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  The Streets A Grand Don't Come For Free
Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating: 4 out of 5 Rating: 4 out of 5

by Russ Marshalek

Mike Skinner (better known as The Streets), the young Brit lad who introduced us to the notion of using the term "geezer" to refer to someone other than your grandfather, has returned with his follow-up to the acclaimed Original Pirate Material album. Titled A Grand Don't Come For Free, the 11 tracks follow the ins-and-outs of Mike's life as a clubbing UK youth, a schema all-too familiar to those who relished in the Punk-step of OPM. Before anyone starts crying "foul" (or worse, "one album wonder") though, the controversial statement must be made loud and clear: this album is leaps and bounds better than the first.

Unlike Original Pirate Material, which served as a cut-and-paste of UK youth life, A Grand is very specifically Skinner. From start to finish it's a story of the geezer that Skinner was growing up to be, song by song, bassline by blessedly nasty bassline. The theme is more conceptual, tracing Mike as he meets a girl, loses the money he owes his mom and begins to doubt everyone in his life until everything comes full circle. The album also shows Mike having matured musically, as beats are more fleshed than the skeletal Garage that became The Streets' previous calling card. This stuff is still rough, though.

The bruising razor-bass that is "Get Out Of My House" would give Zinc pause for thought. And the lyrics, pitting Mike against his girlfriend in what serves to be their final verbal throw-down, add a level of intensity that may be overdue for those who feel The Streets' music lacks any real emotion. At the same time, Mike has obviously embraced those same inner emotions and has lost a lot of the facade in which he previously wrapped his lyrics. Take "Blinded by the Lights," a rave-ode from the same cloth as the first album's "Weak Become Heroes." This time, though, the lush paean to the clubbing experience is filled with more details from Mike's own life. Over a chocolate, Telefon Tel Aviv-esque beat, Mike recounts attempting to find his friends at a party, poppin' two pills and embarking on his own personal journey. "I can't find 'em/fuck it/there's a choon coming in," Skinner proclaims, as a gorgeous, lush synth line wraps itself around his tale until the very end.

If anything, it's that filling in of The Streets' skeletal possibility, both musically and lyrically, with more of Skinner's personality, that makes A Grand Don't Come For Free arch above OPM. Whereas the first album's token punkish mash was about any guy, calling any girl, anywhere, A Grand snags a riff from Queens Of The Stone Age to accompany Mike's hilarious call-out: "You're fit, but my gosh don't you know it!" Over the course of A Grand's progress, Mike meets a girl, falls in love (the happy, miniscule details of which we get to experience in all their subdued glory), loses the girl, and finds his missing money, only to find solace in his friends. When on "Dry Your Eyes," Mike proclaims, "I'm not gonna fucking just fucking leave it all now/'cause you said forever and that was your vow," it's with a harsh, whiskey soaked-tone that may very well have been impossible to lay to tape during the first album. This time around, though, Mike's almost painfully emotionally present, and a bit more grown up. And the music world is thankful for it. Never preachy (unlike his contemporaries, a la Just Jack), when Mike ends the album with, "Something that was not meant to be is done/and this is the start of what was," you know he's only talking about himself. He's not in any position to tell anyone else how to live their lives, nor will he do so. This is a kid that can barely figure out how to live his own. A Grand Don't Cost A Thing is a fun, powerful, amazingly well-written and well-produced return to that world.


A Grand Don't Come For Free from A Grand Don't Come For Free
by The Streets

Track Listing:

  1. It Was Supposed To Be So Easy
  2. Could Well Be In
  3. Not Addicted
  4. Blinded By The Light
  5. I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way
  6. Get Out Of My House
  7. Fit But You Know It
  8. Such A Twat
  9. What Is He Thinking
  10. Dry Your Eyes
  11. Empty Cans

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