This winter saw the end of The Streets with the release of his fifth and final album “Computers and Blues”. Mike Skinner announced that he would only make five albums and he announced it before releasing his fourth album, and if you go to website now, it’s officially closed.
So that’s it then – in many ways I feel The Streets was the soundtrack of my twenties and that a lot of my stories have been lived and told through The Streets, so I thought I’d share something through writing.
Maybe soundtrack of my twenties is just a little off. I’m 32 now, and the last album only just came out, and the first time I came across The Streets was in 2003 when I was 24 years old. So let’s flashback to Friday June 27th around 10 pm.
“I produce this using only my bare wit”
First time at Roskilde Festival for me – arrived Wednesday night and passed out maybe 5 hours later from having chugged way too many beers. I was supposed to meet some guy and get a sleeping bag from him, but that never happened, so I’m extremely cold all night. Next day the music starts and my mind is just blown away by seeing and hearing music I’ve never heard or even heard of before. This thing about going to concerts with a bands I don’t know at all is completely new to me, but it really does wonders. And the weather is beautiful, the girls look gorgeous and you’re slightly intoxicated from beer all the time because you start drinking from when you wake up. Fast forward to Friday night – getting your mobile phone charged is extremly difficult, the infrastructure isn’t really in place for that yet in 2003. I’ve gotten lost from my friends and is pretty much just walking around the festival area very drunk. I remember being very close to just walking back to my tent and then maybe picking up a party there. But then the beats appeared out of nowhere and they’re pulling me towards the Metropol tent. It was the sound of “Don’t Mug Yourself” from the debut album of The Streets – “Original Pirate Material”. Completely intoxicating and yet so simple a sound, and the way he delivers his rap is just out of this world – I’m standing there mesmerized for the rest of the concert. There is a rave going on in the tent, it’s extremely hot inside and I only see the last 20 or 25 minutes of the concert. But I come out of the tent after the concert with a completely changed perspective on music.
“I do the science on my laptop, get my boys mashed up”
I was playing music before that incident, mainly as a singer, and I even had a bunch of CDs. Also this was right after the time of Napster, so I did my share of illegal downloads. But I wasn’t really a consumer of modern music until after I walked out of the tent that Friday night in late June. Listening to those strange beats that were so intoxicating to me made me realise that there was an entire world of music that I didn’t know, and I wanted to make sure that I was never going to miss out on anything like that ever again. Actually when coming home from the festival and telling the whole world about this amazing band, my flatmate at the time Janne told me that she had already played The Streets to me months before, and I didn’t seem to notice it back then. Sorry about that, Janne …
So The Streets matured me into being genuinely interested in music, and my CD-collection just exploded after that. Ever since then I’ve consumed music by reading about it on various music sites, visiting artist websites, using the illegal file sharing software of the time to download tons of music and then eventually buying the CDs. And whenever I went to a festival after that, especially Roskilde Festival, I would spend hours and hours online researching the artists as they were released for the lineup to make absolutely sure I wouldn’t miss the first two thirds of a concert like The Streets ever again.
“See I reckon you’re about an 8 or a 9, maybe even 9 and a half in four beers time.“
So listening to the beats from The Streets got me interested in music in general, but with the release of “A Grand Don’t Come for Free” in 2004 I also realised the lyrical universe of The Streets is truly unique and magnificent. I was actually quite disappointed when the album first came out – I was looking for awesome beats like the first album, but didn’t really find that. But slowly I began really discovering it one single at a time. And when I realised the whole album was one conceptual story, I was once again blown away. The emotional peeks of that album are so intense and you really feel like invited inside of this person telling this story that could be your own story. It took me a couple of years to fully understand this album, but now that I do I have to say that this the best album of all times for me. “Dry Your Eyes” still has quite the opposite effect of drying my eyes when I listen to it today, and the overwhelming feeling of how it all comes together in “Empty Cans” still gives me major chills. And “Blinded By the Lights” is the most powerful electronic symphony ever with probably the best “Don’t do drugs, kids”-message I’ve ever seen in both the lyrics and the music video.
So with “A Grand Don’t Come for Free” we got the best album of all times. And on Friday July 4th 2008, Mike Skinner was back at Roskilde Festival, this time in front of an audience of more than 60000 people. This time he gave me the best concert he has ever played and the best concert I have ever seen.
“All stare, eyes glazed”
It’s already been a spectacular festival this summer of 2008, and a beautiful summer it is. I’m getting married in August, the weather is once again marvelous, my wife looks gorgeous and I’m fully enjoying this time of holiday with friends and my love. Friday July 4th is about to become the best concert day I’ve ever had, having already seen extremely powerful and emotional performances from Mogwai and Robyn. Mike Skinner enters the stage late – it’s a 1 AM concert, but everybody is soooo ready for it. And what happens that night is pure magic. He delivers that same intimate rave feeling from 2003, but this time the crowd is more than 60000 people, and every single one of us worships his every move. It can’t be good for you to have to walk down from the stage after a performance like that. He must have felt like he was having sex with every single one of us that night.
“Knock out the lights, lock the locks and leave”
The third and fourth albums both had memorable moments, great lyrics and great beats, but they never really reached the height of the first two albums. Maybe it’s impossible to achieve the best possible beats and the best possible lyrics again? They were both great albums and I do pick them up and listen to them, but the magic isn’t really there. But with “Computers and Blues” I think we’re back up there once again. And listening to his story this time I can hear how my own life has changed and I also think I understand why The Streets had to close at this point.
So thanks a lot for giving me so many powerful experiences, including the 5 times I’ve seen The Streets live. And I’m pretty sure I will be able to pick up and listen to at least 3 of the albums for many years to come and listen to them as a diary of how my life was in my twenties.