Just Two Guys Messing Around: An Imaginary Compilation (of sorts)
Part 6 by S-WC
The tenth song on the way back down to Devon was by a band called Ought, a Canadian band that sound like a cross between Television and Talking Heads and they are utterly wonderful. The song playing is ‘Habit’ and it is so majestic, that when it finishes Badger and I completely forget that we should be paying attention to what the next song is.
“That is such a brilliant song”, Badger says. I agree and we spent what we thought are the next few minutes or so discussing Canada – a place that we have both been to – and both love. Badger states his love from Vancouver, where as I state that the skiing in Banff, Canada is better than anywhere else in the world (not that I have skied all over the world). Something which I have debated noisily at length over several glasses of gluhwein with several close Austrian friends around 3000 metres up in the Alps. Then we discuss Canadian bands, Arcade Fire, Wintersleep, Metz and my favourite Fucked Up.
We are getting close to a services on the M6 and decide that we need a cuppa, as we pull in the closing bars of ‘Karmacoma’ by Massive Attack fades away. ‘Oh’ says the Badger, what was the 11th song, was it Massive Attack?’ Massive Attack are one of his favourite bands, he is something of an authority on them. If that is even possible. Massive Attack was song 16. We’d not been listening for 6 songs. I remember hearing ‘Elevation’ by U2 (which is on the safe playlist) and hope it wasn’t the 11th track. We skipped back 15th was Merchandise, 14th The Beta Band, 13th U2, 12th The Shamen (that would have been seriously hard work) and 11th was ‘Blinded by the Lights’ by The Streets. We look at each other and laugh.
Several years ago, Badger, me and our significant others went to see The Streets at the Great Hall in Exeter. It was for the tour for ‘The Hardest Way to Make A Living’. They were shit. In fact I would go as far to say it was one of the worst performances by a band in the history of live music. I saw The Stone Roses at Reading 1996, I cringed when Ian Brown opened his mouth and the mating call of a seal came out instead of song lyrics and then the stand in guitarist said “Put your hands in the air”. It was worst than that.
About eight minutes after the gig finished as we sat in the car feeling thoroughly ripped off and cheated – I stated that “I would never ever buy anything by The Streets again”’. Everyone agreed. We spent the next half an hour driving home and the twenty-minute post gig cuppa in Badger’s house slagging off Mike Skinner and his chirpy geezerish banter.
For what its worth, I have never bought anything by The Streets again and I don’t intend to. What I will say is that their debut album is a revelation, it’s astonishing, lyrically brilliant and probably one of the most original and groundbreaking albums released between in the last fifteen years. It really is.
In the years to come and if you are lucky enough to be asked what it was like being young at the start of the century – you could do a lot worse than just play who ever asked you Original Pirate Material because it’s utter genius.
If I was feeling lazy (and Badger agrees with me) then our Imaginary Compilation would simply feature that album, and let’s face it, they never topped it, but this series don’t work like that does it.
“The problem with these Imaginary Compilations” Badger says as we make our way back down the M6 as Bjork’s ‘One Day’ starts up, “is that I always end up making them very singles heavy. My Pulp one had seven singles, my Pavement one had six and I think even your Death In Vegas one has six on it”. He’s right, it did. “What we need to do is restrict it to two singles per side”. But it’s The Streets I say, we’ll struggle to find any decent non singles from their second and third albums and the rest of their back catalogue. I said that I was struggling to think of ten of their songs that I actually liked. “Yeah, me too” he said. Sleigh Bells have come on. I love Sleigh Bells.
As Badger said so eloquently in his Orwells piece, we have compiled a side each for these. My selection is Side One and I’m lucky because I get the pick of all the available Streets tracks. I only have to pick five – and that is straightforward.
Turn the Page (From Original Pirate Material)
Some people might say that starting your debut album with a track of such epic proportions is a bit of bold statement. But I remember listening to this – sitting in a car park in Okehampton – and getting goosebumps and not wanting to get out the car. I just wanted the track to go and on.
Prangin’ Out (From The Hardest Way to Make A Living)
In which Mike Skinner serves up a feast of straight-talking self-loathing and anxiety, which centres around a hook of such druggy intensity you’d have to be a straight laced Mormon or something not get the shivers.
Let’s Push Things Forward (From Original Pirate Material)
This sees Skinner in typical clear-eyed, determined mood. The tunes sorrowful sax and the dour, one-finger, repetitive rhythm is in contrast to Skinner’s ebullience, “this ain’t the down, it’s the up-beat“ he insists, refusing to be sucked down into complacency and defeatism like the haters who bellyache a lot but never do a lot.
Your Song (Elton John Cover)
My father in law is a massive Elton fan – a few months I was driving him to the airport and this came on the stereo. He couldn’t believe it. He said that it was the best version he had ever heard of the song other than Elton’s. That in itself is enough to warrant inclusion.
Weak Become Heroes (From Original Pirate Material)
The Streets best moments were I think when they were at their most sensitive, somewhere in this song – I forget where – Skinner states that “It’s easy, no one blames you, it’s that world out there that’s fucked!… you’re no less of a person and if God exists he still loves you, just remember that”. That is bloody marvellous.
Has It Come to This? (Single Mix)
“The music’s a gift from the man on high, the lord and his children”.
The song that gave you the idea that The Streets were probably going to be incredible. To take a track like this and stick firmly in the Top 20 was quite something. It came at a time when ‘Garage’ was becoming big in the UK – and this has that garage echo to it, but ultimately it sounds nothing like garage was supposed to – I mean this was good. I love the way Skinner sounds isolated in it. It is a splendid record
Fit but You Know it (MC Version) (From Run the Road II)
A markedly different version of the original which strips out all of the original apart from that Only Fools and Horses style tune over it – then the world of grime rap over it – the best bit – when Lady Sovereign comes on and socks it to the boys. Makes a terrible song, pretty good actually.
Blinded By The Lights (From A Grand Don’t Come For Free)
Perhaps the obvious sequel to ‘Weak Become Heroes’ – you can see the same dancefloor and the same buzzing Skinner pressed up against that backdrop of beats and synths. Just another night in the life of a geezer – you feel his pain when he moans about the queue at the bar or the lack of phone reception. However there are darker forces at play here as that trip turns nasty and into a drugged up bout of severe paranoia. “Swear Simone’s kissing Dan,” observes Skinner when he finally tracks down his girlfriend and best mate. Then the high kicks back in, the tempo picks up and our storyteller is so mashed by the end of the night that he forgets about his girlfriend with the simple exclamation, “This is fucking amazing.” Absolutely right.
Stay Positive (From Original Pirate Material)
Quite simply this track contains some the hardest, realest moments ever recorded, across any genre of music. It’s a story of a fuck up, one that frightens everyone because it could happen to us all. The story of how easy it is to fall into this, to give up, to lose your drive and stop writing, stop trying, stop fighting and just sink. The end part where the viewpoints are flipped is just stunning. And that is why them being shit live later was SO irritating.
Dry Your Eyes (From A Grand Don’t Come For Free)
A number one single. A big emotional number one single – Skinner went for that deliberately and nailed it. The chorus sounds like Coldplay but like Coldplay sung by your mate, because it needed to. The devil is the detail – “She brings her hands up towards where my hands rested. She wraps her fingers round mine with the softness she’s blessed with. She peels away my fingers, looks at me and then gestures By pushin’ my hand away to my chest, from hers”. Brilliant, poignant, brutally honest. At the time I hated it, then I listened to it, and then I listened to again.
We struggled, I’ll be honest. Technically there are three singles on the first side and three on the second side. The two remixes don’t count as far as I am concerned. The Run the Road remix is an inspired choice and one I had forgotten about. Of the five Badger chose I had four on my list of Ten. He had three of my five.
By Skinner’s own admission Original Pirate Material is the “day in the life of a geezer” yet amongst the bitter-sweet, inner city anecdotes of drugs, violence, playing computer games, trips to the garage and going clubbing, there is a tender sweet message that is so compulsive. Look – don’t just download this stuff, check out Original Pirate Material you won’t regret it for one second.
mp3 : The Streets – Turn The Page
mp3 : The Streets – Prangin’ Out
mp3 : The Streets – Let’s Push Things Forward
mp3 : The Streets – Your Song
mp3 : The Streets – Weak Become Heroes
mp3 : The Streets – Has It Come To This? (single mix)
mp3 : The Streets – Fit But You Know It (MC Version)
mp3 : The Streets – Blinded By The Lights
mp3 : The Streets – Stay Positive
mp3 : The Streets – Dry Your Eyes
“What I will say is that their debut album is a revelation, it’s astonishing, lyrically brilliant and probably one of the most original and groundbreaking albums released between in the last fifteen years. It really is.”
Oh and just to demonstrate that the Coldplay observation isn’t too far off the mark:-
mp3 : The Streets (feat Chris Martin) – Dry Your Eyes