20 Years of the Mercury Prize - Winners Poll

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going through the Spotify playlist now, initial thoughts:

Primal Scream - I don't hate this as much as I used to, but I still don't like it
Portishead - duh amazing
Pulp - this is terrible until "Common People", at which point it becomes great for a few songs in a row before falling off again
Roni Size - This is such a mood album; when I'm up for it, it's fantastic, but when I'm not it's a painful slog. Today was a painful slog day.
Gomez - made it through two songs before realizing life is too precious for this
Talvin Singh - I assume this eventually gets to some sort of point? Because right now it's just aimless, vaguely pleasant noodling.

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 18:58 (2 years ago) Permalink

Nothing wrong with aimless, vaguely pleasant noodling.

Mark G, Thursday, 8 September 2011 19:00 (2 years ago) Permalink

not intrinsically, no

it's not very compelling to listen to, tho

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 19:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

I think also the aforementioned missing first track may be putting up an artificial barrier, as my first exposure to the album is 11+ minutes of "I had a thought, I'm going to play around with it for 64 measures with minimal variation! Okay time for strings."

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 19:04 (2 years ago) Permalink

Dummy.

Inevitable stupid samba mix (chap), Thursday, 8 September 2011 19:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

the talvin singh album sounded best when i happened upon it while it was playing in someone else's house/car. did you know he played tablas on some remixes of Kiss Them For Me?

brotherlovesdub, Thursday, 8 September 2011 19:35 (2 years ago) Permalink

For me it was a toss-up between the Elbow album and Suede's debut. I chose Suede's debut. Some really awful albums in there though, in my opinion.

Turrican, Thursday, 8 September 2011 19:52 (2 years ago) Permalink

how is this anything but portishead?

fart nosie (Lamp), Thursday, 8 September 2011 19:52 (2 years ago) Permalink

Ms Dynamite is pleasant but boring

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 19:54 (2 years ago) Permalink

I suspect I shouldn't be enjoying this Franz Ferdinand album as much as I am, but fuck it, this is great

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

dog latin the issue here is that as is commonly the case you're parroting received wisdom which is totally off the mark in respect of what was actually happening. You don't have to understand "the scene" to have an opinion on the music but if you're going to base your criticisms around such issues then really you should try. Otherwise the "I don't actually follow the music and this is just my vague perception" caveat should be enough to make you stop typing further.

Like, yes, the beats on New Forms were largely less complex than Size/Reprazent had done before, but they were still mostly more complex than the majority of d&b beats by 1997, this was something happening scene-wide and if anything Size/Reprazent were fighting a rear-guard action on tunes like "Share The Fall". Go back 2 years previous and Size and Die in particular were doing some of the most layered, dense, trippy beats in jungle (see tunes like "11.55"). But those jazz samples had always been there from the beginning, and were really barely different to what Dillinja was doing in 1994 - 1996. The idea that they tailored their sound to cultivate crossover success is just wrong, the only adjustments they made to their sound were to stay consistent with where dancefloors were going. The crossover elements begin and end with the guest vocalists.

For a long time I thought it a shame that they released their big double cd epic in 1997 and not 1995, because the latter would have been a very different album. But the specific appeal of New Forms is its stripped back repetition, the way that tunes like "Change My Life" and "Hot Stuff" and "Down" and "Ballet Dance" interweave just a few carefully chosen elements to create this hypnotic space where even the mildest adjustment has massive effects - like the way the drums switch up about a third of the way through "Change My Life" and then the bass switches up at the two thirds mark. As a musical dynamic the effect is closer to Neu! than it is to most jazz. Or, closer to home, deep house. A tune like "Down" has that sparkly, spangly quality I associate with the best deep house like Dubtribe Soundsystem's "Do It Now".

And anyway the more you listen to the drums the more you realise they're actually full of surprises, all these micro-variations and hesitations and riffs on the central groove that are totally involving the way that interesting house percussion is involving.

Eventully d&b smoothed out even these and became mostly a changeless same, but it's horrendously simplistic to dismiss every point on a musical trajectory on the basis of its endpoint. If anything its the brevity of this particularly point - a moment when d&b was exploring the inherent possibilities in repetition but had not yet installed absolute repetition as orthodoxy - that makes it worth treasuring.

Tim F, Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:18 (2 years ago) Permalink

I voted for Antony. It's not necessarily my favourite on the list but I never really followed the Mercury's pre 97 and while I consider Screamadlica, Dummy and Different Class to be some of the most seminal British albums of the 90's I often forget they won the award in the first place. I vividly remember the 'Who the fuck?' shit storm that accompanied Antony's win fondly as well. I remember casual listening friends to be outraged at it. It really weirded some folks out.

I'm still sore about Wild Beasts missing out in 2010 and not even making the shortlist this year though.

I also think that the Polaris has been much stronger than the Mercury's in terms of winners and candidates over the last few years.

AnotherDeadHero, Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:28 (2 years ago) Permalink

Cosign on that last sentence.

Sick Mouthy (Scik Mouthy), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:32 (2 years ago) Permalink

wow I don't know if I can put up with an entire Antony album

I'm not even 2 minutes in and all I keep thinking is "won't someone save that poor baby goat oh wait that's his singing voice"

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:35 (2 years ago) Permalink

okay apparently my breaking point is "One day I will grow up to be a beautiful woman"

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:42 (2 years ago) Permalink

ha I am pretty sure I hated Arctic Monkeys last time I heard them and now, post Antony, they sound like the greatest band on Earth

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:42 (2 years ago) Permalink

Kinda what I was getting at. In that Antony was a great winner mostly because of how much it fucked people off.

AnotherDeadHero, Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:44 (2 years ago) Permalink

It's hard to see the intensely annoying aspects of a band as a positive when you are among the ppl getting annoyed.

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:47 (2 years ago) Permalink

As usual Tim, you have most eloquently summed up why I should be enjoying this more than I do, and I appreciate that. I dug out New Forms again only a couple of months ago, having not really listened to it since it first came out. The only thing that I object to in your post is the "received wisdom" thing, because frankly I can't help not being moved by something if it doesn't move me - this is not a parroting of opinion as I've held it since I first heard the album; so as far as I know this opinion is nothing but my own. But hey, I love hearing other's points of view when summarised the way you did.

No problems with crossover appeal - that's a good thing in my book. My secondary issue lies in the ostensible justification of drum'n'bass by trying to compare it to another completely different style of music (jazz) so as to make it more palatable to non-dance listeners when really it should be appreciated on its own merits (i.e. as dance music).

What can I say? At the end of the day it's simply not my bag. People appreciate music based on different values and these don't correlate so well with mine. As a landmark record that went on to influence perhaps the subtler and more experimental side of music: that I agree. And maybe at the time I was still wrapped up in my frantic jungle/aardkore schism, and certainly not tuned in enough to other developments in d'n'b to fully understand that.

On reassessing, it's still a pretty flat-sounding record to my ears (don't want to use the word "wallpaper" because it's certainly more than that), and while I've grown to love the more nuanced styles of dance (minimal house for example) over the last several years, the tunes just skim and scoot around in the background - my mind forgets they're there, which is neither pleasant nor unpleasant - it just is.

I'd like to start a thread about listening to music in a different environment from which it's intended. A big part of Reprazent (and drum'n'bass and dance and rock to an extent) is that it should be heard loud - preferably live in Roni Size's case. Not having access to decent clubs for most of my life, I grew up hearing dance on some pretty shitty home stereo systems. These days I mostly listen to it on headphones: moderately better but I often feel I have to hypnotise myself in order to imagine what it would sound like on a decent bass unit. For one, you can't feel bass vibrations in your body when limiting yourself to earphones.

It was a Thursday night. I was working late... (dog latin), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:49 (2 years ago) Permalink

I'm not even 2 minutes in and all I keep thinking is "won't someone save that poor baby goat oh wait that's his singing voice"

― Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 21:35 (14 minutes ago) Bookmark

If Antony and Joanna Newsom did an album together I think your head might explode ;-)

It was a Thursday night. I was working late... (dog latin), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:51 (2 years ago) Permalink

Not a very big fan at all, but I'm always kind of impressed at how powerful Arctic Monkeys can sound compared to a lot of mid-00's indie. Speaking of soundsystems, if you'd ever attended an indie night circa that year, it blew the competition out the window.

It was a Thursday night. I was working late... (dog latin), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:52 (2 years ago) Permalink

yeah actually the thing that is striking me about this is that there is an unambiguous, driving rhythm section here; the crispness of the drums in particular is really viscerally satisfying and definitely making me more amenable to this than I would normally expect (see above Gomez reaction for contrast)

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:55 (2 years ago) Permalink

xxxxpost you're allowed not to like the album, but all the stuff about sanitising jungle and coffee tables is received wisdom.

my secondary issue lies in the ostensible justification of drum'n'bass by trying to compare it to another completely different style of music (jazz) so as to make it more palatable to non-dance listeners when really it should be appreciated on its own merits (i.e. as dance music).

There is a long history of dance music that uses jazz (and soul and funk and reggae and hip hop and etc.) samples though, and the point of this by and large is not to make the music more palatable to non-dance listeners, but to generate friction between the sample source and the groove.

Some idiot critics and listeners might seize on that in the wrong way (as per your quote) but it's pretty clear that this is not what Roni Size was doing. I'd say the first Goldie album (which I like too) is a much more appropriate target of that criticism.

We wouldn't complain about, say, Moodymann in these terms - mainly because he's never crossed over as much. But this is why working backwards from outcome (winning the mercury music prize) to intention is so fraught.

Tim F, Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:58 (2 years ago) Permalink

oh I kind of glossed over Badly Drawn Boy; I WONDER WHY

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 20:59 (2 years ago) Permalink

I'm kind of impressed with Klaxons' attempt to do something different, even if it's mostly terrible. At least they have a drummer.

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 21:03 (2 years ago) Permalink

There is a long history of dance music that uses jazz (and soul and funk and reggae and hip hop and etc.) samples though, and the point of this by and large is not to make the music more palatable to non-dance listeners, but to generate friction between the sample source and the groove.

Some idiot critics and listeners might seize on that in the wrong way (as per your quote) but it's pretty clear that this is not what Roni Size was doing. I'd say the first Goldie album (which I like too) is a much more appropriate target of that criticism.

We wouldn't complain about, say, Moodymann in these terms - mainly because he's never crossed over as much. But this is why working backwards from outcome (winning the mercury music prize) to intention is so fraught.

Sampling sources from other styles doesn't compare you to those styles necessarily. If I were to make a juke track that sampled Jacques Brel, Chicago bass wouldn't be the new chanson. But I get your point - I was put off New Forms because of how drum'n'bass was then being pedalled, mostly by pundits and journos and bandwagonjumpers rather than the artists themselves. So yeah, it is unfair to pass judgement in that way. I guess in some ways it's easy to get put off by external media rather than the message itself. Electro was a great laugh until Topman changed their whole line to day-glo pink and yellow and then it just started getting a bit sickening. As a peripheral listener, the younger me would have been more influenced and subsequently put-off by such, as you say, idiotic quotes.

It was a Thursday night. I was working late... (dog latin), Thursday, 8 September 2011 21:07 (2 years ago) Permalink

y'all the Speech Debelle album is great, I think many of you are overly harsh re: the Tracy Chapmanisms because IMO they work

Tal Berkowitz - Vaccine advocate (DJP), Thursday, 8 September 2011 22:17 (2 years ago) Permalink

Not sure Roni Size's Reprazent tour was better than the album. I really enjoyed the album on release but walked out of the live show.

brotherlovesdub, Thursday, 8 September 2011 22:27 (2 years ago) Permalink

So I'm giving this another spin before a bit.

It was a Thursday night. I was working late... (dog latin), Thursday, 8 September 2011 23:40 (2 years ago) Permalink

"for a bit"

It was a Thursday night. I was working late... (dog latin), Thursday, 8 September 2011 23:40 (2 years ago) Permalink

Do you remember the thread started when I made ill-advised claims about Underworld's drum programming and 90s d 'n b, Tim F? I had a look for it, but couldn't find it. Thought it might be pertinent here.

Neil S, Friday, 9 September 2011 08:10 (2 years ago) Permalink

xp DNB closes to rap is true, pretty much all old school dnb'ers were hip hop heads before the whole rave thing, even listen to alot of early uk dance stuff it has alot of hip hop in it(bomb the bass, depth charge etc)

X-101, Monday, 12 September 2011 12:32 (2 years ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll is closing tomorrow.

System, Monday, 19 September 2011 23:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

OK, so I need to make my mind up quickly on this. Interesting to revisit these in order. Some confirmed as enduring classics (Portishead), others as played-out passing pleasures (Franz Ferdinand), others as unarguable WTF-were-they-thinkings (dear God, the M People album is shockingly poor once you get past the singles), and there were a couple whose appeal was lost on me at the time, but which I can now get right behind. So, with that in mind, and to my slight amazement, I'm voting for Roni Size/Reprazent.

mike t-diva, Tuesday, 20 September 2011 09:50 (2 years ago) Permalink

he M People album is shockingly GREAT once you get past the singles

gospodin simmel, Tuesday, 20 September 2011 10:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

Went "Dummy". A worst poll would be more interesting IMO.

good luck in your pyramid (Neil S), Tuesday, 20 September 2011 11:19 (2 years ago) Permalink

That happened in 2007. M People walked it, followed by Gomez.

WORSTEST ALBUM TO WIN MERCURY MUSICS PRIZE!

mike t-diva, Tuesday, 20 September 2011 13:05 (2 years ago) Permalink

i just can't with people who think pulp are better than m people

i asked for "HALF" a glass of wine, because i am TEMPERENT (lex pretend), Tuesday, 20 September 2011 14:14 (2 years ago) Permalink

can't what?

Have Sex / a pint / dance / what?

Mark G, Tuesday, 20 September 2011 14:21 (2 years ago) Permalink

I have had a pint with Lex so it can't be that.

Science, you guys. Science. (DL), Tuesday, 20 September 2011 15:02 (2 years ago) Permalink

Hey, me too.. and then we went to a rave, so...

Yo wait a minute man, you better think about the world (dog latin), Tuesday, 20 September 2011 15:03 (2 years ago) Permalink

Automatic thread bump. This poll's results are now in.

System, Tuesday, 20 September 2011 23:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

portishead my arse.

piscesx, Wednesday, 21 September 2011 01:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

Portisarse - Bummy

Yo wait a minute man, you better think about the world (dog latin), Wednesday, 21 September 2011 09:31 (2 years ago) Permalink

fuck this shit

gospodin simmel, Wednesday, 21 September 2011 15:00 (2 years ago) Permalink

I am more confused by Badly Drawn Boy coming in 5th; regardless of how I feel about them, the top 4 albums have enough recognizable support around here to make their placings a given but I thought everyone detested BDB

the tax avocado (DJP), Wednesday, 21 September 2011 15:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

(ftr I think the correct album won)

the tax avocado (DJP), Wednesday, 21 September 2011 15:01 (2 years ago) Permalink

I don't. (detest I mean, I also think the right album won)...

I dunno, BDB... The album is great, but he seemed to have a very steep 'run out of ideas' curve.

Mark G, Wednesday, 21 September 2011 15:04 (2 years ago) Permalink

.. also, he seemed to have a very strong 'irritation' factor, one small thing going wrong could cause a mighty strop on-stage. That tends to upset people, and rightly so.

Every one talked about Elliot Smith being 'better', but the one CD I got of his, ummm... Nice enough, but didn't really win me over.

Mark G, Wednesday, 21 September 2011 15:06 (2 years ago) Permalink


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