg, obviously had no such fears. He manages to make the track sound utterly relevant and, if anything, gives the lyrics as much of a boost for the 21st Century as Anthrax did for the 1990s. If it wasn’t for the fact that these days I’m more at home on the sofa, watching The West Wing with a glass of red wine (like I am right now) 138 Trek would have me throwing myself round the nearest dance-floor like, well, like a vaguely coordinated 30-something.
I’ve no idea whether 138 Noise is available yet, though the fact that Zane Lowe is playing it suggests that it soon will be. But if I do track it down (or if any of you can help me in my quest), you can be certain that I’ll be Bringing The Noise, just like I did in 1991. With The West Wing on in the background of course.