Yes, yes, I know the XX won the official award. But, that’s not really the point is it?
We all know it’s essentially meaningless to pull together a disparate collection of works, compare them, then declare one better than the others. The Mercury, like the Man Booker or the Turner Prize, isn’t really an award at all, it’s primarily an exercise in awareness; a promotional campaign for a section of the arts world that’s feeling slightly unloved. The real purpose is to grab a bit of attention, to get people talking and, of course, to get them investing some of their hard-earned in a slightly difficult book or an album not made by the x-factory or a trip to a gallery to look at works of art that probably aren’t paintings.
Now I do quite like the XX album, though I prefer Two Dancers by Wild Beasts. But, I’d already bought them both. So, in my house, the real winner of the 2010 Mercury Prize was an album I’d been meaning to get for months but didn’t actually go out and buy until I heard all those nice people on the telly saying how good it was…
Foals: Total Life Forever
This marvellous creation is Foals second album, and whilst it retains the sense of order and precision of their earlier, math-rock inspired, work there’s a lot more loose-limbed funk and a dancier, clubby, feel to the whole undertaking.
Whilst rhythms remain at the heart of most tracks, here they are given the space and time to build and stretch out, combining interesting subjects and ideas* with beautiful soundscapes to create a set of songs that make you want to both think and dance at the same time.
To my ears it’s a bit like Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues remade by Underworld. And if anything deserves a prize, that’s it.
* According to the Sub-Pop website the album’s lyrics are ” informed by American futurist Raymond Kurzweil’s unsettling vision of ‘The Singularity’—the next stage in our evolution that will see humans replaced by AI as the most capable life forms on earth. The album’s title is a reference to Kurzweil’s post-biological human, a melding of man and machine with brains as vast as galaxies and eternal life—what happens to human achievement when death dies?”