Mike Skinner, aka The Streets, is back with his fourth album, Everything is Borrowed, on October 7 (Vice Records). I’m not sure how I feel about this one. After I heard his track “Has It Come to This?” on the Stanton Warriors amazing Stanton Sessions mix, I was all excited about this guy. Then he dropped the Original Pirate Material LP, blew up every mixtape from Silverlake to Camden, and was even nominated for a Mercury Prize. Dude was big. Eminem comparisons littered the press and blogosphere.

Everyone expected him to drop the ball on his sophomore effort, as is the case with most artists who blow up huge out the gate. Instead, A Grand Don’t Come For Free was an instant classic — one of the Madman’s Top 5 of 2004. It was brilliant — a fully developed, impeccably structured concept album waaaay beyond what I would’ve expected from a white kid from the Birmingham burbs. “Blinded By the Light” was the best taken-too-much-ecstacy/girl-cheating-on-you track ever written (check it out below). From the mundane “forgot the DVD I was gonna return at the house” frustrations of the opening track “It Was Supposed To Be So Easy” to the final, light-of-dawn piano chords of “Empty Cans”, the album was a killer.

I was hooked, and officially a fan.

Then, I suppose my expectations were too high. I’d unfairly put Skinner on a Radiohead-like trajectory of possible greatness, which was met with…The Hardest Way to Make an Easy Living, easily the most disappointing and quite possibly the worst album of 2006. The shit blew. Who knows, maybe Skinner was indulging in too much “tour support” (sniff sniff), and hooking up with too many famous women, to find time to craft an album. But what he put out was pure drivel — all soulless beats and thoughtless lyrics. It was so bad, that in one album I single-handedly lost faith. Skinner himself seems to admit to its baseness in his blog:

And there’s another phenomenon that goes with it all, which is the feeling of shame you hold for your last album. I don’t yet hate my last album (‘Everything Is Borrowed’ – the one you haven’t heard yet) but I am starting to come to terms with the one before it (‘Hardest Way’) which means my disdain for the next is, no doubt, not long coming!”

But is that fair? Can one album be simply an anomaly, or have The Streets peaked? Regardless, the upcoming Everything is Borrowed is not the last album in the works — Skinner already has a fifth album near completion (rumored to be titled Computers and Blues). He claims it will be his last record…and he promises it’s even better than Everything is Borrowed.

Anyway, if you like The Streets you are about to experience the peaceful positive vibes that come after a disturbing work such as the last you heard (The Hardest Way…). But the final Streets album (the fifth one) will be dark and futuristic. This could not be further from the album you’re about to hear, but it’s what is on my mind at the moment. I feel inspired…

Of course, I’m not supposed to tell you about this dark vision of the future because I’m about to promote my peaceful coming to terms album. I’m told the peaceful one is quite good, although I’ve heard it so many times that it’s just noise to me now. But the really exciting thing for me is the dark Berlin-influenced electronic album that’ll come next.”

Does Skinner still have some brilliance left in that crew-cutted head of his? We’ll find out soon enough. Peep “The Escapist” below and make your own expectations:

“Blinded By the Light”, just cos it’s such a great track:

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