The Streets - Everything Is Borrowed
Mark Shields 09/10/2008
Every generation of music lover has had that artist that captured a zeitgeist placing their work into the musical time capsule, as a voice for a particular moment in music, and in the climate of the country. In the 60s, The Beatles matched the type of 50s Americanisation, producing a English rock sound that the world was beginning to enjoy, Deep Purple captured the rockier times in the 70s with heavy riffing stoner rock, The Smiths caught the 80s Thacterite feeling of failure and depression perfectly and Oasis got the amazing feeling of the lager-lads and the swagger of Britain the 1990s, the decade of no real conflict or worry, new Labour and the worst decade in years for pop music.
So, is Mike Skinner the poet that has written his place into the noughties time capsule? If he had only released Original Pirate Material it might have been that way - the tales of excess, drugs and fucking everything up summed up what people thought youngsters were doing and was exactly what they were doing.
But where is his place in the new landscape of indie-as-pop, with rock music back in the charts and the terrible manufactured bands having to own up and say “Okay, we have grown-up, here are some slow ballads.” The latest album by The Streets needs to define his place in the UK musical landscape, and it does so very deftly. It takes the sample this-and-that technique about as far as it can go without it sounding like every other album. Indeed, Skinner is trying hard to move his sights out of the dirty world of excess and into more ethereal questions about life, the universe and everything.
On Way of the Dodo he rallies off quickly, over a rather interesting arrangement, a rather damning appreciation of how futile everything we do is - this is the introspective him: watching his grip on his grip he once had on the industry slowly, vanishing? Maybe - but the track is clever, something that the last album wasn't.
The previous track, I Love You More (Than You Like), is quieter and less aggressive, but has a charming melody and slight production, it's shine gleames in a way the Streets have never produced before. Sonically, the album has moved on quite a bit. You can understand why he wants to release his next album, his fifth, with a live band, as you can almost hear the frustration in the arrangements.
Blues are noted (On the Flip of a Coin) and even ballads, which have not sat well with the great man in the past (see Dry Your Eyes to see how uncomfortable he appeared on the chart blasting track), but on the single and title track 'Everything is Borrowed' he shows why he's maturing in a clever lyricist that knows how to conduct a good pop song into a clever statement about the nature of his life, and everyone's life.
All of this commentary is delivered in a still unique package that is greater than this description could ever convey it, this album marks an important moment in the career of Skinner - it proves he can move on and deliver an album that doesn't need to have a great tragedy at its centre, with the requirement for over excessive swearing and talk of drunken nights out. The proposition of a white bloke talking about real life is always going to be interesting, and it is impressive that Skinner has managed to keep it this interesting for so long.