If I had a radio station, I'd play songs by the Streets all the time. The Streets is Mike Skinner, a geezer from Birmingham who made music in his flat living with his parents while working as a fast food restaurant. Somehow he got discovered, and I came across him several years ago when I lived up on Pritchett Lane thanks to NPR. Fresh Air had a bit about the Streets, played the songs, and I was very skeptical after hearing the review. I thought, gosh, I could do that.
A few years previous, I had been a singer in an improvisational punk rock band, but I let that go in order to do move with someone to Canada. In the meantime, I had moved back here sort of as a default, and moved to Charlottesville for a job. And, wasn't doing any music of any sort except some electronic stuff that I had no audience for at all.
So, I was skeptical, but I've been a subscriber to Rhapsody for over five years now, and so I decided to take a listen.
The tracks were absolutely incredible to me, and I listened over and over again. I'm impressed by Mike Skinner's ability to just keep going and going about his daily life, and I was ecstatic about this glimpse into early 21 century Britain.
The second album came out at a very difficult time in my life. A Grand Don't Come For Free is an operetta that follows the story of one guy who loses £1,000 somehow, and it concludes with the following: (note: I know this isn't a video, but it's what's on YouTube at the moment - no real video)
The track tells the story about a guy who has lost all of his money. And, it tells the same story in two different ways. The absolute worst happens and Mike Skinner is in absolute despair. But then the tape reverses and the song begins again, but yet this time Mike Skinner makes an alternative choice which leads him to the creation of a new future. It's a song that has incredibly meaning to me because of where I was in my life at the time.
And now, his new album is out, and it's much better than the third one, which I didn't care for. The themes dealt with celebrity, and he strayed away from what he knew - being young and drunk and aimless in northern England. That appealed to me, because in some very close parallel universe, I am this guy.
The third album was so disappointing to me, but I'm sure one day I will go back through it and mine it for the wisdom of Mike Skinner. But, for now, I'm content to enjoy his fourth album which is much more relaxed and seems less forced and appears to be less about indulgence. The video for the first track is amazing to me, and I watched it at a time when I'm incredibly worried that all I've worked hard for is going to go away, one way or the other:
I want my music to tell stories, which Mike Skinner has no trouble doing at all. I wish my music could do that. When I listen back to the hours of raw improv material I recorded with my friends, I know this is the kind of thing I wish I could do. I wish I had the courage to just put it all out there, but there's a risk with that, isn't it?
I suspect that in this country, we all have this incredible fear of being ourselves. At least, some of us do. I know a lot of people, but yet I have few friends. Is it because I keep all of my creativity locked up where no one can see it?
Here's how things appear to work these days. We all post blogs, and that's great. But who reads any of it? Maybe this is all a dead-end. Maybe on-line requires a real-world presence to get anything done.
I love the Streets. Weak can become the heroes.