Release Date: Oct 7, 2008
Record label: Vice
Listening to one of Mike Skinner’s albums has always felt like getting cornered at your local pub by a highly voluble English regular. The pint-sipping poet’s in a thoughtful mood this time on everything is borrowed: He relates a moving parable about a man contemplating suicide, denounces religious hypocrisy, and generally mulls over the evanescent nature of human experience. Yet Skinner’s laugh-out- loud curmudgeonly wit makes sure the conversation never turns too maudlin.
So attuned to life's tragicomic nature that even a visit to the dentist gets him philosophising (see his MySpace blog), Mike Skinner vents his most sentimental feelings on his fourth album. It works much more satisfactorily than the tone he adopted on the Streets' previous release, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, wherein fame was messing with his head. The broadly positive Everything Is Borrowed is about the simple things: making the most of life while he's here (the symphonic title track), fancying the latest unattainable girl to cross his radar (the funky Never Give In), deciding that the everyday grind is preferable to ending it all at Beachy Head (On the Edge of a Cliff).
By the end of the last Streets album, The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, listeners and even most fans were ready for Mike Skinner to stop complaining about the perils of celebrity. Skinner sounded crass and cynical, utterly disgusted with his life and very bitter about what it had become. (In so doing, it proved that he's one of the most honest songwriters to ever step up to a microphone.) Everything Is Borrowed is a neat about-face, a record that couldn't be more different from its predecessor.
Uneven record from cockney rapper lacks perfection but not charmIf every song on this cockney rapper’s fourth album were as good as its bookend tracks, he’d have made a classic. But this is The Streets—inconsistency has been part of the package ever since Mike Skinner crawled out of England’s West Midlands seven long years ago with a dime sack full of witticisms and a pop sensibility as crooked as his teeth. Anyone who heard his 2006 tearjerker “Never Went to Church”—a wrenching open letter to a deceased father—could tell that Skinner was more than just a brandy-swilling party boy.
Following an irresistible rise to the top via two albums of rollicking, garage-fired pop and fag-end philosophising, 2006's The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living marked something of an impasse for Birmingham wunderkind Mike Skinner, aka the Streets. Barred by encroaching fame from his preferred hunting grounds of the nocturnal pursuits of the urban, lower middle-class youth, Skinner opted instead to delve into the grab bag of rock'n'roll cliché and emerged with what sounded precariously like an article of bad faith. It was also, finally, the album he had to make – too smart not to grasp the potential alienating effect of forcing yet another record about celebrity ennui down the public's throat, yet too avowedly autobiographical to shrink from uncomfortable home truths, the result was a morally ambivalent spread at several removes from the self-effacing humanity of his 2002 debut, Original Pirate Material.
Mike Skinner has announced that this record will be the second-last Streets album and, unlike previous offerings, will avoid pop-culture references to concentrate on parables with a positive message. Skinner gets environmental à la George Carlin on The Way Of The Dodo, rapping, "It's not earth that's in trouble, it's the people that live on it," and then tells the tale of a suicide averted in the bouncy, 70s-inspired On The Edge Of A Cliff. Despite Skinner's undeniable verbal and production talents, and his online hand-wringing about embracing positivity without getting cheesy, there is something undeniably sappy about this record that won't sit well with people expecting to hear more mockney slander about drunken gits.
The Streets :: Everything Is Borrowed679 RecordingsAuthor: Jesal 'Jay Soul' PadaniaIt really does say something when an album fails to get reviewed on this site. Sometimes people just don't realise that a classic album has fallen through the cracks (hence "The Chronic" only being reviewed last month). Otherwise, it tends to be more obvious - the missing album stinks.
If Kanye West has been following Mike Skinner's lead, we can expect him to find peace with himself and come over all philosophical on his next album. The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living (2006) was the Streets' 808's and Heartbreaks, with a bitter Skinner railing against the alienation, loneliness and shallowness of celebrity. Two years later, Everything Is Borrowed sees a more introspective and less vituperative Skinner turning the page, maturing and moving on.