The Mercury Music Prize

The Jam in Burton Suits
Thee Faction keep a list of all those musicians who, come the glorious day, will be subjected to the kind of ritual humiliation their artistic output caused the rest of us while they were still allowed to ‘create’. It seems that the powers that be at the Mercury Music Prize have raided our HQ at the DDRofR&B, stolen the list, and published it as some sort of ironic ‘last days of the bourgeois empire’ shortlist for the prize itself.

Apart from Dizzee, whose “Chas’n’Dave for the 21st Century” act comes straight from where it counts, and perhaps Villagers, all the others  would have been kicked out of Sun Studios by Sam Phillips with a flea in their ear and a boot up their collective arse for having no soul and even less bite. And rightly so. Dizzee won’t win, of course – he’ll be considered, ironically, the conservative choice, while the assortment of posh kids, has-beens, rural luddites, jazz masturbators and music-complicators that make up the rest of the list will be embraced by the talentless non-entities of Fleet Street’s arts sections as the authentic voice of Britain’s bubbling culture pot.

Although we all loathe the lot of them, Billy Brentford reserves most of his ire for Mumford & Sons.  Their faux-folk pantomime contains nothing that made folk the music of protest on both sides of the Atlantic prior to its metamorphosis into R&B and rock’n’roll. Instead it reeks of opportunist posh-kids choosing music-making as an alternative to investment banking, with song-writing that has all the soul of an IPO or a statement to investors.  What’s more, as Brentford never ceases to remind us, the singer has a face you could literally never tire of punching. If they win this award, music and irony will both have died.

The XX, alumni not of London’s public schools, but of a comprehensive in Putney that specialises in churning out shit soulless pop bands like Hot Chip, Dragonforce and Maccabees, are in there too, stinking up the list. As are indie-rock-by-numbers-and-mathematical-formulae merchants Foals and Biffy Clyro. Add to the cocktail some jazz (for fuck’s sake), a soul singer with no discernible soul, an ex-TV presenter and a band who like Radiohead, and you have a fairly comprehensive map of the misery that is British music at the moment.

But the nominee that most upsets Thee Faction as a whole is Weller. Comrade Strummer had it right when he noted, of Tory voting The Jam and their ilk, that “the new groups are not concerned with what there is to be learned..they’ve got Burton suits, you think it’s funny, turning rebellion into money.” Although he has tried to jump on and off the Socialist R&B bandwagon at various points in his career, Weller’s Happy-Shopper-Stevie-Winwood act, who himself was a Happy Shopper-proper-R&B act, has hardly ever rung true. He sits in his mansion dreaming of being in Thee Faction, and knowing that he wouldn’t have the balls for genuine, unpleasant Socialist R&B. When Billy Brentford looks at Weller he can see what might have happened had he not retained and nurtured the integrity that defines him. There might have been hope for Weller once. Now he looks across at Thee Faction and can see what he could have been. And no Mercury Music Prize is going to compensate him for that.

We keep reminding you – the comeback is finished, the fight back starts now. Never have Thee Faction been more needed. A Tory government, Weller on a shortlist, and the upper middle classes stinking up the charts with their cod-folk operating as some kind of gap-year alternative? Britain needs Thee Faction. Britain is desperate for a heavy dose of Socialist R&B.


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