The thing that can really set apart a good album from a great one, is it’s ability to transport you somewhere, or take you to a different time. Original Pirate Material is a perfect example of this. On listening, you’re immediately taken to early noughties Birmingham where UK garage is on the rise and a gateway into success in the music industry.
The album kicks off with arguably one of the best opener’s ever, Turn The Page. The lyrics to which were inspired by 2000 film Gladiator, the lyric “I’m fourty-fifth generation Roman” being the dead giveaway for that one. Turn The Page has been the opening track on the setlist for their most recent UK tour too, some start.
The next two tracks were single releases, Has it Come to This? Origin of ‘lock down your aerial’, and Let’s Push Things Forward (released on my birthday in 2002, who knew).
The third and fourth single releases were Weak Become Heroes, and of course, the iconic Don’t Mug Yourself which tells of Skinner’s friend Calvin trying to guide him in the relationship department. The lyrics are wicked in this one, “she’ll want you much more for not hanging on, stop me if I’m wrong, stop me if I’m wrong, why should she be the one who decides whether it’s off or on or on or off or on?”, not to mention that it’s an absolute banger.
It took just over a year to record Original Pirate Material. The bulk of the album was recorded in an empty wardrobe with mattresses for echo reduction, in a room Skinner was renting in Brixton.
One of the stand out points of the album for me is The Irony of it All in which Skinner brings us Terry, a proper bloke who is always down the pub, fighting and getting ‘paralytic’, and Tim, an unemployed graduate who sits on his sofa all day long smoking weed and such with his friends. It emphasises how drug users are often seen as the trouble causers when in fact it’s the pub dwellers who are usually the ones brawling and causing public disorder. The lyrics even look in to government funding for education vs the view that students are, to quote Terry “robbing us of our taxes”.
This is what really makes this album shine. The observational lyrics and the stories they tell throughout the whole record are interesting, witty, and often are still relatable now 16 years later. Going back to Terry from The Irony of it All, he says a number of times in the track how “if a war broke out I’d be on the frontline with ’em!”, sounds a bit brexity, right?
Original Pirate Material is a really masterful album in the way that it it portrays the time it was made, the lyrics, the story, and the sound. Best of all, it still holds up now and sounds fresh, I’ve listened to it countless times and still found something new to enjoy every time. If you haven’t heard it yet, I really recommend giving it a listen, because this record really is for everyone.