The Streets | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

The Streets 

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Original Pirate Material (Vice/Atlantic), the debut of 22-year-old two-step garage MC Mike Skinner, aka the Streets, may be the most quotable album of the year. Skinner was born in Birmingham, England, and currently lives in London; he gets a lot of mileage (or kilometrage, I guess) from his Englishness, tossing off lines such as "Raised as a northern star / With a London underground travel card," "Sex, drugs, and on the dole," "'Round here we say birds, not bitches," and--his statement of purpose--"This is the day in the life of a geezer." Skinner's everybloke (i.e., "geezer") guides us through a loosely structured tour of contemporary English youth culture. He goes to the pub and gets "fucked up with the boys" ("Too Much Brandy"), he eats at "Maccy D's or KFC" ("Weak Become Heroes"), he completes "Gran Turismo on the hardest setting" and watches "MTV, BBC 2, Channel 4" till 6 AM, stoned ("The Irony of It All"). What sets Skinner apart from, say, the Beastie Boys of Paul's Boutique is his vocal style (he's less a rapper than a toaster) and the way his lyrics are haunted by the spirit of rave culture, a reminder of utopian possibility in the middle of the drab everyday. On "Weak Become Heroes," a flashback to his first rave, Skinner lowers his usual geezer's guard. "Don't talk to me, I don't know you / But this ain't tomorrow, and for now I still love you / Then the girl in the cafe taps me on the shoulder / I realize five years went by, I'm older / Memories smoulder / Winters colder / But that same piano loops over and over and over." The illusion of community has faded, but its promise lingers. Saturday, October 26, 10 PM, Double Door, 1572 N. Milwaukee; 773-489-3160.

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