Locked On - 2002 - 45 minutes

The Streets is Mike Skinner, a 22-year-old Brummie who's caused a pile up in the British music press with the response to his debut album. But while he finds himself hailed as the guiding light of UK garage, you get the feeling he'd be much happier if a 15-year-old bought two turntables and a microphone after hearing 'Original Pirate Material'.

Bypassing the lyrical retreads of many of his peers, Skinner instead comes up with what you could call a concrete-covered concept album - a record that speaks more to the lives of millions than any offering from across the waves. Lost mornings, the dilemmas of the dumped, closing time scraps, they're all here, driven by Skinner's acquired taste vocals and talent for wringing the details out of the most mundane of human dramas.

The stories he weaves range from funny to touching and while the backing tracks sometimes let down the richness of the words, the presence of strings on album standouts 'Turn the Page' and 'It's Too Late' suggest that Skinner is already thinking beyond the confines of the city.

Harry Guerin

Tracklisting: Turn the Page - Has it Come to This? - Let's Push Things Forward - Sharp Darts - Same Old Thing - Geezers Need Excitement - It's Too Late - Too Much Brandy - Don't Mug Yourself - Who Got the Funk? - The Irony of it All - Weak Become Heroes - Who Dares Wins - Stay Positive