Alt J Album is a Triumph of Marketing over Music.

Alt-J-An_Awesome_Wave-FrontalAlt J’s debut album An Awesome Wave was favourite for and duly won last year’s Mercury Music prize in the UK. Nothing necessarily wrong with that.

The xx won it in 2010 with their debut (I reviewed their excellent follow-up here), and previous winners include Portishead and P.J. Harvey, the only one so far to have won it twice.

But Alt J were omitted from as many Best Of lists at the end of last year as they were included in.

Their supporters will tell you that that’s because, like Joanna Newsom, the sound that their lead singer makes divides people, Marmite-like, straight down the middle. Enchanting as many as it infuriates.

One of whom, by the bye is the otherwise bullet proof Bob Boilen of NPR’s fab All Songs Considered, the podcast of which I reviewed earlier here.

In reality though, when you do get around to actually listening to the much trumpeted work, it’s crashingly underwhelming. As Gertrude Stein said famously of Oakland California, “there’s no there there”.

It’s perfectly competently produced, and sounds reassuringly slick. And the ubiquitous, propulsive single, “Tessellate” is a jaunty little number that promises much. But, with the exception of the catchy “Matilda”, none of the rest of the album lives up to it.

107974Instead, as the review in Pitchfork suggests here, where it gets a dismissive 4.8, there’s an unmistakable air of fabrication, both to the album and to the band in general.

What we have here in other words is this year’s Mumford and Sons. But in place of the cod authenticity that Mumford use to cloak their vacuity, Alt J rely instead on the projection of a diffident quirkiness. Both add up to the same thing though; the emperor’s new clothes.

And whilst of course there is as much room in this world for manufactured indie boy bands as there is for their pop-idol counterparts, the M(ercury) people really ought to have known better.

You can see the video for the single here. 

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