Sunday, September 21, 2008
One of the albums I've been listening to a lot lately is the new Streets album, Everything Is Borrowed . There was a time for me when the Streets were my favorite. I understood Mike Skinner's obsession with the trivial and the mundane on his first two albums, and I connected with them. With him. From stories about boredom and alcoholism (though, admittedly, I was a teenager, barely drinking and experimenting with drug use) and malaise in contemporary urban life, I found in the Streets a man to connect to. It's not necessarily that I saw MYSELF in Mike Skinner, but rather I saw a friend of mine. Or someone who I would like to befriend. Original Pirate Material talked to me about coming of age when the more traditional methods (losing one's virginity, getting a job, etc...) didn't mean that anymore. As I was trying to define my emergence into adulthood I found a new model in Mike Skinner.
Then, on A Grand Don't Come for Free I really got it. After hearing about how obsessing about music, getting high and sitting on the couch with your friends is a common, acceptable method of dealing with the growing world, it got personal. It got really personal. Skinner's detailing of his relationship with Simone was what I needed to hear: a frank, emotional account of constructing masculinity within a post-modern era. For some of my friends this was Fight Club (we were teenagers in the early 00's, this is how it goes), but for me, it was Mike Skinner. He taught me how to rationalize dancing at parties and wanting to see tits with long drives and sunsets. It was as emotional as it was reflective. It taught me how to be with others but to be by myself. It was perfect. The story was fabulously told and I remember sitting on my floor during the last minute of "Empty Cans" when he finds the box. I was so engaged with the narrative, I remember feeling anxious-- what IS in the back of the TV. It was perfect. It's still one of the few albums that I can never put on for just a song or two-- it has to be heard in its entirety. It's a bildungsroman, a coming of age story, that mapped out a plausible course. This blog, then, attempts to be as such: a reflection on popular culture through the guise of a man entering his own place within it.
The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living was, of course, a letdown. He became a pop star and I wasn't able to relate to him anymore. Everything Is Borrowed, then, is similar. He's not making music for himself and people like him (namely me); he's making music for everyone. Sure, the lessons are better than before - "I came to this world with nothing/ And I leave it with nothing but love/ Everything else is just borrowed" is pretty and meaningful - but he's not a man I know anymore.
Relating to musicians as people, through their art, is a weird sort of relationship because it's not personal. But when it happens, when someone comes through their art and reveals themselves as shows themselves as fallible human beings who you relate to, it's really special. I might not listen to the new album forever, but I'm kind of in the mood to hear A Grand Don't Come for Free right now.