Tag: Kasabian

Mercury Prize 2009: Conclusion

I’ve come to the end of my journey through this year’s Mercury Prize shortlist (if you’ve missed them, my individual posts are here), so it’s time for some final thoughts, and a bit of pointless-but-I’m-going-to-do-it-anyway speculation on who might actually win.

My favourites

I must say I’m pleased that all the shortlisted albums have their own distinctive sounds, and work well as albums rather than just collections of songs. Having said that, there is one album on the list that stands out to me as being that bit more complete and well-crafted – so Lisa Hannigan is my pick of the shortlist. (Second place goes to Sweet Billy Pilgrim, whose album is of a broadly similar standard, but is let down by one track.)

Who will win?

Last year, the judges and I agreed over which album was best; but I suspect that won’t happen again this time. I find it hard to envision the quiet craft of Lisa Hannigan winning out over all the other contenders; but of course I’ll be delighted if proved wrong.

What of the others, then? I think the Prize is a very open field this year; it’s extremely difficult to mark out particular albums as being obviously stronger (or weaker) contenders. Nevertheless, I think we can discount a few straight away: I don’t hear anything in Led Bib’s album to make me think they will blaze a trail by becoming the first jazz act to win the Mercury. And the Kasabian and La Roux albums are the patchiest on the list, so I think the judges will find better candidates than those.

Taking the remaining acts in roughly descending order of fame: Bat for Lashes and Florence and the Machine are almost two sides of the same coin; combine the best aspects of both and you’d have an excellent album. As it is, I think both are in with a good chance; but I suspect the greater dynamism of Florence’s album will give her the edge.

Turning to the better-known guitar bands, Glasvegas are probably the most conventional act on the list; that may lessen their chances in this field, good as their music is. Friendly Fires are likewise good at what they do, but I think the judges may go for a more varied album. The dramatic atmosphere of The Horrors’ album probably gives them the best chance of the three.

That leaves three acts who were largely unknown before the Mercury nominations (hopefully they will not remain so for much longer!); and I think The Invisible, Speech Debelle, and Sweet Billy Pilgrim are all in with a shout. Sweet Billy Pilgrim may have a slight edge, but all three are genuine contenders.

It’s a tough call, but I have a feeling that, in the end, it will come down to a contest between Florence and the Machine and The Horrors, and that Florence will take it.

Of course, I’m just guessing here, as I’ve no real idea what the judges will think. But I do know this: the Mercury Prize in 2009 is a genuinely open contest which both the best-known and most obscure acts have the potential to win. I look forward to hearing the announcement tomorrow night.

Mercury Prize: Kasabian – West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum

Video: ‘Underdog’

It’s strange how music appreciation works out sometimes. The Leicester band Kasabian are probably the best-known act on this year’s Mercury shortlist; but I don’t really know their music that well, because it has never really appealed to me in the past. Perhaps this had something to with Tom Meighan’s swaggering vocal style (yet it fits with the music so well), or the unusual way the band construct their songs (I have no idea why that might be, because some of my favourite bands also have unusually-constructed songs, but there it is). Anyway, now I’ve actually listened to a Kasabian album (their third) in full, I’ve changed my mind, and now quite like them. But, paradoxically, I don’t think West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum works all that well as an album. This needs some explanation.

I tend to associate Kasabian with big, anthemic rock songs like ‘Underdog’, the first (and probably best) song on this album. This is what Kasabian do best, and there are a few other songs here in that vein; however, they try to do several other things on the album, not all of which are successful. ‘Fire’ is an interesting variation, that lends more open space to the band’s signature sound. There are quite a few ballads, some of which work well: like  the nicely laid-back ‘Ladies and Gentlemen (Roll the Dice)’, or the soulful ‘Happiness’ (sung by guitarist Serge Pizzorno, whose voice suits that kind of song better than Meighan’s). Others, like ‘Thick as Thieves’, or ‘West Ryder Silver Bullet’, never really took off for me.

So, West Ryder Pauper Lunatic Asylum is quite a mixed bag; but it has made me listen to Kasabian with fresh ears, which I’m glad to have done.

Video: ‘Fire’ (live)

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Read my other Mercury Prize 2009 posts here.

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