With 2006's The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living, The Streets' Mike Skinner committed one of music's most unpardonable sins: droning on about the "perils of fame." For speak-singing "every-bloke" Skinner, playing the hotel-trashing hotshot was an alienating move, suggesting that he'd already lost touch with the geezers and gits and become that dullest of creatures—the self-loathing superstar.
Make that second-dullest: With Everything Is Borrowed, Skinner has evolved into the intolerable former drinking buddy who's taken up jogging and "found himself"—all pithy platitudes and clunky philosophizing. Skinner's self-actualization prattle would be more admirable if it had any real insight, but the best he can offer are cheap aphorisms tailor-made for tote bags, like the Buddhism-lite refrain, "I came to this world with nothing / And I leave with nothing but love / Everything else is just borrowed." Elsewhere, he sounds the well-duh alarm on the environment ("The Way Of The Dodo"), provides a limp argument for secular humanism on "Alleged Legends" ("When you're bad you will feel sad / That's the religion I live by"), and on "The Strongest Person I Know," serenades his soulmate with a lullaby so preciously twee, it's practically borne on the wings of smiling bluebirds.
Adding to the banality, Skinner's strict adherence to organic instruments—though inventively arranged—frequently drift into Muzak: Even the would-be banger "Heaven For The Weather" boasts an Up With People melody straight out of a Disney filmstrip on volunteerism. Only on the swelling, string-driven closer "The Escapist" does Skinner pull off sentiment without drowning in sap, achieving the album's one truly moving moment, though it's couched in an obvious "dust in the wind" epiphany). Meanwhile, his attempts at being clever—funk-punk stalker anthem "Never Give In," fizzy disco ode to male bonding "The Sherry End"—suffer from Skinner's decision to eschew all modern references, typically his ace in the hole. Here's hoping that on his next, rumored-to-be-final album, Skinner takes his own advice and doesn't forget the Rizla.