The Streets pave Tel Aviv

Hip-hop, reggae and metallic beats combine to tell the story of 'English street life.'

The Streets 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
The Streets 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Known for their anecdotes and witty observations of modern urban life, British urban dance act The Streets is best described in their own words, "Sex, drugs and on the dole". It seems that MC/DJ Mike Skinner, the singer and producer who is The Streets, no longer needs to collect his unemployment check since his debut album, 2002's Original Pirate Material, which was met with critical acclaim. And, The Streets music still maintains its "man of the people" appeal even after selling millions of CDs. Usually operating as a one-man band, Skinner's debut Tel Aviv performance will see him take to the stage with 10 musicians for two shows this weekend on both Friday and Saturday nights. He is expected to showcase new songs from his fourth album, scheduled to hit the shops later this year. The Streets are the ugly duckling of the British garage music scene. Typically, this scene is where funky dance beats are fronted by moody rappers the likes of which most people would probably think twice before inviting round for dinner with the family. But Skinner cuts an entirely different figure; skinny, white and delivering half-spoken lyrical observations on soft drugs, depression and boys' nights out, "Walk the tightrope of street-cred, keep my dog fed." Some of the cultural references are definitely lost on audiences not from The Streets' native UK, but songs like the "Irony of it All," which makes a tongue-in-cheek case for the decriminalization of cannabis, is more likely than not to win over a few new fans here in Israel. Indeed, their discography, which includes numbers entitled "Geezers Need Excitement," "Too Much Brandy" and, the double A-side single, "Don't Mug Yourself/Give Me Back My Lighter," easily strikes a chord with young people the world over. Despite even the authenticity of Skinner's hybrid cockney accent having been brought into question over the years, the personal charm of his music earned him the title of Best British Male at the 2005 Brit Awards - the premier prize-giving ceremony for the UK music industry. Tonight, Friday, The Streets are performing their brand of hip-hop, dance hall reggae and acoustic rock on their own at Tel Aviv's Zappa Club and tomorrow night, Saturday, they will be joined at Hanger 11 by their Israeli contemporaries, the left field hip-hop group Hadag Nahash, as well as the independent Israeli rock band, The Giraffes, who invited The Streets to perform in Israel after having been fans themselves for several years. The show signals a perfect opportunity to catch The Giraffes prior to their break from playing live shows to work on their third album. "We want to record our third album and find closure, that's the word to describe what we need before moving on to our next album," Kahana says. The title track from Gag, which means 'roof' in English, is a mournful acoustic number about a young woman standing on the edge of a tall building - and her life. "I split up with my girlfriend and visualized her getting out of the house after we broke up and saying to herself, 'That's the worst mistake of my life,' and going up to the top of the building to bring the final solution to her problems," recounts Kahana, adding, "I was visualizing my own sorrow through her." Unlike The Streets, The Giraffes have never played outside their country of origin, although their music has earned them fans in some unlikely places. "One weird thing that happened is that our music turned into a cult with Israeli travelers in India, Australia and South America. But this happened long before our first album was even released. Someone took a cassette tape of our music to Australia where they played it in a travelers' hostel and it got copied and ended up across India and Malaysia," Kahana explains. The Giraffes' alternative rock will make an interesting combination with the hip-hop inspired beats of The Streets' and Hadag Nahash, but what they lack in common musically, they share in terms of wit and sense of humor. The Streets have their soft side too, coming in the shape of "Dry Your Eyes Mate," a somber ballad in which Skinner recounts the experience of a man being by ditched by his girlfriend, "I know it's hard to take, but her mind has been made up. There's plenty more fish in the sea." The Streets play on Friday 4 April (doors 11 p.m.) at the Zappa Club, 24 Raoul Wallenberg Street, Ramat Hahayal and on Saturday 5 April (doors 8:30 p.m.) at Hangar 11, Tel Aviv Port. Tickets 179 NIS, available in advance from 03-7674646 (Zappa) or (Hangar 11) 03-7694747.