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.

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