Well that’s a bit more like it. After last year’s supreme WTF? moment – when Speech Debelle won – this year the judges have awarded the Mercury to the band everyone assumed they would: The xx, on the strength of their self-titled debut album.
The fact it was such an unsurprising choice, combined with the band’s taciturn demeanour, made for a weirdly downbeat climax to the ceremony. Then again, it’s The xx: they were hardly going to don party hats and conga-line round Grosvenor House to the tune of ‘Spice Up Your Life’.
The South London trio are worthy winners, though. Cynics will say that the album fits all too easily into that “dinner party album” niche that the Mercury supposedly represents – but that’s only true if you listen superficially.
Delve beneath the surface ambience and, lyrically, it’s a pressure cooker of agonised longing and suffocating sexual obsession (from ‘Islands’: “I am yours now, so now I never have to leave”: try humming along to that while dishing up asparagus spears).
Obviously it’s been a critical favourite. ‘The xx’ was Number Two in our 50 best albums of 2009 list.
You could argue it chimes well with the times, too. A spooked, insular record released in the depths of a grim recession, it’s also fitting that – in a year when dubstep became the authentic sound of the streets – the Mercury should go to a band who arose from that fertile scene.
The only worry is that, now they’ve won, they’ll face an onslaught of press attention. For a band so protective of their privacy, it could be torture. They’ll just have to get used to it.
Watch our red carpet interviews from the ceremony: