Artist: The Streets
Album: Everything is Borrowed
Comments: After seven years and four albums, Mike Skinner is finally happy. He seemingly has no more inner turmoil to push against, no more struggles to deconstruct, no more sorrows to document, and no more stories to tell. Considering that the mastermind behind the Streets has made his bread by reliving personal confrontations with inspired story-telling, it's no surprise that Everything is Borrowed, the album that finds him most content, is his least satisfying album.
Every storyteller needs a conflict to explain, and Skinner is most assuredly a story teller, quite possibly one of the best of his time. His modern day love-loss-redemption parable A Grand Don't Come For Free should rank among the most compelling and exciting albums of this still-young millennium. However, Borrowed finds Skinner in good spirits for the first time. He's over the drugs, over his complexes, comfortable with his family and managing his fame and personal life just fine, thanks. The result is an album with pockets of inspired production and mid-level rhymes in a sea of vague prose about the benefits of feeling good.
Not that Skinner hasn't tried to bring up some problems. "The Way of the Dodo" is a take on global warming and "Heaven for the Weather" and "Alleged Legends" are looks at the christian myths of morality, heaven and hell. The problem is that these topics don't seem to interest Skinner as much. The man admits as much on "Dodo" with his proclamation that he's "just too caught up breathing air.../ to worry about how breathable air is."
Some songs do thrive in this brave new sunshine world that Skinner has created. The album's title track is every bit as triumphant as the horn-heavy production suggests, creating a song that sounds like the first blast of sunlight after a particularly bad rainstorm. Also good on both lyrical and production ends is "On The Edge of a Cliff," Skinner's anti-suicide song. It's a winning track despite the asinine chorus which is both too long and too dumb to reprint here.
Perhaps the best song on the album is "The Strongest Person I Know," in which Skinner describes his hero / love interest with a simple story about dealing with people in a calm manner. Told over a simple melody and nothing more, the song is both moving and true. The same can't be said of "The Escapist," which boats an awesome hook and some really interesting production, but is too unfocused lyrically to be a keeper.
It's a terrible thing to say, but listening to Everything is Borrowed, one can't help but wish things weren't going so well in Skinner's life. When the man has something holding him back, something to push against, he is as captivating and brilliant a story teller as any author. However, with his life all sunshine and kitten smooches, the Streets really are, finally, nothing more than some interesting production and a goofy accent.
Key Tracks: Everything is Borrowed, The Strongest Person I Know, The Edge of a Cliff
Buy, Steal, Skip: Skip