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Billy Milk
Billy Milk
2045 posts

Re: f***ing travesty of justice
Sep 08, 2004, 15:26
What were they thinking? For the second time ex-pat Brummie Mike Skinner has been denied the Mercury Music prize and the decision stinks.
What galls the most is that the rest of the field was so lacklustre. The fact that the award was given to a band so devoid of original thought is the icing on the cake.
In case you missed it, Mike Skinner is The Streets and his latest album, A Grand Don't Come for Free is a stone classic. I know it, you know it and the record-buying public knows it. We sent the album to the top of the charts and its second single, Dry Your Eyes to the number one slot. This achievement alone doesn't mean zip, what counts is the massive goodwill accumulating behind Skinner.
He's an artist in the lineage of great British songwriters such as Ray Davies, Ian Dury and Paul Weller at his late 70s peak. A brilliant observer of the ordinary man with an eye for detail and a way with a smart couplet. The fact that he's working in the maligned area of garage and hip hop only makes this achievement more extraordinary.
A Grand Don't Come for Free is a remarkable album. It's a cohesive kitchen sink tale of a week in the life of an ordinary bloke. Set in the first person, it's honest, funny and genuinely moving as Skinner loses the titular grand put aside for an 18-30 holiday, loses his girl, takes drugs, gets drunk and faces some sobering truths. Unlike 99 per cent of concept albums, this one works perfectly and the closing denouement is as uplifting as anything Hollywood could trump up.
The Mercury Prize, I'd assumed, was his, particularly as his debut album, another classic, was trumped by the debut from Miss Dynamite. Here was a chance to right wrongs. It's a tale that I imagine Skinner himself would find amusing.
Rather than doing the right thing, the judges awarded the honour to the debut album by Glaswegian art-rockers Franz Ferdinand, a decision of monumental stupidity that reeks of prejudice and pandering to the hipsters. It's a victory for the man, as Jack Black might say.
Franz Ferdinand are ok. Their album's listenable, but it has no merit as a piece of musical history. Whereas The Streets are blazing a trail through urban Britain, Franz Ferdinand are arch ponces in sharp suits and a cynical approach to recycling the past – in their case the moment when the post-punk community discovered a regional voice and scratchy guitars. Very much in the magpie Britpop mould, Franz Ferdinand take a bit of everything cool and trendy and put a slight spin on it. It's a musical hairball coughed up by posh kids for critics who are old enough to remember the thrill of early Talking Heads, Postcard Records (Scotland's great lost indie label) and Rough Trade. They hark back to a time when anything was possible.
Ironically, with the major labels very much having a stranglehold on the mainstream, the chances of anything genuinely new slipping through are increasingly slim.
So, it's another nail in the coffin for great British invention and a genuine slap in the face for serious music fans. Thankfully, Mike Skinner doesn't need the sort of attention that the Mercury Prize brings to the winner, he's making it on his own merits. However, if the Prize itself wants to be taken seriously in the future, it needs to shape up fast. Memo to judges: stop listening to the goateed taste-makers and start using your ears.
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