Jul 06

You’re out of touch my baby

FT15 comments • 1,005 views

Mercury Prize Shortlist day is always a time of much pontificating over the state of the musical nation, the uselessness of prizes, the evils of marketing, the injustice done to [yr favourite here]. It’s also a marvellous opportunity for some serious navel gazing, especially as this is the first year when I have heard no albums at all on the list. What has contributed to this?

Disparity of Mercury/Tom tastes: This is a factor for about half the records – I simply have no interest in whatever noises Lanegan, Campbell, Yorke, Editors, etc. decide to make. Since few of my friends do, I’m not likely to get the opportunity to hear whether I’m wrong. (OK, obvious question – why don’t I have any interest? Generally it’s because my experience with these musicians leads me to believe they make music that saps life rather than enhances it.)

Download Kulcha innit: But if that were the only factor, I’d have a list of my own favourites queueing up to hustle Simon Frith’s aside. I don’t. The simple truth is that I can’t accurately remember the last time I listened to any album (I think it was the Tom Tom Club one, the weekend the Elephant came to London.) I listen to music every day, though, but as a playlisted whirl of discrete tracks. At home if we want to put music on I’m likely to reach for a self-made compilation of whatever’s thrilling me lately. I’ve heard and liked tracks by Sway and Hot Chip, but rather than get hold of 10-15 more I prefer to wait for individual recommendations.

A lack of urgency: But I do sometimes get full albums on- or off-line, so I haven’t totally given up on the format. Why not any of these ones? The level of enthusiasm from friends needed to make me buy an album is very high – serious gushing from two separate sources, minimum – and even then I feel I can take my time over it. I’ve read pundits saying that the ever-grinding novelty-mill of MP3 culture turns people into gannets who grab and grab whatever’s new without absorbing it. My experience has been that the untethering of records from a ‘release date’ has diffused my desire to hear them immediately: it feels like I have more time than ever* to hear the new Scritti Politti album, so why not wait and listen to other things? I would probably not feel like this if I still felt I could keep up and uncover fresh sounds – very easy to high-handedly turn down a race when you’re too unfit to run it anyway.

*of course, biologically speaking, quite the opposite.

So there it is, another step on my passage into Fifty-Quid-Blokedom.  Good luck to Green Gartside, album unheard: he has pedigree and a beard and it’s hard not to like him. Meanwhile enjoy that other annual funfest, the BBC Talking Points Mercury thread.


  1. 1
    Tom on 18 Jul 2006 #

    I am apalled that a post with “touch my baby” in the title gets “A Dirty Shame: The Paedo Problem” in related links!

  2. 2
    Admin on 18 Jul 2006 #


  3. 3
    CarsmileSteve on 18 Jul 2006 #

    surely fifty-quid-bloke would have heard some of these eg artic monkeys, muse and probably editors though…

    …and given that no one has EVER heard the token jazz/classical ones…

  4. 4
    lørd sükråt on 18 Jul 2006 #

    what, no one at all?

  5. 5
    CarsmileSteve on 18 Jul 2006 #

    hehe, i was assuming that response would come from our julio rather than yourself ;)

  6. 6
    Tom on 18 Jul 2006 #

    The impression I always got is that the token picks tend to be less Wire-friendly than Julio would like.

  7. 7
    alex on 18 Jul 2006 #

    There’s an hilarious exchange between timmy popkins and lord martian of darkwave on that ilx thread.

  8. 8
    Pete Baran on 18 Jul 2006 #

    The chair of the judging panel, Simon Frith, said judges had tried to choose the “best records of the year”


    Not saying he’s done that of course…

  9. 9
    Nicole on 18 Jul 2006 #

    I’m glad it’s not just me that has developed that attitude towards albums. It’s been a long time since I listened to any album either.

  10. 10
    katstevens on 19 Jul 2006 #

    As my musical tastes have progressed towards dance music, all the new music I’ve bought has been

    a) compilations/mix CDs
    b) by non-UK artists (hi dere Ellen Allien)

    I could pontificate on what my purchasing habits and indeed the Mercury shortlist say about the state of UK dance music, but I won’t because I’m far too excited as last night I bought the Lily Allen album! And the tracks I hadn’t heard yet are also amazing!

  11. 11
    Mark M on 19 Jul 2006 #

    A thought: the way you’re most likely to hear whole albums that you aren’t going to buy yourself is round at friends’ houses. And if you ‘ve reached the point in life when many/most folks you know have kids, then chances are low that they are going to be playing you the latest sounds, even if they have money left to spend on tunes after buying nappies…

  12. 12
    Pete on 19 Jul 2006 #

    Mark. Are you saying we – the eternal teenagers – are getting old (cos you’d be right)

  13. 13
    Paul on 28 Jul 2006 #

    should at least hear the Scritti, Tom – I’m pretty sure you’ll like it (and it was a grower for me – I’m not even a fan of Green’s singing)

  14. 14
    Tom on 28 Jul 2006 #

    Oh I’ll definitely get round to hearing the Scritti – maybe when the unsold stock is going cheap post-Mercury ;)

  15. 15
    Pete Baran on 28 Jul 2006 #

    The beauty of that sentence is that it works eaither if Scritti win or don’t – as proved by Antony And His Johnston last year.

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