New Yorkers Grab Mercury Prize

It’s kind of like a crazy contest between an orange and a spaceship and a potted plant and a spoon – which one do you like better? was how ex-patriot Englishman Antony Hegarty reacted to winning the Mercury Music Prize.

“I think they must have made a mistake,” said Chichester-born Hegarty, after Antony & The JohnsonsI Am A Bird Now album had beaten off the challenges of such highly tipped rivals as Kaiser Chiefs and KT Tunstall.

The New York-based band only qualified for the competition, which is for the best album of the year by a British or Irish act, because Johnson was born in the U.K. The prize is voted for by a panel of industry experts, journalists and artists, and is said to reward originality and creativity rather than sales success.

The band performed at the award ceremony at London’s Grosvenor House Hotel, as did fellow nominees Kaiser Chiefs, KT Tunstall, Seth Lakeman, Bloc Party, Polar Bear, Maximo Park, The Magic Numbers, and The Go! Team.

Simon Frith, chairman of the judges, said Antony & The Johnsons won because they produced “such an extraordinary album.”

“It’s not like any album I’ve heard before or since,” he said. “It doesn’t seem to have any obvious place where it’s coming from – and yet play it to anybody and they’re arrested.

“Some of them hate it, some of them absolutely love it – but nobody can ignore it.”

Kaiser Chiefs were the bookies’ favourites.

— John Gammon