Those of us who believed Iron Maiden’s Brit Award would herald a new era of recognition for rock have been brought crashing back down to earth with an almighty bang this week.
And the blast which heralded an uncomfortable reacquaintance with reality? That complete joke of a nominations list called the Mercury Music Awards.
According to the blurb which prefaced the latest raft of nominees in the race for the 2009 prize, ‘The Barclaycard Mercury Prize for ‘Albums of the Year’ celebrates and promotes the best of British and Irish music. All genres of music are eligible for entry and all are treated equally, the music on the album is the only thing taken into account.’ All genres apart from rock and metal, apparently.
In the 12 months since the last prize was awarded we’ve reviewed stunning new releases by The Answer, You Me At Six, Hot Leg and Stone Gods to name but a few. All four records have been penned by rising stars at the forefront of a new wave of accessible, radio friendly rock and prove the UK still a hotbed for brilliant and brave guitar bands. But none has been nominated for a prize purporting to support the best of British and Irish music. We shouldn’t be surprised but that’s not the point.
While bands like Kasabian, Glasvegas, Florence And The Machine and Bat For Lashes deserve praise they don’t deserve to dominate such a high profile showcase at the expense of acts which have, quite frankly, released far better records. Friendly Fires come closest to representing the rock community but their pop sensibilities mean they’re more mainstream than metal. If the organisers of the Mercury Awards will persist in their claim that they trumpet every musical genre it’s high time they put a wad of (Barclaycard’s) money where their mouth is.
Otherwise honesty is surely the best policy. Just come clean and admit that any music which gets ignored by Radio One, never makes it into NME and would leave Jonathan Ross quaking in his boots will be religiously ignored by those compiling the the Mercury Awards nominations. Front up and confess that bands which play music above a certain volume will be blackballed. And let’s be open about the fact – because it is a fact – that musicians with long hair who favour power chords and raucous riffs are more likely to scoop a noise abatement order than a Mercury Music Award.
To brazenly suggest that the biggest prize in British music is, indeed, up for grabs by any band operating within the UK and Ireland is simply outrageous. And to continue to peddle the myth is nothing short of a national disgrace.
Of course within our own community we boast the Classic Rock awards, the Kerrang! awards and the Metal Hammer Golden Gods awards. And ask any band within the genre we love where they’d rather see their name and it would be as a winner of one of the above – not on some pathetic homage to music business bigwigs and popular music tastemakers. But imagine the boost to rock and metal were one of our big hitting favourites to make that Mercury list. At the very least it would make those cosseted playlisters and management professionals aware of an enduring musical movement which refuses to die gracefully.
There is a certain irony that a prize named after such prized metal fails to recognise heavy rock. But it’s an irony which we can do without.