The Streets: Everything Is Borrowed

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The Streets: <em>Everything Is Borrowed</em>

Uneven record from cockney rapper lacks perfection but not charm

If every song on this cockney rapper’s fourth album were as good as its bookend tracks, he’d have made a classic. But this is The Streets—inconsistency has been part of the package ever since Mike Skinner crawled out of England’s West Midlands seven long years ago with a dime sack full of witticisms and a pop sensibility as crooked as his teeth.

Anyone who heard his 2006 tearjerker “Never Went to Church”—a wrenching open letter to a deceased father—could tell that Skinner was more than just a brandy-swilling party boy. He was a brandy-swilling party boy with a conscience.

His new record retains The Streets’ puckish charm while showing signs of maturity. Skinner wants “to go to heaven for the weather, and hell for the company,” and he’s willing to contemplate human morality along the way. He’s also willing to shake up his sound. “On the Edge of a Cliff” sounds sort of like a syncopated Phil Collins melody. “Never Give In” is disco. “Sherry End” is cracked-up funk. “Strongest Person I Know” is so emo that Pete Wentz is probably blogging about it right now.

As always, Skinner’s primary ?instrument is his marvelous British accent—in his mouth, “All these walls” becomes “Ool these wools,”—which he delivers in a flow so conversational, it’s as though you’ve just walked in on him talking to himself, trying to figure everything out. “Just when I discovered the meaning of life, they change it,” Skinner says on the title cut. At least he’s looking.