24
Aug 02

THE STREETS — ‘Give Me My Lighter Back’

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A magnificent triviality: the title says it all. In his excellent write-up of Original Pirate Material, it’s interesting that Marcello recommends you skip ‘Don’t Mug Yourself’ and ‘Who Got The Funk?’, the two tracks that give the biggest lie to his lonely-soul reading of the album. The Streets is a one-man operation, yes, but that man has his mates, and the enjoyably tricky twists and trials of collective friendship are as much his subject as the everyday else. ‘Don’t Mug Yourself’ finds Skinner’s love life subject to the unwanted (but who’s he kidding?) inquisition of friends, and ‘Who Got The Funk?’ is a babble of in-jokes. Meanwhile in ‘Too Much Brandy’, Cap’n Skinner and his crew ride the drunken tide from Amsterdam to Brixton, and in ‘Give Me My Lighter Back’ we’re back in the pub, this time for the sake of argument.

The thing about arguments between friends — unlike arguments between lovers — is that they hardly ever end properly. When friendships end it’s not with a packed suitcase or an it’s-over: friendships die out in the calls and conversations that don’t happen, maybe after a frosty moment (that seemed nothing at the time!) in the ones that do. So of course in ‘Give Me My Lighter Back’ the argument isn’t about the lighter, it’s about being taken for granted, that rock on which all friendship founders. Skinner being a composer of distinction, he includes a counterpoint — a shout-out to another mate who’s lent him an X-Box, now publically thanked on a Top 40 single: sweet.

That’s why I like The Streets, maybe more than anything else. I can’t empathise much with the background, but I can with the mates, and after all most bands don’t write a lot about friendship. It’s not a melodramatic subject, which makes it perfect for the kitchen-sink-estate staginess of Skinnerworld. You don’t know whether the X-Box or any of the friends are ‘real’, of course — but they fit, and like ‘Who Got The Funk?’, ‘Give Me My Lighter Back’ is terrific because it’s throwaway (‘Bassline solo!’). If you had to write a B-Side and you knew lots of people — like me! — would take it seriously, you’d name-drop mates and make jokes and mess about, wouldn’t you? You wouldn’t? Then you ain’t no friend of mine.

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