Rated | Alphabetical
| Highest Rated 2006
The Streets: Original Pirate Material
Locked On, 2002
Posted: April 14,
Original Pirate Material, the debut album from the Streets (a.k.a.
22-year-old Londoner-by-way-of-Birmingham Mike Skinner), is a remarkable
record that elevates UK garage music (Philly-inspired soul sung against a
two-step drum and bass breakbeat) to heretofore-unexplored heights.
Actually, transforming garage might be a better description: While the
garage blueprint is evident, the true revelation is the depth and cleverness
of Skinner's top-drawer lyrical skills that pushes the form into fresh and
exciting artistic directions.
Taking a "day in the life of a geezer" approach, Original Pirate
Material adroitly expresses the frustration, rush, boredom and
conflicting emotions of a British youth, someone living in a
decaying urban environment, stuck on the dole, struggling to find work,
fighting drug addiction and dreaming of a better life. While the songs
clearly relate to Skinner's own experiences, what he's saying could easily
apply to anyone confronted by similar circumstances.
"Turn The Page" opens the album with Skinner boldly proclaiming that he's
"45th Generation Roman," establishing a broader historical link that adds
weight to an otherwise inconsequential life heading nowhere. The
struggle for identity proves to be Original Pirate Material's
greatest strength, allowing the listener, even if he or she hasn't walked in
the narrator's shoe-conglomerate-stamped footgear, a way of empathizing
with the realities of life at ground (and underground) level. If
environment, social standing and future opportunities (or lack thereof)
define who one is, life can be a pretty bleak prospect. Thus, relating to a
richer, more romantic -- albeit violent -- past helps a person cope with the
monotony of the everyday, allowing him to fantasize about being a modern day
gladiator, overcoming seemingly implacable foes (government laws, loutish
neighborhood thugs, an indifferent music industry unwilling to listen to his
demos, etc.) and come out victorious, or die trying in the process.
"Has It Come To This" codifies these themes by summing up the typical
life of a geezer (British slang for a fellow bloke, or man): "Sex, drugs and
on the dole," coupled with playing video games and cruising the streets to
break the drudgery, all the while dreaming of making hit records as a way of
escaping the "deep-seated urban decay." The song is driven by an
unremarkable, straightforward garage beat, reinforcing the rut from which
the narrator so desperately wants to escape.
The gauntlet is thrown down on "Let's Push Things Forward," as Skinner
declares that garage can be more than mere processed beat and
pseudo-romantic Craig David crooning; "content and deliverance" matter as
well. Something more than just the "archetypal street sound." But by song's
end Skinner concedes the likelihood that his sound will achieve "cult
classic not bestseller" status.
After challenging his fellow artists to "push things forward," Skinner
does exactly the opposite with the unremarkable "Sharp Darts," a lyrically
average song that's all false bravado and mediocre beats -- it's the one truly
derivative (and weak) moment on the album.
On "It's Too Late," Skinner expertly illustrates the potential of
marrying the garage sound with emotive lyrical content. Beats like footsteps
striking pavement track a narrator walking away from the site of a broken
relationship, going over what could have been if he'd only done things
differently. The frenzied "Too Much Brandy" follows this character as he
goes on a weekend bender to Amsterdam with friends, compounding the misery
of his existence but allaying the immediate pain of his broken heart.
"Irony Of It All" pits a working class drunkard/brawler against an
overeducated, unemployed pot smoker; their humorous back-and-forth bantering
perfectly captures the tension between liberals and conservatives occupying the same
socioeconomic class, making its point that the two
should be fighting for better living conditions and wages, not against one
"Stay Positive" closes Original Pirate Material on a downbeat
note, focusing on casual drug use degenerating into
full-blown heroin addiction. The way out being just to "stay positive" in a
world that won't ever be any different unless one is willing to change the
way he or she lives. The ultimate message being one of positive
encouragement to get off one's ass and do something with his life, despite
the crushing realities of an existence that make such tough-minded optimism
difficult to sustain.
Original Pirate Material is a genuinely groundbreaking album,
successfully integrating serious-minded and socially-conscious lyrics with
the innovative noise of underground garage. It
remains to be seen whether Skinner's future efforts have as much to say
about downtrodden youth culture, especially if the album elevates him off of
the streets that are his namesake and into a world that operates on a much
loftier, if detached, level.
design copyright © 2001-2011 Shaking Through.net. All original artwork,
photography and text used on this site is the sole copyright of the respective creator(s)/author(s). Reprinting, reposting, or citing any of the original
content appearing on this site without the written consent of Shaking
Through.net is strictly forbidden.