I’m way behind on keeping track on the books I’ve been reading so far this year, but here’re the ones I remember from the last few weeks. Of particular note are Where’d You Go, Bernadette and Life Itself, both of which I finished this weekend; one a wonderful mystery novel by Maria Semple, the other the late Roger Ebert’s memoir, both were filled with such kindness and humanism that it was both overwhelming and utterly charming, renewing my faith in human nature in a way that I didn’t realize I needed.
(Of the other books, both The Story of The Streets and The End of Men were disappointing in their own ways, and the Star Trek novels were entirely enjoyable in the fun Cold War analog way that they’ve created in recent books. Marvel Comics The Untold Story was an accidental re-read, and Moranthology felt weirdly random and made me think about e-book collections of my writing, again. One day. One… day…)
Mike Skinner is, let’s be honest, a kind of terrible rapper. He stumbles and mumbles over his delivery, and he sounds as embarrassed by what he’s saying as confident, more often than not. Despite that – because of that? – “Sharp Darts” is kind of wonderful. It’s an ugly, ungainly track, with the beat as stumbling as Skinner’s vocals, a musical bull in a china shop that’s not in the slightest bit worried about crashing into things or being polite. It’s also funny: “This one’s fat like your mother/Contains enough calories” is such a juvenile moment, it’s ridiculous, but I love that it’s in there nonetheless.
This isn’t a track that wants to make you dance, or admire the lyrical prowess; it’s a track of selfishness and brutishness, of a particular mindset that really doesn’t give a fuck, and at 1:34, it’s short enough that you find yourself wanting to listen again when it’s over, to double-check that it actually happened like you remember. “Shut up, I’m the driver/You’re the passenger.”
There are many, many people who don’t like The Streets for one reason or another, but I admit more than a sneaking love for Mike Skinner and his laidback, lazy and occasionally shitty rapping. There’re parts of “Memento Mori” that are just horrible – The verse starting at 1:31 just doesn’t work – but the singalong chorus, wonderfully conversational opening and minimal backing are enough to make this a favorite of all of the Streets tracks I’ve heard.
It’s been that kind of week that “What was the question? Oh, yeah, memento mori” feels like an especially fitting phrase. Looooooong week.