Monday, October 27, 2008

The Streets / "Everything is Borrowed"

(sigh) I didn't even want to review this album...

Let me just get it out now: "Everything is Borrowed" is a terrible album. That the album will be his penultimate brings about mixed emotions. On one hand, Skinner has shown in the past to be a talented, and in many ways groundbreaking, artist whose work will be missed. However, on the other hand, with the trajectory mapped out by the development (or lack thereof) from "A Grand Don't Come for Free" to "The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living" to this suggests it's tragically for the best if he just fades out. It's a sad and surprising story that someone who arrived with as much to say on his debut as Skinner, someone who reached even further with his craft on his sophomore album, and looked as though he were ready to be a major musical voice for years to come, would fade out with such a dim light.

Make no mistakes, whereas "Hardest Way" was upsetting in its stagnation and its failure to meet either of its preceding albums, "Everything is Borrowed" leaves the listener stoic. It suggests Skinner is out of ideas, or good ones anyway. Instead of angry, the listener simply sighs in the realization that The Streets is not only failing to meet expectations, but that Skinner has eliminated any reasonable reason for expectations to even exist entering album number five.

There's nothing interesting on this album. It doesn't fail under the weight of its own ambitions. It has no ambitions. I don't even know what he was aiming to accomplish. "Original Pirate Material" sought to translate the life of a regular Londoner into hip-hop with a twist, making the mundane into something of great interest. "A Grand Don't Come for Free" remains Skinner's masterpiece, a soap opera set to music which has lost none of its dramatic flair or intrigue in the four-plus years since its release. Even the mediocre-at-best "Hardest Way" attempted to translate the life-as-art approach of "Original Pirate Material" to Skinner's current life of luxury, but failed due to a lack of creativity and a lack of connection to the listener.

"Everything is Borrowed" is Skinner making an album. Period. His verses, which were always even more of a selling point than his production, are lousy. One listen to "Heaven for the Weather" tells you all you need to know. Skinner has no flow, his lyrics aren't creative, and the song is about as captivating as watching Carnie Wilson's gastric bypass surgery online. His production occasionally shines through ("The Sherry Ends", "Alleged Legends"), but not until the album is nearly over, by which time I was only continuing to listen so I could write this review.

People grow up and mature. You can't expect artists to stay in the mold they began in. Skinner isn't the same kid making beats on his laptop and rapping about smoking pot and trying to land women while turning it all into a social commentary of sorts, just like Conor Oberst isn't the same emo kid screaming his insecurities. But just like Bright Eyes became decreasingly interesting since "Fevers and Mirrors" before bottoming out with last year's neutered alt-country strummer "Cassadaga", The Streets no longer desires to make music like he used to. That's fine, I suppose. I just no longer desire to listen to his music.

Rating: 2.0


Josh said...

yeah this shits lame which is really sad because opm and grand are so damn good

hold it down boy your head's getting blurred

Erik said...

Agreed. If some albums can be described as "dad rock", this shit is dull enough to qualify as "dad hip-hop".