The Streets - 'Everything is Borrowed'
"My time on this earth is my only penny/ Wise is the gent counting every moment spent”
The Streets – “Everything is Borrowed”
Seeing that the fourth Streets album is called Everything is Borrowed, and remembering the world-weary mood of its brutally honest predecessor, The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living, the wary listener could be forgiven for expecting a cynical expose of the second-hand nature of 21st century experience.
From its uplifting title-track - a euphoric meditation on how to make the best of life’s infinite possibilities – to the almost mystical finale, “The Escapist” (wherein Mike Skinner happily ponders the insignificance of “little, fleeting, momentary me” in the dappled sunlight of his “favourite tree”), Everything Is Borrowed seems to be lit from within by a healing flame of optimism. Freed from celebrity hang-ups and savouring a thrilling rush of new-found perspective, Mike Skinner has made a record to console the lonely and bring a smile to the saddest visage. Warm-hearted, witty and utterly distinctive, this is music to help Britain through the credit-crunch.
To say it all started with Elton John would be a slight exaggeration, but the first real clue to where this album was going came with The Streets’ outstanding contribution to Radio 1’s (otherwise lamentable) 40th Birthday cover album. Determined to do something “really fucking wonky”, Skinner chipped in with a sincere and strangely moving version of Elton John’s “Your Song” – bringing new life to a familiar lyric with the most exquisitely plaintive and utterly English vocal you’ll hear this side of Robert Wyatt.
After a happy day working together in a Skegness studio, Wyatt actually made a cameo appearance as the wise old man in an early version of “On the Edge of a Cliff” (one of two metaphysical landmarks at the heart of the album). Skinner pronounces himself “gutted” that the bearded Humberside maverick ultimately got “lost in the edit”. But just as A Grand Don’t Come For Free presented its endearingly ramshackle humanist message within an unusual narrative framework, the new Streets album’s painstaking production process (“Writing film-scripts and turning them into pop songs” is how Skinner describes it) was the gateway to a new kind of creative freedom.
Going back to first principles is one thing. Everything is Borrowed finds Mike Skinner going back before first principles. Applying his homespun hip-hop sensibility to real instruments, rock history and theological inconsistency, he comes up with sing-a-long musings on such unconventional subjects as religion (“Alleged Legends”), evolution (“The Way of the Dodo”), biological destiny (“On the Edge of a Cliff”), and male friendship (“The Sherry End”). Blending rap’s capacity for cinematic story-telling with irresistible pop hooks, this album is UK hip-hop’s answer to Aesop’s Fables.
The first time people heard The Streets’ Mercury Prize-nominated debut Original Pirate Material, they couldn’t make their minds up whether the person making this music was black or white, from London or the Midlands, deadly serious or a total joker. We know who Mike Skinner is now (Or, at least, we thought we knew). So for him to have come up with a record which surprises and delights the listener as much as this one does is, if anything, an even more impressive achievement. Everything Is Borrowed finds him not only rediscovering his old irrepressible buoyancy but sailing away on that trademark stop-start lyrical flow to waters no-one else has ever visited.
The album, due for release on 15th September features the track ‘The Escapist’, which was recently announced would be available as a free download on 30th July.
The second single from the album entitled ‘Everything Is Borrowed’ will be traditonally released on 29th September.
The band have also announced details of a full UK tour:
04 - Barrowlands, Glasgow
05 - Academy, Manchester
06 - Plug, Sheffield
09 - Academy, Birmingham
10 - Academy, Newcastle
11 - Academy, Oxford
13 - Guildhall, Southampton
14 - 53 Degrees, Preston
16 - UEA, Norwich
17 - Academy, Bristol
18 - Rock City, Nottingham
19 - Academy, Leeds