A couple of weeks back I decided to have a first listen in ages to Original Pirate Material, the debut LP by The Streets. It has aged very well…..but I was astonished to look at the back of the CD and realise that it dates back to 2002.

In essence, The Streets are/were a vehicle for the Birmingham-based rapper Mike Skinner and in much the say way as De La Soul had done on the late 80s, he wanted to release a rap LP that was a bit different from the mainstream and which relied on some different and unusual influences.  The result was something I shouldn’t really have had any time for – it was linked closely to the genre of UK garage (which I had very little time for) and much of its subject matter was based around clubbing (which is something I had no time for). But somehow it clicked with me.

Part of it was the music – I never expected to hear a rap LP which drew on ska influences – while part of it was down to the delivery of gritty lyrics in an accent that you rarely heard on mainstream radio. I was almost 40 years of age and so I couldn’t claim to be in touch with the issues that Skinner was rapping about, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t listen with a degree of empathy with the thought that for young folk, not much had changed in the two decades since I was struggling to get to grips with what life was throwing at me.

It’s an LP which sold by the bucketload in 2002 and yet two years later achieved an even higher chart position as the follow-up LP spawned a ballad – Dry Your Eyes – which went very mainstream and brought The Streets to a whole new audience who were happy enough to delve into the limited back catalogue which the record label were quick to capitalise on with a re-launched marketing campaign.

The mainstream chart success inevitably saw many of the band’s original fans turn their backs on The Streets, especially as the gigs went from being in small clubs and venues to arenas.  It was interesting that success changed the way Mike Skinner looked at the music industry – in much the same way as it had affected Jarvis Cocker a decade or so earlier – and later LPs were more introspective and melancholy, but all the while having a commercial edge which ensured mainstream interest. And while they all have material of merit, none of them match what was released on the debut:-

mp3 : The Streets – Let’s Push Things Forward
mp3 : The Streets – Has It Come To This?
mp3 : The Streets – Don’t Mug Yourself
mp3 : The Streets – Too Much Brandy


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