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The Streets, ‘Everything Is Borrowed’ (Vice)

Mike Skinner caught loads of flak for turning his everybloke’s eye toward fame and fortune on 2006’s The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living. Yet in moving beyond the average-geezer concerns that defined his landmark debut and its more conceptual follow-up, Easy Living made clear that Skinner’s skill isn’t (just) a function of his material-rich environment; he may be a documentarian, but he flexes a storyteller’s knack for plot and character.

That’s even more evident on Everything Is Borrowed, whose waterfall cover shot reflects Skinner’s shift from hard-living bad boy to peace-and-love grownup. “Providing for my wife is the vibe I’m on in life,” he admits in”The Way of the Dodo,” a garage- ska jam with fuzzy Rubber Soul guitars. Sounds ghastly, and it almost is — but remember, this guy once made losing his cell phone seem fascinating.

Over inventive arrangements that feature more live instrumentation than on any other Streets album, Skinner gives maturity a fresh coat of meaning. In “The Strongest Person I Know,” he hails a lover’s ability to keep her temper under control, while “Alleged Legends” asks thoughtful questions about religion. Even his latest report from a night on the tiles, “The Sherry End,” reveals new depth, with its earnest description of a heartwarming bromance. Considering Skinner’s way with detail and pathos, it’s hard to imagine him stymied by any topic. Retirement, maybe?

The Streets, “Everything Is Borrowed”