Ever Green: Scritti Politti shortlisted for Mercury album award

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The Independent Culture

After releasing their first album for seven years and playing their first live gigs since the 1980s, Scritti Politti have topped a triumphant comeback with a nomination for the prestigious Nationwide Mercury album of the year award.

The band - which is, in essence, 51-year-old Green Gartside, its founder and songwriter - is in contention for the £20,000 award against a shortlist which includes the first solo album by Radiohead's Thom Yorke, the Arctic Monkeys and the jazz pianist Zoe Rahman.

Simon Frith, the chair of the judges, praised the beauty of Gartside's voice and his ability to write "what might seem on the surface quite light pop songs, which are also intellectually interesting".

The album, White Bread Black Beer, released on Rough Trade, the label on which Scritti Politti made their name, is only the fifth in the nearly three decades since the band was founded.

Despite notable omissions, including the singer-songwriter Corinne Bailey Rae and the newcomer Lily Allen, Mr Frith said this year's list was a celebration of the art of the songwriter. "If you want to know what life is like in Britain today, listen to the country's musicians," he said. "The list contains songs that are witty, sad, angry and reflective; songs exploring emotions and debating attitudes; songs about love lost and love found; songs both personal and political, happy and anxious; songs using a wonderful variety of genres, beats, sounds and moods."

Guillemots, the new band from Birmingham, sit alongside fellow Brummies the Editors in the list, which also includes the prize's traditional nod to folk - in the form of Lou Rhodes - as well as Rahman for jazz. The musical vitality of British cities was also represented by Sheffield, which produced not only the Arctic Monkeys but the music veteran Richard Hawley, nominated for Coles Corner, a title taken from a lovers' meeting place in a now-demolished department store in the city.

The rapper Sway, 22, who won a Mobo award last year before he even had a record deal, is nominated for his home-made debut, This Is My Demo, while Hot Chip, a five-piece band also from London, get a chance with their second album, The Warning. Alexis Taylor, 26, of Hot Chip, said he was pleased as he felt their album did not fit with everything else that has happened musically in the past couple of years. He added: "I haven't heard a lot of the records, but I'm most pleased that Scritti Politti have got a mention."

The other nominated albums are Ballad of the Broken Seas by Mark Lanegan and Isobel Campbell - the Scottish singer formerly with Belle and Sebastian - and Black Holes and Revelations, the chart-topping fourth album from the Devon band Muse.

The bookmaker William Hill installed the Arctic Monkeys and Thom Yorke as joint favourites to win at 5/1. But Graham Sharpe, its spokesman, said all the odds were close as any album could be a winner. "It's a very close year, with superb albums from UK artists representing a diverse range of musical genres," he said.

The judges listened to 200 albums to produce the shortlist. The winner of the prize, which is open to UK albums of all genres, will be announced at a ceremony in London on 5 September. Last year's winner was Antony and the Johnsons for I am a Bird Now.

The judges say...

* Guillemots, Through the Windowpane

"Ambitious and imaginative."

* Richard Hawley, Coles Corner

"A collection of instantly classic ballads."

* Arctic Monkeys, Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not

"Essential."

* Hot Chip, The Warning

"Irresistible DIY electropop - brilliantly realised."

* Isobel Campbell and Mark Lanegan, Ballad of the Broken Seas

"Remarkable."

* Editors, The Back Room

"Edgy, forceful and compelling - impressive debut."

* Thom Yorke, The Eraser

"A compelling new setting for Yorke's unique voice."

* Zoe Rahman, Melting Pot

"One of the UK's most distinctive jazz talents."

* Muse, Black Holes and Revelations

"Bold, brave and bright."

* Scritti Politti, White Bread Black Beer

"Sublime and uplifting pop."

* Sway, This Is My Demo

"Witty and mesmerising observations of urban Britain."

* Lou Rhodes, Beloved One

"A deeply personal acoustic album of elegant songs."

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