My very rushed comments didn’t make it in though my kewl ballot did – anyway here is what I said about The Streets!

First of all the idea was that Mike Skinner was reinventing UK Garage, but perhaps understandably a music built on confidence and front didn’t want an introspective joker as its spokesman. Then it turned out Skinner was reinventing UK Hip-Hop — but actually the Britrap underground is doing very well on its own, and his sarky, shaky flow is as much a step too far for British heads as it must be for some Americans. ‘We don’t give a frig about your friggin aerial / So stick it up your arse with your pirate material’, as MC Pitman kindly put it.

So Skinner’s out on his own, which is odd because Original Pirate Material is such a social record — the middle of the album is a terrific series of tracks about friendship. Lads getting drunk, getting lairy, sharing advice, getting into trouble, arguing and bullshitting their way through a very recognizable London. It’s a social record for the listener too — half my Spring and Summer seemed to be spent swapping Streets catchphrases with mates.

What Skinner’s really reinvented, I think, is a wonderful English tradition of kitchen-sink pop songwriting. The Kinks, for example, or Squeeze, or Madness — bands which, like The Streets, made pettiness a virtue and the everyday marvelous. Skinner’s particular strength is his eye for the banal — the fight in ‘Geezers Need Excitement’, for instance, which starts with someone throwing a chip in a kebab shop. (On one of the B-Sides he apologizes for sensationalizing this event!). The result is that on almost every track there’s a moment of recognition which leaves you grinning, or gasping. This record says everything to me about my life.