A few weeks ago, Original Pirate Material, an album that’s unarguably The Streets’ greatest work, celebrated its fifteenth birthday.
The man behind it, Mike Skinner, requires no introduction, but here’s a starter pack anyway: the pioneer of the New Lad culture; the founder of a band that helped shape a generation in the early 2000s; a man that did as he pleased, and someone who refused to let the garage scene (or its fashion) die. He was good, is what we’re saying. And whenever he’s gone, we miss him.
After six albums, side projects, and a place cemented in musical history, Skinner called time on The Streets in 2011. Since then he’s popped up in a few musical incarnations – the D.O.T, Tonga Balloon Gang – but now, he’s back as himself, and it’s great. Under the name The Darker the Shadow the Brighter the Light, ‘Bad Decisions in the Night’ was released on Spotify last week.
Now, six years since The Streets were laid to rest, we take a look at ten of the man’s best, most garage-y, most beats-y, and most underrated work of the past decade-and-a-half that you probably forgot about or might not even have heard of.
Make yourself at home, we got diesel and some of that homegrown, so sit on your throne, turn off your phone and because this is our zone…
THE STREETS – PURE GARAGE
Originally used as an intro for DJ EZ on one of those Pure Garage compilation albums, this is one of Skinner’s most old school garage anthems. Sync up your phone, turn the bass up like it’s 2006, and wait for 2:23.
THE STREETS – DREAMS
Released with the Prangin’ Out EP in 2006, Dreams remains relatively unknown as it was never actually released, but it’s a cracker and peak Skinner: drinking Tylenol; sweating; nightmares; a bubbling bass; and inimitable charm.
NEWHAM GENERALS – IT’S ALL VERY WELL (FT. MIKE SKINNER)
Any time you get to hear D Double E and Mike Skinner on a track together, you know it’ll be special. Grime was a different world back in 2009, filled with paranoia and broken dreams, and tunes that sound like they were dashed out at 4am on a stolen keyboard. Maybe music was better back then.
THE TWANG – EITHER WAY (FT. MIKE SKINNER AND PROFESSOR GREEN)
What even were The Twang? Like, they turned up during that weird period, with their bad jeans, their mod-dad haircuts and moody sunglasses and then just slipped away like nothing had happened. They just vanished. At least before they died (they’re not dead), Skinner and Professor Green featured on a remix of their (actually quite good (or at least not-that-bad)) track ‘Either Way’ and turned it into an absolute belter.
GIGGS – SLOW SONGS (FT. THE STREETS)
In 2010, The Streets teamed up with South London rapper Giggs for a track that – as the name suggests – has a slower, calmer vibe to it than both men were used to, with an early-2000s alt-rock vibe. Still a few years before South London’s road rap went overground, ‘Slow Songs’ went a little under the radar. It shouldn’t have.
THE STREETS – PRANGIN’ OUT (FT. PETE DOHERTY)
While asking Pete Doherty – a man fueled on a bunch of chemicals boshed together in a South American desert camp – to MC on a remix of one of your band’s most well-known tracks might seem quite mad but, somehow, it actually works: His (sort of) rapping style might be up for debate, but mixed with Skinner’s straight-talking, self-loathing, anxiety-filled lyrics, it’s a sweet blend of nonsensical madness, represented below in a nostalgia-inducing lo-fi recording someone’s clearly nicked off the radio.
MIKE SKINNER – YOU BETTER BE
I heard this a few years back and didn’t realise it was Skinner. The synth lines, the skittered vocal, and skippy drums call to mind the nu-disco that dominated the last few summers passed, but Skinner’s trademark eclecticism makes its way to the fore with video game slide-whistles and a fun video that cost fifteen quid to film.
BLOC PARTY – THE BANQUET (THE STREETS REMIX)
It’s just a song about trying to give a stolen microphone back to Radio 1 DJ Jo Wiley over Bloc Party’s Banquet track and, obviously, it’s poetry.
THE STREETS – DON’T HIDE AWAY (FT. WILEY, RINSE, AND ICE KID)
It’s mad that this was never properly released, featured only on the free Cyberspace & Reds mixtape that served as a catalogue of various recordings Skinner had made since finishing final Streets album Computers and Blues that came out the following month. The appearance from Wiley, especially, is a treat, who here is operating on all cylinders, rapping at full tilt about paranoia and how he wishes he has a house in the country – don’t we all, mate.
THE STREETS – LET HISTORY RECORD
I honestly have no idea what this track is, how I found it, or where it lives, but it’s great. It’s under The Streets title, but it reeks of the new man Skinner.