The dust has settled on this year’s Choice Music Prize with the coveted gong and prize money going to The Gloaming, worthy victors even if this writer would have liked to have seen We Cut Corners or Damien Rice honoured in their stead. Nonetheless, let’s just be thankful that Hozier didn’t wind up with an award he didn’t deserve and ten grand he hardly needs.
While the Choice has attracted criticism in the past and the present, it remains both relatively prestigious and an intriguing annual proposition. With the exception of Two Door Cinema Club’s win in 2010, the various assembled judges over the years have generally recognised deserving champions. There will always be head-scratching omissions (Halves’ Boa Howl, Adebisi Shank’s This is the Third Album of a band called Adebisi Shank, God Knows + mynameisjOhn’s Rusangano Family to name but three) and mind-boggling inclusions (Oh hai, Kodaline) but how does the contest fare as a condensed televisual experience?
Despite his horrendous turn as part of their Electric Picnic coverage – witheringly summed up towards the end of this here page by The Irish Times’ Tara Brady – RTE are still trying to make Eoghan McDermott happen and so we’re stuck with him. Blaithnaid Treacy, having emerged from the same grim Stradbally trenches, joins him and his much-too-open shirt. Delorentos take the lead, engaging in polite backstage conversation with Treacy before we’re treated to a live performance of ‘Show Me Love’, a song that managed to move the band into mega-radio-friendly territory while also building organically on the tremendous material found on the Choice-winning Little Sparks.
Hozier time~! Kudos to McDermott for getting through a predictably hyperbolic script without fawning. Mr Hozier-Byrne also comes off as pretty sincere in his brief talking head spot to the point that even he seems to recognise ‘Take Me To Church’ as more of a shock calling card than the elegiac masterpiece others seem to hear. Seeing as we only have an hour to play with, it’s a bit of a rapid-fire montage situation as we immediately move to James Vincent McMorrow’s mind-blowing version of ‘Cavalier’. It’s a wonderful song and the piano-driven take is one of those all-too-rare moments where live music comes right out of the TV screen and achieves beautiful transcendence.
U2, shockingly not present at the show, are taken care of via a mix of the video for ‘The Miracle (Of Joey Ramone)’ and a pre-taped interview with Edge and Adam Clayton in a dingy-looking room. Edge notes that “the enemy is complacency”. I thought that was the tax man. Adam talks about “waiting for paint to dry”. Make your own joke here, kids.
Song Of The Year cluster video package. We get a performance of Little Hours‘ ‘It’s Still Love’. Did we need another simpering ballad outfit? Music to paint the spare room you never use to. Treacy, to camera in that familiar to-camera-voice, intros known firebrand Sinéad O’Connor who proves typically shit cool.
Eoghan McDermott builds up The Riptide Movement by talking about piss. Fair enough. They give a deferential, ‘JUST GLAD TO BE HERE, MATE!’ salvo before play-fighting with our glorious host. Banter! Time for a good old-fashioned, knee-slappin’ hoedown, y’all. ‘All Works Out’ is beefed up by backing singers and a brass section yet still sounds curiously small-time. Maybe you had to be there, I dunno. Faring better in the rock and roll/craic agus ceoil department are The Minutes. ‘Cherry Bomb’ isn’t going to win any awards for originality but it’s fun and it moves and boy did the show need it at this point.
McDermott rambling about Aphex Twin is kinda goofy. Given Richard D James’ reclusive nature, he’s not there to engage in mock fisticuffs with a bouffant haircut so they play about 10 seconds of his music and we cut to break. Cutting edge stuff. The Script, who aren’t there, win Song of the Year for the dreadful ‘Superheroes’. They accept via satellite. McDermott intros the excellent We Cut Corners who deliver a signature winsome and wistful tune in the form of ‘Maybe In The Future’. The Gloaming get an introduction as Gaelige, which is pretty cool. Nice work, Eoghan. Martin Hayes recalls hoping that people would have enough “musical empathy” to jive with his new project. They did.
Treacy runs through Damien Rice’s tremendous My Favourite Faded Fantasy in odd fashion, dropping the ‘My’ of the title and glibly suggesting that it’s maybe not enough of a sonic departure to beat the rest of the nominated acts. Did he snub the show or something? Jape hits the stage looking pretty badass to announce The Gloaming as YOUR Choice winners. They’re not there (an amazing runner, that) but are very pleased and honoured in their short video speech. AND THAT’S THAT. Pretty anaemic, really, but these things usually are.