So I spent an idle twenty minutes thinking up alternative, better (in my mind) winners for every year of the Mercury Prize. I’m pretty sure my choice would have been eligible in every given year (I even looked-up a few release dates). What would you like to have seen win?
1992 – My Bloody Valentine – Loveless (real winner: Primal Scream – Screamadelica)
I actually love Screamadelica, so am pretty happy that it won the inaugural MMP; can’t help but feel that someone missed a trick by not having this in the nominations (maybe MBV’s nationality [are they a Scottish band? An Irish band?] kept them out).
1993 – PJ Harvey – Rid Of Me (Suede – Suede)
Never liked Suede; love Rid Of Me.
1994 – The Boo Radleys – Giant Steps ( M People – Elegant Slumming)
The M People victory is an odd one; beyond the singles I don’t know it, so it could be a fantastic winner, but they seemed to vanish and no one talks about them anymore except to say “lol mercury Prize”. Surprised Giant Steps didn’t get nominated; its fusion of pop melodies, genre-explorations, and guitar-noise would seem to plant it firmly in Mercury territory.
1995 – Tricky – Maxinquaye (Portishead – Dummy)
Obviously these are essentially two sides of the same coin; I just always preferred Tricky’s.
1996 – Orbital – In Sides / Courtney Pine – Modern Day Jazz Stories (Pulp – Different Class)
I bought the token jazz nomination a couple of years later on, and loved it, but I was astonished that Orbital didn’t get nommed when Underworld did (one dance album quota?). Different Class is great and all, but as a winner it seemed a little safe when 1996 was firing great music in all sorts of directions other than just Britpop.
1997 – Michael Head and The Strands – The Magical World of The Strands (Roni Size/Reprazent – New Forms)
The protracted and confusing release of The Strands makes it difficult to fathom when it would have been eligible, and I doubt anyone would have stumped up the £200 or whatever necessary to enter anyway (or even enough copies to send the judges!). Nothing wrong with New Forms, I just adore my alternative.
1998 – Massive Attack – Mezzanine (Gomez – Bring It On)
Honestly, Gomez? Really? When Mezzanine was nominated?
1999 – Super Furry Animals – Guerrilla (Talvin Singh – OK)
OK is a very… OK listen, ha ha, but I was astonished when SFA didn’t get nominated (and Stereophonics did, wtf).
2000 – Primal Scream – XTRMNTR (Badly Drawn Boy – Hour of Bewilderbeast)
Again, amazed that XTRMNTR didn’t get nominated (especially after Vanishing Point did) when utter dross like Richard Ashcroft’s solo album was. I still enjoy the Badly Drawn Boy album, but XTRMNTR felt epochal to us at university.
2001 – The Beta Band – Hot Shots II (PJ Harvey – Stories From The City, Stories From The Sea)
Amnesiac was nominated over Kid A, which just seems insane, and whilst Elbow, Goldfrap, and PJ’s albums were all great, I’d love to have seen The Beta Band get a shout, and in hindsight I think this is their masterpiece.
2002 – The Streets – Original Pirate Material (Ms Dynamite – A Little Deeper)
Like Portishead vs Tricky, these seemed like similar aspects of a scene, and I enjoyed Skinner’s version more.
2003 – Four Tet – Rounds (Dizzee Rascal – Boy In Da Corner)
The Dizzee album was a huge impact and a great winner, but I can’t recall the last time I listened to it.
2004 – Bark Psychosis – //:Codename:Dustsucker / Electrelane – The Power Out (Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand)
It’d be lovely to see something as obscure and strange as Bark Psychosis receive a nomination, but sadly it will simply never happen. Failing them, Electrelane would be preferable to Keane, Snow Patrol, or The Zutons. 2004’s nominations felt like the start of the 00s indie landfill.
2005 – Polar Bear – Held On The Tips Of Fingers / Roots Manuva – Awfully Deep (Anthony and The Johnsons – I Am A Bird Now)
The first year when I actively wanted the token jazz nomination to win, and actually thought they might stand a chance. Oh foolish me. The Anthony record was enough of a curveball I suppose, but I still think this is Roots Manuva’s best record.
2006 – Kate Bush – Aerial (Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That’s What I’m Not)
Just baffled that this awesome, fantastical record didn’t even get nominated.
2007 –Acoustic Ladyland – Skinny Grin (Klaxons – Myths Of The Near Future)
Peak of indie landfill. The Klaxons album is one of the worst things I ever listened to. Was surprised that Skinny Grin, a modern-day jazz-rock fusion that really pushed experimental boundaries but had melodic nous too, didn’t warrant a nomination, but its Christmas release seemed to scupper its impact on all fronts.
2008 – In Rainbows – Radiohead / Portishead – Third (Elbow – The Seldom Seen Kid)
The Elbow album is nice enough, but I preferred them with teeth and morbid sexual fixations. In Rainbows has become my favourite Radiohead record, and Third feels more and more like a brave and excellent album.
2009 – Patrick Wolf – The Bachelor (Speech Debelle – Speech Therapy)
Poor Speech Debelle seemed to be greeted by universal ‘wtf’ responses when she won; I never heard her record, but my brother-in-law liked it. Every time Patrick Wolf releases an album I expect it to be nominated, and it never is.
2010 – Wild Beasts – Two Dancers / Four Tet – There Is Love In You / These New Puritans – Hidden (The xx – xx)
The xx released a very good debut album, but Wild Beasts and These New Puritans released my two favourite British ‘rock’ albums in a very, very long time, whilst Four Tet released what I still think is an unimpeachably beautiful and triumphant album; instrumental electronic music seldom gets nominated though.
2011 – PJ Harvey – Let England Shake (PJ Harvey – Let England Shake)
Plenty of great (British) albums came out in the 2011 window, but I have no qualms with PJ walking it – Let England Shake, 20+ years into her career, is probably her best.
2012 – ???
I’d love it, really love it, if Field Music were to win. We’ll see.