The Streets

A Grand Don't Come for Free (Vice)

Huh? The thing is, the first record, Original Pirate Material, was good: Gah-Rodge beats, Eminem-orchestral strings, and not-so-tough stories about playing some PlayStation or rolling the occasional spliff. Nobody believed that scrawny little MC Mike Skinner could actually hack it in a room full of the sort of characters Guy Ritchie puts in films, but his rhythms always pushed things forward and the music felt inspired.

Well, Mr. Skinner, you're right, A Grand Don't Come for Free, and neither does a good sophomore release. While the album scores points for ambition, and you can't argue the fact that the minimal arrangements and lyrical content are unique, it all comes off far too, well, wimpy. The first track, "It Was Supposed to Be So Easy," spends four minutes chronicling our protagonist's mission to withdraw money from an ATM, meet his mum in time for tea, and return a rented DVD on time. The mundane can certainly become a relevant inspiration for pop music with the right sonic spice and verbal witticisms, but neither of these is present. Instead, the record's 11 tracks are consistently unpoetic, their beats hardly dynamic. Songs like "Not Addicted" and "Blinded by the Light" hint at the urgency found on Pirate, with melancholy musical backing that could have been stunning had it been realized a bit more energetically. Even if that had happened, though, Skinner and his cast of backup vocalists would still sound tired. And how can you expect us to be wowed if you don't even pretend to feel it yourself?

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