MATTERS

MATTERS // MERCURY PRIZE // AN ANGRY YOUNG TUNE

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SOPHIE MONK

In typical Savages fashion, the news of their Mercury prize nomination prompted lead singer/growler/wailer, Jehnny Beth to devise a Tumblr post, the syllogism of which is largely reducible to: “Do whatever the fuck you want”.

It’s comforting to know that Savages, ever disposed to doing whatever the fuck they want, aren’t fostering any delusions that making the shortlist should be of any substantial consequence. “Being nominated or not doesn’t make you a better band”, Beth reasons, “it doesn’t change anything.”

True, whether Savages emerge as the unlikely victors of tonight’s ceremony or not, they’re still never going to stake a claim for a position on the Radio 1 Playlist or David Cameron’s Best-of-British Mixtape (which, on review, has some amusing overlaps with this year’s shortlist). But that is exactly why a Mercury triumph for Savages would make for the most interesting and colourful outcome to the evening, as well as offer a glimmer of redemption for the Mercury Prize; especially after being chewed up and spat out by Kevin Shields et al.

Rather than patting the British public on the back for their customary listening habits, to grant Savages the award would vindicate the notion of credit where credit’s due, and recognise the aptitude required to produce such an accomplished debut album, at once immersive and alienating, sensual and cerebral. 

Do accusations of derivative and anachronistic aesthetics hold any weight against Silence Yourself as a valid contender for this year’s Mercury Prize? No amount of deference to post-punk influences like Joy Division and Bauhaus, or vocal evocations of Patti Smith or Siouxsie-Soux, could render this record unimaginative or irrelevant. The cacophony of guitars, the palpitating bass-line of Shut Up, even a sultry downtown venture into Marshal Dear, all collude to constitute a well-timed slap in the face to today’s buzz bands and their gaggle of fans, experiencing their live performances through the hi-res screens of their smartphones. Something tells me that, with a pertinent irony, the imperative to “silence yourself” of the album’s title could happily be directed against the likes of fellow contenders for the prize Foals and Bugg, along with the indulgent jargon of the awards ceremony itself.

So no, winning the Mercury Prize will not make a scrap of difference to Savages, which in a way is kind of why I’m backing them. They are a band best enjoyed in the immediacy of their music, not on the cover of a glossy magazine, nor through the transmissions of David Cameron’s iPod earphones. But if any British album release this year deserves plaudits on the grounds of visceral musicality and confident production, it’s Silence Yourself, which is why, tonight, I’m rooting for Savages.  

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