You’re reading about The Streets, lock down your aerial…
There’s a prevalent theme throughout this piece which underpins the majority of points I make, it’s also the sole reason why I started writing this. I couldn’t believe I hadn’t seen the similarities sooner, I constantly listened and read anything related to OPR (Original Pirate Material), I was so intrigued yet I couldn’t find any articles about the subject – naturally, I had to write about it myself. The theme I’ll be constantly referring to here is in simplistic terms; if one considers the appeal Original Pirate Material had with listeners back in 2001 but then compare it with the appeal now it has now, it quickly becomes apparent the similar effect it has on the audience. Relatable then, relatable now.
If you cast your mind back to 2001, it was rather eventful, wasn’t it? Politics is begrudgingly mentioned a few times here, it helps make sense of it all. I was about 6 at the time so my memories are hazy at best; my oldest recollection seems to be Blair’s New Labour manifesto which obviously meant nothing to me then, whereas Beckham’s wonderful free-kick against Greece to send us to the World Cup meant everything. It created harmony in England; but not for long, the youth of the time still felt disenfranchised with no sense of belonging, in a general sense anyway. It’s impossible not to generalise here! It wouldn’t work otherwise, shoot me.
Skinner’s lyric “This ain’t a track it’s a movement” in Let’s Push Things Forward is pretty much bang on fitting the narrative perfectly, many resonated with the aspects embedded in his work – it managed to finally entice certain demographic. The diverse fan base grew rapidly and it was a refreshing change. Some loved it for escapism from political bullshit, some loved the avant-garde style, some simply loved garage – I could go on. Ben Thompson of the Guardian made comparisons with another favourite band of mine in The Who – and I completely agree with him.
“The Noughties was a period in which British pop actually moved forward at the same time as regressing into The X Factor’s primordial ooze, Mike Skinner’s generational rallying cry was every bit as potent as Pete Townshend’s ever was.”
Credit – https://www.theguardian.com/music/musicblog/2009/nov/29/streets-original-pirate-material
When I first read his quote my mind jumped straight to the Who’s “My Generation” – “People try to put us down, talking about my generation…I hope I die before I get old”. The rebellious nature initiated a bohemian-esque culture, creating a sense of belonging for a myriad who felt lost before.
Skinner excels with the lyrical stories embedded into each and every song as they’re captivating – they bleed authenticity, you can picture each scene in your head which isn’t easy to achieve – ask any author. “Sex, drugs and on the dole”, a simple illustration of society at the time from Skinner expressing his dislike for self-entitled tossers who don’t work because they can’t be bothered, or was he highlighting sex and drugs as the only escape for his peers. Could be either, albeit I’m certain it’s a dig at the capitalist regime back in ’01, a theme he alludes to throughout. Once again fitting comfortably into contemporary society, the difference being the proletariat youth of today may witness a nuclear war before turning 30.
Although a major influence for Skinner, I’ll try to avoid politics after this, yet a certain aforementioned point should be revisited. In 2001 upon OPM’s release, Blair was implementing the New Labour manifesto which altered the general lifestyle and direction the UK was heading towards, regardless of your political stance and whether you agreed with that direction or not – things were changing. Now consider what’s happening right now. Brexit, it’s turned the nation against each other – the acrimony displayed towards each other is the worst I’ve seen in my lifetime. Music is a form of escapism for so many, and it works. That’s where the relevance comes into play, Skinner understood the disenfranchised people then and although who it appeals is now has shifted – the concepts are the same.
He revolutionised garage which undeniably was a niché genre then, going on to receive nationwide acclaim. Helped also by working alongside Artful Dodger as they were signed to the same record label, hence the reference in Let’s Push Things Forward. There’s a reason they’ve just announced a tour for the first time in years, the subjects Skinner sang about are suddenly relevant again – the Western world is going backwards due to many factors; using politics as an example once again as it just fits the narrative, he manifested the augmenting anger into musical resonance uniting fans to fight back against the elite or whatever – the punks did it in response to Thatcher, hippies with Vietnam etc. Nothing comes close right now, we’ll just pretend he’s singing about the shambles of a planet we all live on.
The album reminds me of Nirvana in the way it’s exteriorised. Completely different sound but the “I have so many issues with society I need to write about it” is iconic. In the last few months, I’ve found myself listening to The Streets far more frequently than usual, the content is scarily relevant to my general life. An interesting side note, I doubt there are many outside the UK that understand and love The Streets like the Brits, no surprise really when considering their archetypal British sound.
Tickets to see The Streets’ upcoming gig are like gold dust, I’m intrigued to see if he continues to tour as I doubt he realised how popular he still is. I’m praying he drops a new album, follow the makeup of Original Pirate Material and it’ll be a winner – go on Mike.
There’s so much more I’ve written on the topic but I want to see if people are interested before I release the rest. I don’t want it to be too long either, let me know your thoughts and any thoughts I should add to the next piece.