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Page last updated at 16:16 GMT, Tuesday, 22 July 2008 17:16 UK
Will a new band win the Mercury?
by Kev Geoghegan
Radio 1 music reporter

Laura Marling
Laura Marling performed at the nomination launch

Radiohead and The Last Shadow Puppets have emerged as early favourites for the Nationwide Mercury Prize.

But at odds of 5-1, if you are a betting man, it may be worth your while taking a flutter on some of the musical debutees for this year's competition.

Over the 16 years since the first Mercury, which was won by Primal Scream, 10 of the winning artists have done it on their musical debut.

Franz Ferdinand, Dizzee Rascal, Ms Dynamite and Badly Drawn Boy are among those who have scooped the award on the first go.

And this year could see the trend continued.

As usual, the judging panel have tried to keep the prize fairly open to all genres, but the sweeping soul of Adele's debut album 19 has already won awards.

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Laura Marling sings at Mercury launch

So bright is the debut effort by the 20 year old blue-eyed soul artist, that the Brit awards created a Critics Choice award just for her.

She has been inevitably compared with Amy Winehouse but let's hope her head is screwed on a little tighter.

Adele
Adele performed at Radio 1's Big Weekend in Maidstone
Adele is a slightly surprising nominee given the recent ascent of soul singer Duffy - rumoured to be providing the theme tune of the new Bond movie.

Adele is one of a trio of female nominees, including Laura Marling and Estelle.

The bookies are offering odds of 8-1 for all three.

At just 18, Marling is the youngest nominee. She has toured and worked with Mystery Jets and her debut album Alas, I Cannot Swim, was produced by Noah and The Whale frontman Charlie Fink.

The teenage folk singer played a tour of UK churches earlier in the year and her set on the Park stage at Glastonbury was a genuine highlight.

She performed at the launch and the Mercury panel praised her 'Beautiful composed and emotionally compelling tales of fear and romance'.

In pictures: The Mercury prize launch

Marling has already been introduced to a younger audience, in part due to her appearance at the Underage festival in London last year but the nomination will give her profile a boost in an older market.

Elsewhere, Neon Neon is the latest project by Super Furry Animals oddball-in-chief Gruff Rhys and producer Boom Bip, so is technically a debut album.

Neon Neon
Neon Neon photo invaded by Har Mar Superstar (far-right)
Rhys was nominated with SFA in 2001 though, so he isn't a newcomer to the Mercury prize.

But the electronic pop of Neon is a different sound from the Celtic tinged Britpop of his former band.

They have the longest odds of 10/1.

Front-runners

Outside of debut albums, this could finally be the year for Radiohead, who have yet to win the prize.

They have missed just one Mercury nomination since 1997, and that was for 2000's challenging Kid A.

Their prior albums Pablo Honey and The Bends also missed out on the Mercury shortlist, despite including some of their classic tracks like Creep, High And Dry and Street Spirit.

Mercury debut winners
2007 Klaxons - Myths Of the Near Future
2006 Arctic Monkeys – Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not
2004 Franz Ferdinand – Franz Ferdinand
2003 Dizzee Rascal – Boy in Da Corner
2002 Ms. Dynamite – A Little Deeper
2000 Badly Drawn Boy – The Hour of Bewilderbeast
1999 Talvin Singh – Ok
1998 Gomez – Bring It On
1995 Portishead – Dummy
1993 Suede – Suede

The judging panel described In Rainbows, which topped the US and UK charts, as ‘Music that is adventurous, challenging and hugely enjoyable'.

Bookies William Hill have already made them joint favourites at 5-1 odds with The Last Shadow Puppets, who gain their first nomination.

Alex Turner has already tasted Mercury success with Arctic Monkeys when they picked up the £20,000 prize money for their 2006 debut Whatever People Say I Am, That's What I'm Not.

Turner's bandmate is close friend, Miles Kane, the lead singer from Liverpool indie band The Rascals.

While the Puppets' songs and lyrics are much more reflective of modern society, the Shadow Puppets have gone back to the string drenched 60s harmonies of The Walker Brothers for inspiration.

Guy Garvey
Elbow's fourth album, Seldom Seen Kid, is their biggest hit to date

The album's producer, Simian Mobile Disco's James Ford, produced last year's winners, Klaxons.

Guess what? It was their debut as well.

A hugely popular choice amongst music critics would be the fourth album by Elbow. They missed out on their debut nomination for their first album Asleep At the Back in 2001.

That year it went to PJ Harvey, by then on her sixth studio album and one of the only women to win the Mercury.

An impossibly beautiful album, The Seldom Seen Kid, is Elbow's highest charting record, breaking into the top five.

You can tune into BBC2 on 9 September to find out who will pick up the 2008 Mercury prize.



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