The 2009 Nationwide Mercury Music prize shortlist has been announced, and once again Hugh Platt finds himself screaming at the sky, shaking his fist like an ineffectual caveman cursing the Gods for making it rain.
Once again, the great and the good of the UK music media are hunched over, hands clasped around their critical appendages, and are furiously word-wanking their opinions onto betting slips. That’s right: the shortlist of albums fighting for the 2009 Mercury Prize have be announced, and yet again – for the 18th year running – metal has been denied a presence on the final shortlist.
When you stop to consider how popular a ‘niche’ metal is – one that has several yearly festivals, national magazines dedicated to it, and a history stretching back all the way to the late 60’s – then this long-standing lack of recognition of anything even approaching metal is pretty galling. Are we to believe that since 1992, there hasn’t really been any metal albums of British or Irish origin that could be considered to be amongst the 12 Best Albums of any given year? Or could it be that this competition supposedly intended to highlight the best albums produced by British or Irish acts is more full of shit than a herd of constipated pot-bellied pigs?
Even if we stretch the Thrash Hits remit as thin and tight as Steel Panther’s spandex jockstraps, the number of ‘our’ albums that have ever made the shortlist is despicably miniscule. Permission To Land by The Darkness? Surely that’s seen as a laughable nomination by just about everyone now, rather than just by people who actually, y’know, actually like heavy music. The Fat Of The Land by The Prodigy isn’t a metal album, no matter what you might try to argue down the pub. The OTT progishness of Muse‘s Black Holes & Revelations? Still very much on the ‘safe’ side of heavy – Matt Bellamy hardly terrifies daytime Radio 1, after all. Past that, you’ve got to roll all the way back to 1994 for Therapy?’s Troublegum for the anything with even a smidgen of heaviness to it.
Watch the video to ‘Screamager’ by Therapy?
It’s not even as if metal gets thrown a tokenistic entry now and again. Even jazz, classical and “world” music gets that much. Sure, there’s as much chance as an album from those genres winning as Kerry King has of growing a full head of hair back, but at least they get a nod of consideration.
What about Gallows? The Eighties Matchbox B-Line Disaster? Biffy Clyro? earthtone 9? Napalm Death? Funeral For A Friend? Rolo Tomassi? Post-Blaze Bailey Iron Maiden? Or even Enter Shikari? That’s just a tiny, tiny sample of the dozens and dozens of bands producing incredible, interesting, worthy heavy British records over the last decade. Yet the most talked-about music prize in the entire of Britain and Ireland continues to see fit in sidelining anything that even suggests .
Is it because metal is still seen by mainstream culture commentators as some kind of childish genre, one that really shouldn’t be indulged beyond adolescence? That somehow metal is less “worthy” than indie music? They seem to forget the technical skill, the constant musical innovation and evolution present – nay, necessary in metal, and instead get hung up on the fact that metal can be LOUD and SHOUTY and ANGRY and other phrases that they only think of as existing in permanent capital letters and precious little else besides.
Should we even care? Metal has always styled itself as an outlaw genre – should it really give a flying toss what a panel of chirruping media gormflakes think about it? Do we really want to see Lauren Laverne et al, sniggering behind their hands throughtout the award ceremony, as some tokenistic metal entry struggles to perform a live song thanks to a woefully inadequate PA? Or even worse, do we want to have to stomach Jo Whiley-esque declarations of false lifelong fanhood to metal from careerist lip-flappers, who’d gladly spout any hollow opinion you cared to feed them if it guaranteed them a spot in front of a TV camera?
Of course, this is all somewhat meaningless conjecture – the submissions cost (yes, you have to pay to submit your album to the Mercury) puts the pipe-dream of the Mercury Prize outside the budget of most metal bands. Consider that the vast, vast majority of British metal bands exist on tiny, next-to-no-budget indie labels, and the likelihood of those labels finding a spare £500 lying about to blow on a ridiculous competition which will have a guaranteed ZERO return on investment. There’s no metal in the Mercury because, well, metal bands have the business sense not to throw money away chasing something they’ll never even have a chance of making the shortlist for, let along grabbing the top prize.
Why should we even be concerned about obtaining validation from these chumps? Maybe it’s a good thing metal gets ignored by the Mercury judging panel – at least it spares it from the indignity of being manhandled by a mainstream media that mocks what it can’t hope to understand.
In celebration of The Mercury Music Prize being so fucking shit, we’ve decided to launch the annual-ish COROT-3b “Music” Prize for best British Rock Album of the last few months. Some of these were probably released over a year ago, but we don’t care.
COROT-3b is the most heavy metal planet in the universe. Actually – it’s twice as dense as lead. That puts shitty little Mercury to shame.
*** We’re investigating “voting irregularities” – stay tuned for the result ***