The magic of Original Pirate Material


Mike Skinner catches the imagination of the British nation.

by Allen Therisa in Pet Sounds

The urban moment.
The urban moment.

Original Pirate Material

The  Streets


Locked On/679

It's funny and provokes laughter, merriment and sardonic tutting on the state of England, the inner cities and contemporary youth culture in the early noughties. Despite the passage of time, Original Pirate Material remains a gem.

Mike Skinner was once so famous, doe-eyed and cuddly, partly because of the success of this, his little box-bedroom urban operetta, that he came close, for a while, to practically lampooning himself.

A sort of suburban bonanza from the cheeky mumbler supremo, and with a knowing wink to the world of NEDs and under-age drinking, dope-smoking, shopping-centre sprawling Britain; Original Pirate Material came out of nowhere and for a brief moment in 2002 managed to stand critical opinion on its head.

The album and the all-important and easily marketable Skinner persona (so closely linked as to be practically a brand in its/his own right) were released just as garage fell into stale repetition and hoodies were making it into the headlines. In the space that opened up between tabloid outrage and rampant youth consumerism, Skinner managed to capture the hearts of garage heads everywhere (certainly in this country, anyway) and held a harsh, perhaps slightly neon, light up to everything we had previously held dear.

Original Pirate Material itself is laced with the kind of urban references which are the stuff of middle England nightmares and was a genuine call for parents to lock up their sons, as well as their daughters, (though this is, to be honest, very much a boys album), lest they go wrong after listening to the aural pleasures on offer here.

Impossible to dislike, and constructed to be heard on headphones across the land, what Skinner created with Original Pirate Material is a collection of musical doodles and satirical sketches about the modern UK experience and the space between the image and the reality of being young in urban and suburban Britain. It's pretty much a take-it-or-leave-it kind of album with a certain amount of swearing, messing about with the language and some genuine wit and style.

Let's Push Things Forward he said, and we did just that until Skinner found himself on Radio Two.

Progress, huh?

For all that, Original Pirate Material should continue to be celebrated and loved for its poetry (of a kind) despite the drink, drugs and grimy despair that infects every track on this oh-so-bleak and compulsive album. It is also to be cherished for its originality and knowing nod to the intelligence of its audience.

"It's all pretty crap, isn't it?" Skinner seems to be saying on this long player, "but what can any of us do about it?" At which point of existential crisis, Skinner leaves us with a shrug and a slink of the hips before slipping away in a fug of cigarette smoke for something bigger and better.

And all we are left with is the final track of the album: Stay Positive.

Which is also quite miserable, but equally worth the listen.

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