Everything Is Borrowed
, September 18th, 2008 14:41
Mike Skinner’s artistic forte has always been his quicksilver, meticulous eye for detail. He has chronicled his life like a roguish, Ecstasy-generation Pepys. If 2002 debut Original Pirate Material was the ultimate encapsulation of a life of tower blocks, E-rushes and sudden crushes, its follow-up A Grand Don’t Come For Free conveyed equally beautifully the marvels and mundanities of everyday London life. Even 2006’s correctly maligned The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living at least had the mitigation of honesty as he painstakingly listed the drawbacks and downfalls of his newfound celebrity life.
Far from tedious solipsism, such self-absorption has proved artistically rewarding, but it’s an approach that Skinner eschews on )Everything Is Borrowed as he turns his mind to matters of a more philosophical bent. 'The Way of the Dodo' finds his reliably mercurial wits exercised by climate change and environmental damage (”It’s not Earth that’s in trouble/It’s the people that live on it”) while 'On The Flip of a Coin' and 'On the Edge of a Cliff' can only be described as moral fables. 'Heaven For The Weather' even ponders whether heaven or hell will be the liveliest resting-place once Skinner has shuffled off this mortal coil.
It sounds deeply unpromising, yet while Everything is Borrowed is not as essential as Skinner’s early work, it is no disaster zone. 'I Love You More (Than You Like Me)' returns productively to the lyrical terrain first sketched out by 'Fit But You Know It', while Skinner gains throughout from ditching samples and drum machine and recruiting harpists and violinists. The closing 'The Escapist' even veers into a dreamy strain of magic realism (“I feel no fear/I’m not really here/I’m nowhere near”). Mike Skinner says his next album as The Streets will be his last; I would imagine that he has no more idea what comes after that than we do.