The Streets - Original Pirate Material
Ripping up the UK Garage bling bling and Crystal lifestyle and replacing it with "the finest cuts of chicken from the big spinning stick" washed down with a pint of Kronenberg. Its taking the voice of garage culture out of the ghetto on to the streets - the streets of the average guy who likes a pint, a spliff and pulling bird in the Ministry of Sound. Throughout the years black culture has been taken, rehashed and resold by the white man whether it be Elvis or The Rolling Stones through to the Beastie Boys and Eminem. Its a sad state of affairs and sadly it somewhat mars the fact that although "Original Pirate Material" is a fantastic cross pollination of Ian Dury and the Dream Teem, the main reason that critics are positively salivating at the work of Mike Skinner is that he's a white guy who doesn't bring all the ghetto baggage of say an act like So Solid Crew.
"Has It Come To This?" is the track that made him. Loose beats, jazzy piano and sex, drugs and on the dole. Finally we had a voice that spoke for this generation without necessary heading into the pitfalls of Radiohead or Nirvana teenage angst. Its was wide eyed stares at the ordinary day to day missions in life - ain't everything brilliant to come over all student oik and Fast Show reverential. Never before had this narrative been translated over to vinyl. Sure, if we wanted tails of bitches and gang banging we could look to Snoop Dogg or Dre. But what about the guys out in the suburbs - the endless rows of non-descript housing broken up by Spars, Late Shops and if you're lucky a Alan's Fried Chicken slap bang in the middle. In Mike Skinners world we call them birds, not bitches dodge the landlord and sits up late with his Playstation.
"The Irony of it All" is just so embarrassing despite its insight into the debate of legalization of cannabis. A mock debate between Terry and Tim - the former your typical Saturday night law abiding lager lout and the latter a student smoker who stays up to dawn playing Gran Turismo and discussing how beautiful Gail Porter. It's the type of debate that the government encourages because while all those white liberal types of debating the pro's and con's of legalizing the herb, the real issues are being ignored. Its a tired debate and to be perfectly honest its irrelevant as far as the average guy on the street is concerned - if you wanna smoke weed you will do regardless of whether its legal or not.
While Skinner's lyrics are the work of a true genius, the musical backdrop at times sounds as if its been recorded way back in the day. Its old skool in the wrong sense of the word and beats just hit you round the face rather than you marvelling at their technical innovation. "Who go the funk?" is a prime example which where stripped of the working class suburban poetry is left with a limp white boy funk experiment which wouldn't be out of place as a tribute act to Go West appearing at a Brannigans near you soon. Elsewhere "Stay Positive" sounds like No Frills Wu Tang - great idea with terrible execution of the beats.
At times "Original Pirate Material" is both naive and child-like ("Don't Mug Yourself"), yet at the same time can slap you round the face with its sheer arrogance on "Let's Push Thing's Forward". Sounding not unlike the Specials wrapped around a lyric which berates both the music industry and his peers. There's a element of truth, but at the end of the day it leaves the question where does he go next? Its one thing releasing a fantastic album, but with his limited musical talent you get the feeling that "Original Pirate Material" could be an album born of the times and when the scene has moved on the Streets will be a distant memory.
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