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On Second Listen: The Streets – Everything is Borrowed

on November 08, 2008, 11:00am

Since his debut album, Original Pirate Material, Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, has been pleasing people with his “mockney” accent and his charming rap music about philosophical and often ignored aspects of human life. Honestly, Skinner has always been someone that’s hard to put your finger on, considering he has flipped flopped through every genre and fertilized pop music for newer artists like Lily Allen and Estelle. Much too witty and intelligent for his own good, Skinner’s interpretations of life and culture have always set him apart from the generic chroniclers of suburban life like Kano and Sway DaSafo, leaving him one step head of the game. And Everything is Borrowed is a perfect example of that.

Marking the official expansion of The Streets’ template towards a more rock-based sphere (making them all the more meatier), Skinner also shows he’s gained a degree of maturity over the years. The record compiles disco, funk, pop, and jazz blissfully as slick bass lines charm the ears and catchy guitar riffs forcefully require dancing and head bobbing. At times he comes off a bit pompous, but don’t be fooled, that’s just part of the ruse. Skinner instead forces us to ignore the beauty of his music and delve deep into the meaning of his lyrics behind the blood-thickening pipe organ and juicy rhythms of each song.

Everything is Borrowed starts off with a statement of intent about the meaning of life, God and the reality of it all as a raucous fanfare of horns accompanies its title track. Next up is the hopelessly upbeat and groovy “Heaven for the Weather”, which carries a jammin’ piano part that finds its roots in 60’s soul music. Later, we find Skinner delving even deeper with the allegorical narrative found in “On the Flip of a Coin” that’s somewhat pretentious, but at the same too charming to be upset with.

“I Love You More (Than You Like Me)” is one of the more notable tracks with its beautiful piano bit that’s extremely jazzy and reminiscent of Miles Davis’s best work. Although the song leaves behind a semi-vaporous trail, as Skinner raps “I drew a drawing of you after (the) last time I saw you/ I learnt a lot about myself drawing all morning it was absolutely shit, I’m awful at drawing,” it can’t be ignored that his honesty is what’s always been so appealing about his music.

The incessant tapping beat found in “Never Give In” is mind-numbing and often forces one to glance over their shoulder to be sure it’s in fact part of the song, while “The Sherry End” is full of sharp suited funk that’s seamlessly perfect for a night of roller-disco. Further down the road, things get a bit more introspective with single “The Escapist”; a complete critique on life without worldly desires and the promise of something better that doesn’t necessarily have to revolve around religious beliefs. “The Escapist” is a peaceful and optimistic ending for the record, carrying an even angelic way about it, which is so drastically different from his recent suicidal tendencies.

Everything is Borrowed touches on the roughness of humanity (love, death and religion) and is truly a remarkable addition to The Streets’ repertoire. It’s great to see Skinner back from the brink with an album that blatantly surpasses everything he’s done before even if he already feels it will be one of his last. However, with his sharp eye for detail and his fascination with the deeper, darker parts of life, he shouldn’t have a problem exceeding our expectations next time around.

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