The Streets

A Grand Don't Come for Free (Vice/Atlantic)

Any writer who dares suggest that Mike Skinner, the Brit behind The Streets, is something less than a primitive genius would undoubtedly get the frigid-shoulder treatment at a critics' roundtable. Reviewers on both sides of the pond worked themselves into a lather over Original Pirate Material, Skinner's 2002 full-length debut, and thus far, most of the Grand notices have been, well, grand. Damned if I know why. Sure, the new CD is distinctive, but it's also musically uninteresting and thematically sketchy. As for the vocals, Skinner demonstrates with his first sentence ("It was supposed to be so eeeeeasy," delivered in an abrasive whine) that the emperor has no flow.

Granted, Skinner isn't really a hip-hop artist -- a fact that's been lost on many U.S. scribes. The deluge of words that flood his latest platter are generally delivered monologue-style, with Skinner only occasionally attempting to reach notes that he misses as often as he hits. Over ultra-simple backdrops, our protagonist tells the predictable story of a doomed relationship, which he tries to tart up via the enthusiastic use of Guy Ritchie language. This tack works better on the aggressive screed "Such a Twat" than it does on "Dry Your Eyes," an interminable exercise in sentimental twaddle.

"Fit But You Know It," in which Skinner natters like a git between repetitions of a quasi-catchy chorus, might sound moderately amusing in a different context, and "Get Out of My House," a sonic spat straight out of Absolutely Fabulous, earns a few chuckles before becoming mired in redundancy. The same can be said about the disc as a whole. The longer it goes on, the more tiresome Skinner becomes -- although maybe not as tedious as that next critics' roundtable.

 
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