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Original Pirate Material

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Album Review

When Streets tracks first appeared in DJ sets and on garage mix albums circa 2000, they made for an interesting change of pace; instead of hyper-speed ragga chatting or candy-coated divas (or both), listeners heard banging tracks hosted by a strangely conversational bloke with a mock cockney accent and a half-singing, half-rapping delivery. It was Mike Skinner, producer and MC, the half-clued-up, half-clueless voice behind club hits "Has It Come to This?" and "Let's Push Things Forward." Facing an entire full-length of Streets tracks hardly sounded like a pleasant prospect, but Skinner's debut, Original Pirate Material, is an excellent listen — much better than the heavy-handed hype would make you think. Unlike most garage LPs, it's certainly not a substitute for a night out; it's more a statement on modern-day British youth, complete with all the references to Playstations, Indian takeaway, and copious amounts of cannabis you'd expect. Skinner also has a refreshing way of writing songs, not tracks, that immediately distinguishes him from most in the garage scene. True, describing his delivery as rapping would be giving an undeserved compliment (you surely wouldn't hear any American rappers dropping bombs like this line: "I wholeheartedly agree with your viewpoint"). Still, nearly every song here succeeds wildly, first place (after the hits) going to "The Irony of It All," on which Skinner and a stereotypical British lout go back and forth "debating" the merits of weed and lager, respectively (Skinner's meek, agreeable commentary increasingly, and hilariously, causes "Terry" to go off the edge). The production is also excellent; "Let's Push Things Forward" is all lurching ragga flow, with a one-note organ line and drunken trumpets barely pushing the chorus forward. "Sharp Darts" and "Too Much Brandy" have short, brutal tech lines driving them, and really don't need any more for maximum impact. Though club-phobic listeners may find it difficult placing Skinner as just the latest dot along a line connecting quintessentially British musicians/humorists/social critics Nöel Coward, the Kinks, Ian Dury, the Jam, the Specials, and Happy Mondays, Original Pirate Material is a rare garage album: that is, one with a shelf life beyond six months.

Customer Reviews

modern day classic

If you want to get to know THE STREETS, this is the album. It really is a master piece, a modern day classic in its own right. Every track different, every song and lyric perfected. Its raw, its edgy, and it is a sound ALL of its own. And that is why Mike Skinner is a genius.

Entertainment Weekly's Album of the Year for 2002

The word classic gets thrown around for every two-bit wag nowadays, sadly. "Original Pirate Material" truly IS a classic album. Entertainment Weekly named it their album of the year in 2002 (it was released in the UK long before 2004). Rolling Stone, Spin Magazine, The New York Times, Blender, USA Today and the LA Times all nominated it as one of the albums of the year, as well.

A Shot from the Dark

In 2002 "Pirate Material" dropped seemingly out of nowhere. It is easily one of the best albums of the early 21st century, but an independent release with little fanfare didn't help sell copies. Now that the Streets has become a household name in England, it's time to revisit Mike Skinner's fearless first album. "Turn the Page" reveals the lad's vulnerability but also showcases his gift for metaphor. Nearly all the tracks are excellent and interesting, but strung together they create something truly special. Skinner's ability to find words for everyday peoples' problems is remarkable. He's a rabble rouser, an intellectual, an amateur philosopher, and a big-hearted youth. Like his second album "A Grand Don't Come For Free," "Pirate Material" is a showcase for Skinner's narrative style. The Streets has been my favorite artist since I picked up this album, and it rewards like few others do upon further listening.


Born: November 27, 1978 in Birmingham, England

Genre: Pop

Years Active: '90s, '00s, '10s

Mike Skinner's recordings as the Streets marked the first attempt to add a degree of social commentary to Britain's party-hearty garage/2-step (and later grime) movement. Skinner, a Birmingham native who later ventured to the capital, was an outsider in the garage scene, though his initial recordings appeared on Locked On, the premiere source for speed garage and, later, 2-step from 1998 to the end of the millennium. He spent time growing up in North London as well as Birmingham, and listened first...
Full Bio
Original Pirate Material, The Streets
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Customer Ratings