Original Pirate Material (2LP)
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When The 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 The 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.