Friday, April 14, 2006

The Streets - The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living

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Such is the life of a successful recording artist. Feted as the "voice of the people", Mike Skinner took The Streets from an underground cult to a national phenomenon with the classic album A Grand Don't Come For Free. But of course, the success led to a massive change in Skinner's personal life.

And so now, his new album presents the less glamorous side of fame and fortune...and some critics are getting snotty. Of course, they'd have probably have been even more snotty if the millionaire (if he still has any of his money left...and after listening to the new album there are moments when you wonder if he does) superstar had done another album about losing a thousand pounds, not getting your video back to the rental shop on time and chatting up women in kebab shops.

Of course this does, to be fair, raise an issue. Skinner found his fame as a "voice of the people" but much like Jarvis Cocker discovered after A Different Class, its difficult to maintain that when celebrity hits. (And to go off on a tangent, it will be interesting to see how the Arctic Monkeys tackle this particular problem).

So out go the tales mentioned above and in come ones of dalliances with pop stars, an unhealthy spread betting habit and "pranging" out on copious amounts of cocaine. And the result is a mixed bag. Skinner just about avoids the "woe is me" rockstar angst that can tire you out very quickly thanks to the fact that a lot of the lyrics display Skinner's trademark verve and wit...even if on occasions he seems to have fogotten about providing them with a tune.

There is also the unavoidable fact that a lot of the album compares unfavourably with his previous effort. When You Wasn't Famous is funny, but not as funny as You're Fit And You Know It; Never Went To Church is a touching ode to Skinner's deceased father, but it's not half the tune that Dry Your Eyes was.

Still when it's good, such as Can't Con An Honest John and War Of The Sexes, you sense that Skinner may well already be winning the internal battle that wages on inside of him.

Getting back to the Pulp analogy, this is certainly no "This Is Hardcore" but neither is it a complete dud. There are enough flashes of Skinner's genius to suggest that this may only be a temporary low point on the road and that there is still another classic album in him. If I were you, I'd snatch the high points off I-Tunes and leave the rest on the shelf.

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