Original Pirate Material 8½ ( 2002 )
Turn The Page / Has It Come To This? / Let's Push Things Forward / Sharp Darts / Same Old Thing / Geezers Need Excitement / It's Too Late / Too Much Brandy / Don't Mug Yourself / Who Got The Funk? / The Irony Of It All / Weak Become Heroes / Who Dares Wins / Stay Positive
There were times when I doubted I'd ever review an album with a song title like 'Who Got The Funk?' in it, but times have changed. 'Original Pirate Material' also contains a song called 'Stay Positive'. Well, when i'm thinking of someone special, i'm always positive. A certain someone. Romance and flowers, you get the idea. 'Original Pirate Material' is one of the least romantic albums around. There's nothing romantic here, this is real life, or a reflection of real life at least, but there's a problem. The Streets, one man in a bedroom actually, are the most English of acts to have emerged for a long time. These are lyrics that don't easily cross a cultural divide, and to make matters worse, this is rap music. Well, you could perceive it as that. He does rap, although the music actually owes absolutely nothing whatsoever to rap in whatever forms you've previously heard it. UK Garage music ( dance based music ) is huge over here, absolutely massive. It's a UK phenomenon that travels the world but doesn't seem to reach America. So, here we have an album by a guy that raps, writes & performs all his own music himself - the first truly British rap album in existence. Remember what happened with Rock n Roll? America invented Rock music. No question. The british gave the world The Beatles and The Stones etc, bands playing the same old music the Americans played, but with something different added to make it that little bit interesting and special. The Streets? Judge this as a mere rap album, judge this by the same standards you might judge - oh, i don't know. Eminem or Public Enemy, and chances are you'll be appalled. By those standards, this is poor rap. Weak vocals and weak rhythms, stupid basic rhymes and words you don't understand. But, what's this? The actual music is bloody good. Lo-fi UK garage, something i'd previously not imagined married to such catchy and well though through inventive melodies. There is something going on here. The lyrics are political, they are humourous and funny and contain many words unique to the UK. I'm from the UK and get this perfectly, but you don't have to be from the UK to get this. The Kinks are seen as one of the most 'English' bands of all time, but they became massively huge in America. The Streets might not have it so easy, winning over American Rap fans, but maybe they'll ( or more accurately, HE ) will win over a few different kinds of music fans.
I said basic rhymes, and it's true. But there are stunning sequences of lyrics here, true free-form flowing poetry, street poetry. This isn't a man who has studied poetic forms too seriously - it's obviously a natural gift. I can understand that. Jaw dropping lines come at you, followed by cringe inducing rhymes - but the speed of delivery means that nothing gets in the way - you just remember the special lyrics and words. You remember the melodies and sounds of each one of the first three songs, none of which sound the same as each other. The album progresses, not everything works, 'Sharp Darts' and 'Geezers Need Excitement' being possible weak points. This review hasn't been a 'usual' review for this site. I've barely mentioned any of the details of the songs themselves. In fact, I haven't at all really. Let's just say, I like rap music. I loathe UK Garage music. Add the two together combined with a set of unique lyrics of a type never quite heard before, and you have yourself something. Concentrate on the lyrics, or the music - whatever you prefer. Enjoy both in the supreme moment that was and is and remains 'Let's Push Things Forward' which reminds me of The Specials, in places. The Specials were from the West Midlands, so is The Streets. It's a nice touch on an album full of flavour, picture and detail.
I think the streets is great,granted not all americans will get the jist of the streets.It will most be accepted by the rave culture in the states.Any fan of drum n bass will love the pure MC style and the moving beats
email@example.com Nice to see you bigging up some urban music for a change. It is a solid 9 though.
There are a few weak points but most of the tracks are great. The whole sound is
very fresh, sort of a hybrid of Ian Dury, Dr Dre and The Specials! The real genius
lies in the lyrics though-extraordinaryly funny. (Oh yeah and a bit of advice, you
should really put the score at the END of the review. Why? Well at the mo I think
one who reads it will instantly have an idea of the record even before they've
started reading it! So they may not even read the whole review if they disagree with
you-also the review should build up to a conclusion AND a score-the build up in ya
reviews suffers from you putting the score right at the beginning. Just a thought)
Hayden firstname.lastname@example.org What a good album and who cares if all americans dont like it, dosnt stop it being a
bass player email@example.com how the hell can you give this pile of crap 8.5. The lyrics are pointless and the
music, well i can't really comment there hardly is any.
Ady firstname.lastname@example.org I put off listening to this for ages, but eventually all the good press made me give it a try. I found it embarrassing. Some of the words are okay, but the music is dire, so cheap and cheesy sounding.
I must admit I laughed when I heard MC Pitman's 'diss' of this though: 'As for the Streets who sounds like a cockney/ aren't you from Birmingham ya knob?...what street you from? Coronation Street? Fuck Vera Duckworth on yer day off?'
Eugene Blackman email@example.com To Bass Player: I guess we're all entitled to your opinon? Ya plank! Now, for my $0.02's worth. When I 1st heard 'OPM' it was like I was listening to music for the 1st time. I'm not normally a Rap fan. I listen to Public Enemy, Run DMC, NAS, BEP. Don't like Eminem at all though, but the Streets just clicked. Yeah, admittedly the BGM is simple, but it's there only to support the spoken word. I was cleaning my apartment with the stereo cranked, every track etched it's way onto my brain. My mind has a list of 'life anthems', music that when I listen to it makes me remember what was going on in my life when I 1st heard it. OPM is one of those albums. When people ask me what the Streets sound like, I say "It's like the Beastie Boys meets Lock, Stock & 2 Smoking Barrels". I love UK slang, my Mum was born there and as an Aussie I have a real affinity for UK pop culture. Keep an ear out for the new album"A grand don't come for free". I didn'! t think that Skinner would top his 1st effort, but he's just gone past it... Sorted!
the monkey firstname.lastname@example.org I'm a very open person when it comes to music. I mainly listen to classic rock but i also don't mind reggae, blues, some punk bands, funk, jazz and even a bit of rap but i just can't understand why people like this and I'm not judging them by one song as i've heard several. The thing that annoys me most is the lyrics "I think you are really fit your fit but my god don't you know it", i'll let that speak for its self.
Baz email@example.com Just thought i'd say i love this album the best song by far for me is "the irony of it all" the message is obvious and i love the change of the tune as the song switchs from 1 person to the other.
Erik firstname.lastname@example.org man, the streets albums are all awesome but the best song I would have to say is turn the page. I am definately american who hears all the greats, I listen to Dre, NWA, and several others but this ranks right up there whit those artists. And as far as the lyrics are concerned I think they are genious.
David Dickson email@example.com Hello. I'm a Yankity yank from Yankville who heard about this whole strangely-named genre called "garage" (I mean, doesn't the word just conjure up pictures in your head of a "Bodyrock" soundalike, but with scuzzier guitars? Just a thought), saw to my great shock and awe one of these "Streets" LPs on sale used for four bucks (you usually don't see them on sale at ALL in Colorado Springs, never mind used), and thought I'd plunge into this wild wooly world of oddly-accented slang I don't understand.
And WOW! Wotta debut. One of the best albums I've heard from this millenium, and about ten times better than Massive Attack's entire catalog. "It's Too Late" is one of the more haunting modern tunes, rap or no, I've listened to yet, and immeasurably better than the Carole King, Derek and the Dominos, and Wire songs of the same name.
But I thought I would shed some light on the whole "US invents/UK perfects" debate. When it comes to hip-hop, I'd say there's! far more of rapid-fire "back and forth" batting contest across the Atlantic than there was during the rock and roll and punk eras. Sure, some Americans wouldn't classify this as rap, but that's only because they've never heard Company Flow's Funcrusher Plus, the defining album of modern American underground rap, and an album that Mr. Skinner almost certainly listened to in scrupulous detail before recording OPM (and one you should check out post-haste, by the way). That album, though, had to have been influenced by Tricky's Maxinquaye, which seems to have been inspired by Wu-Tang's 36 Chambers, which probably took its cues from Massive Attack's debut, which likely sprouted from the fertilizer that was De La Soul's 2 Feet High and Rising, which had to have been affected by Some Other British Artist, Back to America, ad infinitum, etc., etc. It's like a giant game of volleyball, really. Only you have rhymes instead of a ball. And three thousand miles of salt water inste! ad of a net.
But back to the subject at hand: Ori! ginal Pi rate Material resembles Company Flow in uncannily multiple ways--Its samples are varied, and reach far outside the usual rap sample repetoire; its beats are, for the most part, not aimed towards funk and danceability as a goal; and its rhymes stray far outside the groove. Of course, Skinner's not near as lightning-fast an MC as El-P, and he makes sure to keep the material as radio-ready and non-dissonantly weird as artistically possible, so the comparison only reaches so far. But I can't consider this a separate genre from rap, as most people do. To me, this is rap as rap can be. Only difference--the MC has a Cockney accent (or Yorkshire, whatever--we Yanks can't tell the difference), and the music is a little more diverse than is typical for the genre.
A bit of trivia about Colorado Springs: It's the town that contains the Broadmoor Restaurant at which George W. "Whatthefuck" Bush swore off alcohol for good back in 1984. Blame US for that douche occupying the ! most powerful office in the world.
But check out Pikes Peak! It's the Ninth Wonder of the World! And try the Broadmoor Jager Cocktail! It'll knock your socks off!
A Grand Don't Come For Free 9 ( 2004 )
It Was Supposed To Be Easy / Could Well Be In / Not Addicted / Blinded By The Lights / Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way / Get Out Of My House / Fit But You Know It / Such A Twat / What Is He Thinking / Dry Your Eyes / Empty Cans
A major talent. You know, 'Original Pirate Material' seemingly came from nowhere. It's funny, but 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' has been released the same day as the highly touted debut album from Keane. I went into my local record emporium and discovered they'd very nearly sold out of this new Streets album, but had rows and rows of unsold albums by Keane. Keane are pretty safe, The Streets just go from strength to strength. Mike Skinner is a leader in his field. Even though his debut sold over a million, 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' shares the same home production values. It adds a few 'guest stars', but these 'guest stars' are, like, people he met in a club, or whatever. His mates. "Yeah, sing on this song i've got, sound". Well, something like that. My god, one song here is just.... WOW! Well, several songs are, but the most startling is 'Fit But You Know It'. It opens, and continues with, a stomping glam riffing guitar! Apparently, Mike messed around and sampled in his own guitar playing/sound. Sound, there you have it. Sorted, geezer! Etc.
People will debate whether this album is better than his debut or not, so let's look at the facts. 'Original Pirate Material' set the tone, made the mould. The ground-breaking debut. It had stunning highlights and a few moments not quite as good. 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' lacks quite the same highlights, but then, nearly all the album 'is high'. This is a more consistent record, especially considering a single narrative can be traced right through from the first song, to the last. Not quite a concept album, but it's certainly a rounded album.
'Original Pirate Material' opened with 'Turn The Page', a startling statement of intent. Here we open with 'It Was Supposed To Be So Easy', a whole lot LESS startling, but come the end of the album, you know why. It sets the mood. It's the introduction, the concept. 'Could Well Be In' is where the album really starts to fly. The lyrics are just so... well, they render me speechless. I shall tell you why. They are conversational lyrics, as well as storytelling lyrics. Sometimes these lyrics are so casual, you wonder he isn't just taking the piss. Yet, with the repeating and catchy musical themes, the building and building.... certain turns of phrase that are just stunning.... It's something nobody else has done. At least, not lately. Really describe people's lives. Everyday detail. And, check this out for a chorus... "I saw this thing on ITV the other week, said, that if she played with her hair, she's probably keen. She's playing with her hair well regularly, seems like I could well be in". The album is full of such moments. You know, what's the number one single this week? Hang on, lemme check. "See i dont, know why..i liked you so much. I gave you all...of my trust. I told you i loved you...now thats all down the drain. Ya put me through pain, i wanna let u know (ahhh) that i feel how i feel". Imagine much repetition to follow, and to middle, and to close. Imagine such cliched rubbish and crap and fuck it. The Streets are the real deal.
This album is full of stunning moments, many many lyrical gems. The closing 'Empty Cans', which finally reveals what's been going on after all, throughout the entire album, really special and clever. My favourite song here, alongside 'Fit But You Know It' is 'Blinded By The Lights'. It's hypnotic and as high a highlight of this album as was anything from 'Original Pirate Material'. Yet, this album has a cohesive narrative. It's often laugh out loud funny. It's often so spot on with regards to real day life, that's it's almost scary how well Mike Skinner can depict these everyday events. How well and down to earth the lyrics are, yet so skillfully put together at the same time. 'Blinded By The Lights' sends chills all through me and after listening to 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' I am ready. I'm ready to declare this guy a genius. Yeah, he's no great shakes as a singer. Some of the live performances are a bit dodgy. But, it's the material that counts. It's the actual soul and scary reality of this album that counts. The poetry and the fact that nobody else even really comes close to him at this present moment in time. A leader in his field? He's re-inventing it. Oh yeah. There's a song called 'Dry Your Eyes'. It features classical strings and acoustic guitar. It's genuinely touching and fuck it. I don't know what this guy is doing. I don't know how he's doing it, but this stuff is masterful. It probably deserves a higher rating, but now i'm interested to see where he goes next. He could play a gig with an orchestra. Garage/Dance/House, with an orchestra!! It doesn't even bear thinking about, my god!!
A grand don't come for free, no your right it comes for £14.99 from any major record shop, (Like you say when they have them in stock!).
I have alot of respect for Mike Skinner, at 17 producing his first album in his bedroom, then to go on and produce his second one and on the first week of release get to number 2 in the album chart, the boy knows how to connect with real people, living in real places, in real life, none of this fluffy cloud stuff, or the world is perfect. Hes raw, says what he thinks, and well, to hell if you don't agree with him. Honesty is always the best policy haha. Obvious hits- Dry your eyes, and Blinded by the lights. Favourite tracks- Blinded by the lights, it was supposed to be so easy, get out of my house. Tune everyone can relate to- It was supposed to be so easy. We've all had days when we shouldnt have bothered about getting out of bed as everything has worked against us. You have a huge list of stuff to! do, and you actually manage to get none of it done. Its rare to find a follow up album as good as the first, but it has the same way about it... it grows on you. The more you listen to it, the more you hear in it and connect. Basically, another classic, catchy tunes and real time lyrics. Roll on number 3. I'm off to see him play at Brixton this Saturday, will let ya know how it was. He best sing "Blinded By The Lights!" I'm sure he can transport you when he sings that.
Tom firstname.lastname@example.org Spot on review, not so many comical rhymes as OPM but the beats are awesome. Def gets better and better the more you listen..
mark england email@example.com have to agree my friend... Blinded by the light... Reminds me of MY first E... Class stort telling in a world full of up there own ass crap tunes. My only worry is the Radio 1 are plugging it... Great for Mike Skinner and the Streets but.....
Anyway, great review.... anywhere you've seen the lyrics???
Doogs firstname.lastname@example.org Agree totally with your review Adrian. When I 1st downloaded a few tracks from this album I didn't think they were up to the same standard as the debut. A few listens to the new album later I decided differently,
Lexxie email@example.com I stumbled across this review page and after having a read I can't help but chuck my thoughts in. The Streets deliver a sound like no other, it's not hip-hop, it's not rap, it's not UK garage (which is shit anyway).....it's just the sound of urban England. It's an English sound with English meaning, I can see straight away how most of it would go sailing over the heads of most septics but it's not for you lot!!
I suppose the lyrical style delivered at times is a form of rapping but the lyrics are really English. Blinded by the lights, could well be in and dry your eyes are so good it's frightening, Mike Skinner has so much talent! Don't get me wrong, I love US hip hop and have done for years but to "rap" about bitches, straps, bling and shooting fuckers makes it harder for us English to relate to, we understand the lyrics but they don't have much relevance in England. In the same vien, this is why guys over the pond struggle with the streets, they are reflec! tions on different societies I guess. Black American hip hop culture as apposed to English urban music. Also, not everything revolves around the states you know. The club/rave scene (which the Streets are a product of) is very English, after all we were pilled up to fuck and dancing our tits off back in 1989 while Americans were still rocking to Bon Jovi!!I hope I don't offend anyone with that statement, after all it is my opinion.......(but it's true). Maybe digressing a little here, just listen to the album a few times and marvel at the lyrical content, if you give it a go, it will suprise you. Cheers guys...........Doogal...Hardcore cheesy quaver since 1989!! (Cheesy quaver = raver) p.s. "Weak become heroes" - Just how fucking good do you want your spittin'?...sheer class!
Ady firstname.lastname@example.org Sorry to burst your bubble, but your local record store no doubt ordered many more copies of the Keane album than The Streets one. The return of Morrissey with You Are The Quarry highlights how inferior The Streets lyrics really are. Just compare the 'yeah you're fit, but don't you know it' with 'I have forgiven Jesus, for all the desire he put into my heart.'
the streets are crap email@example.com I think the streets are the biggest pile of shit I have ever heard. They are so over rated it is unbelievable. Its been said that they are different in there approach to their music but what they have actually done is very obvious. Their songs choose to talk about perhaps the most stereotyped things that the average 'bloke' can relate to showing their lacking in creativity. Lines such as 'I think you are really fit', shows how they wish to conform to the absolute towny ideal.
mark firstname.lastname@example.org Im suprised you have let your usually good taste down here adrian. The streets actually stink. their lyrics are complete and utter garbage populised by the unfortunate nation of chav scum which inhabit our small island! try to compare mike skinners lyrics with alex turner from the arctic monkeys and it soon becomes clear that he is truly a talentless chav tosser
Stephen email@example.com It is good to see that snobbery is alive, well and still kicking in the UK. Being in my fifties and a lifelong slob, I am most definitely not a chav. However, I really enjoyed A Grand Don't Come For Free for its innovation and originality. I could also relate to it far more than I can to American rap music. As for the Arctic Monkeys, they are just another decent but derivative guitar band.
The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living 7 ( 2006 )
Pranging Out / War Of The Sexes / The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living / All Goes Out The Window / Memento Mori / Can't Con An Honest Jon / When You Wasn't Famous / Never Went To Church / Hotel Expressionism / Two Nations / Fake Street Hats
Ah, ok. now I see what's happening. Mike Skinner has run out of ideas. Which is a shame, because there's half of an excellent album here married to another half that shows signs the success of The Streets will be short-lived. It's difficult in this day and age to keep going and retain your initial high level of creativity, yet perhaps Mike Skinner needs just to go away and dream it all up again? Funny and spot-on lyric aside, lead single 'When You Wasn't Famous' is musically embarassing in a way The Streets 'package' previously wasn't. There's an over-reliance across the album as a whole on the backing singers, Mike Skinner actually thinking ahead towards live performance, you see. It happens to a lot of artists, yet it would seem, whether he still enjoys doing this or not, that The Streets have now become Mike Skinner's 'career'. Which is a shame, 'When You Wasn't Famous' is a prime, unfortunately high-profile, culprit. It contains no 'wow', it reuses the old Streets sound in a basic, uncreative way and becomes simple, self-parody. The album lacks the concept nature of 'A Grand Don't Come For Free' and the freshness of 'Original Pirate Material'. So, what's left? Well, as I said, half a decent album. Plus, the blatant 'Dry Your Eyes' re-write of 'Never Been To Church', a touching, true to life lyric about Mike Skinners own father. With music which is an exact, scientific match/borrow of 'Let It Be' and 'No Woman, No Cry'. It's simple stuff, that lyrics aside, Mike Skinner can produce in his sleep. Touching and not at all bad, yet we've heard this before, just a year or two ago. You can be unoriginal and even borrow from yourself for your concepts, yet if you're doing so, please make it better than before, otherwise, what's the point? It happens, suddenly all you've got left to write about is your own success and touring and hotel rooms. Mike Skinner attempts to be creative about this, uses his by now proven formula to tackle the fakeness of the entire rock-star scene, yet how is this as touching or as... engaging... as before?
The opening two songs, for example. 'Pranging Out' sounds like a mid-album tune, it's not an impressive opener. No problem, because it's a decent enough piece, yet 'War Of The Sexes' is nearly awful, lots of backing singers for the hook, a few jokes, an air of fakeness and of forced lyrical trickery that wasn't apparent before. He now has a formula? Ah, the title track is excellent, a swaying, lilting, weirdly attractive minimalistic electronic tune. 'Hotel Expressionism' is also good, the music venturing into slightly new areas with a tight guitar figure around which a varying and groovy bass line is wrapped. Quite simply put, it has a sense of purpose much of the album is lacking in The uninspired self-parody of 'Two Nations' and 'Fake Street Hats' wind up a 'so what?' thirty eight minute long LP that I hope turns out to be a transitional album. If this review sounds overly negative, a '7' rating should reassure you there's still enough enjoyment to be gained from 'The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living' to make it worthwile adding to your CD or MP3 collection.
Johnny Canada firstname.lastname@example.org
It's unfortunate to see someone I like as much as The Streets de-evolve like this. Not that this album is without merit, as you say the title track is nice enough and I quite like the music of "Can't Con an Honest John" even if the premise is a little silly. Completely absent are bangers in the vein of "Don't Mug Yourself" or "Let's Push Things Forward" from the first album which still sound great. And the lyrics somehow got pretty stupid, I prefer the kid rapping on "A Grand Don't Come for Free". So basically the first album kills this one musically and the second one kills this one lyrically. I guess Mike has his work cut out for him next time.
Danny email@example.com I loved "Grand..." it really works with repeated listens as a full LP--that's so rare these days. This on the other hand is an album to skip tracks on. I agree 100% that "When you wasn't famous" is a major dissapointment. The lyrical idea is good, but the chorus is awkward and frankly annoying as the music is flat and relies on the tongue in cheek lyrics to carry it through. You're the first reviewer I found that is dissapointed in the single like I was. And you're right about "...Church". I was ready to hate the album, but for me "Prangin' Out" saves it. Skinner is confessing his drug problems in a refreshing way for a subject matter that often sounds forced, contrived, and artificial when the average artist attempts it. "Memento Mori" and "Two Nations" make the album fully worth it for me, but as you said, Mike better watch it...most of his fans aren't expecting redundant cut and paste jobs from him.
Everything Is Borrowed 8 ( 2008 )
Everything Is Borrowed / Heaven For The Weather / I Love You More (Than You Like Me) / Way Of The Dodo / On The Flip Of A Coin / On The Edge Of A Cliff / Never Give In / Sherry End / Alleged Legends / Strongest Person I Know / Escapist
Mike Skinner is, as they say, hard to get a handle on. If you ignore his debut 'Original Pirate Material' however, he's a lot easier to get a handle on. Remember those rumours from some geezer in Brum who said Skinner had stole his beats? Think back and you'll know for yourself 'Original Pirate Material' stands alone in The Streets catalogue. Me, i'm not saying nothing. Still, it's great to report that 'Everything Is Borrowed' is something of a return to the form of 'A Grand Don't Come For Free', which was pretty great in itself. Different to 'Original Pirate Material', but it's fair to say Skinner made the best of himself there. Come the opening title track for this, his fourth Streets LP, we find something fairly captivating. Not obvious single material, poor choice there Mike, but this has an unassuming, addictive riff and is the kind of lyrical material that would have been more welcome than his struggles with fame on the last LP.
Some American writers are calling The Streets 'British Rap'. You know, it's not really - The Streets have nothing at all in common with the majority of actual 'British Rap' artists and it would be a shame for them if American critics get entirely the wrong idea about this genre. Still, let's forget that and them. 'Heaven For The Weather' is a gloriously uplifting pop song and it's not at all annoying, already this album is better than the last, limpid effort! 'Way Of The Dodo' has some of the worst lyrics known to mankind since Andy Bell was winding up Ride, but nevermind that.
The mid section of 'Everything Is Borrowed' slips into the mire, we need something more uptempo from Skinner, we need him to be Suggs from Madness. Thankfully then, 'Never Give In' is bang on form, 'The Sherry End' has great lyrics throughout and 'Alleged Legends' is both a haunting tune and great lyrics. God, even 'The Strongest Person I Know' is great, and that's a ballad. Still, I can't ignore the mid-section slump the album suffers from. I mean, 'The Escapist' musically sounds accomplished enough to have been produced by some American rap guy. Anyhoo, how about an '8'? Seems fair enough to me. A step in the right direction, although next time out, if Mike Skinner is to be believed, will be the last time out as far as 'The Streets' are concerned. Probably for the best, let's go out on a high-note though, Mike, yeah? Cheers. <
Agree with your review but I'd give this a 7. The backing beats are some of his best work but lyrically Mike seems slightly awkward at times. Still a worthwhile LP though and has some oustanding individual tracks such as the escapist.
Cyberspace And Reds 8½ ( 2011 )
Came in through the door / 4 o'Clock / Don't hide away / Too numb / Backseat barz / Tidy nice and neat / The morning after the day off on one / Cinema barz / Breakbat barz / Something to hide / Robots are taking over / Cross that line / Minding my own
After saying goodbye to The Streets with 'Computers and Blues' Mike Skinner confuses the issue by releasing for free the guest-filled Cyberspace And Reds'. This album contains his more recent material, 'Computers And Blues' containing material recorded a little while before. Described officially as a mix-tape, Mike Skinner does indeed give over generous amounts of time to his friends and admired artists he feels a kinship with, over some of the best beats he's laid down since 'Original Pirate Material'. '4 O'Clock' contains a trumpet out of a Ska club, weaving brass in the background and a lyrical hook-line that's among his best, "At 4'O'Clock' today I'm gonna punch you in your face". This song should be released as a single really and become a deserved hit. "Friends and enemies holler from the rabble" he sings, and why not? 'Don't Hide Away' features Ice Kid, Rinse And Wiley and I've not heard of any of them. Mike Skinner pops up briefly vocally towards the end, but his beats are clever and intricate, the sound of 'Original Pirate Material' suddenly back, wonderfully so and it makes you mourn the fact he's now seemingly giving up The Streets altogether. Wretch 32 pops up on 'Minding My Own' and I've never heard of him either, yet Skinner's feel is pleasingly omnipresent. "I'm just minding my own, as you do" sings Wretch 32.
'Too Numb' is a highpoint, Skinner dominates the vocals, the music has sketchy beats, strong bass and haunting synth melodies. Four minutes of intelligent garage music, commercial yet without the compromises arguably several of the more recent Streets albums have seen to be cautiously presenting a listener. Well, 'Cyberspace And Blues' being released for nowt I imagine there was more freedom for Skinner and friends to record unencumbered by too many outside expectations, perhaps this is why the album sounds adventurously free from too many of those restraints having to be popular puts upon an artist. Accidentally almost, Skinner has created one of his very finest albums, a fact highlighted on a track such as 'Tidy Nice And Neat' featuring the Mercury nominated 'Ghost Poet'. Skittering beats, simple melodies, sampled acoustic guitar and friendly vocal lines from both Ghost Poet and Skinner himself. 'Something To Hide' has no beats, no music at all in fact and comes across as Skinner reciting poetry. Well, it's actually a lot more than that, it reveals what a distinctive voice Skinner has both vocally and lyrically. 'Cross That Line' is genuinely soulful, helped by the female backing vocals and 'Minding My Own', already discussed, ends the album on a strong note, one of the finest Mike Skinner albums for my money and if it's still freely down-loadable from The Streets website, well, you've got nothing at all to lose, have you?