...two albums in, genre freaks still won't be able to decide where to file him.
Chris Jones 2002
The Streets' second LP has a lot to live up to. Mike Skinner's debut album, Original Pirate Material, was released to widespread crtical acclaim and sold over a million copies; a UK garage/hip hop/acid house/spoken word fusion that burned itself firmly into the nation's psyche.
A cursory listen to the follow-up gives the impression of a record that seems disappointingly similar. But first listens can be deceptive, a closer examination reveals that the similarity begins and ends with Mr Skinner's distinctive vocal style.
For a start, the narrative of these tracks fits together to tell the story of a month or two in the life of Mike, an archetypal unemployed urban youth.He starts his adventures by losing some money (the grand in the album title) and finding a girl, and ends them by losing the girl but finding his money (down the back of the telly).
The soundtrack, meanwhile, has moved away from Skinner's UK garage and hip hop origins and takes in everything from soul, dance and chillout to rock and anything else he fancies.The only thing really urban about this album is the rhymes. The general feel of the album is that it's the poetry and story telling that counts. The music is more about adding atmosphere than jumping around on the dance/bedroom floor.
Lyrically he's still on great form, with brilliant turns of phrase and an Eminem-like ability to get to the heart of his subject, while mocking himself and his life. Top lyrical moments include "Could Well Be In" (apparently you can tell when a girl fancies you because she plays with her hair), "Get Out Of My House" (painfully funny argument with the girlfriend) and "Empty Cans" (a story with two endings).
There are fewer laddish moments on this album. Half the songs deal with some aspect of relationships, whether it's falling in love, fighting, making mistakes or breaking up. "Could Well Be In" and "I Wouldn't Have It Any Other Way" both boast sweet soulful choruses and strings, with lyrics that strike a fine balance between being loved up and realistic.
Mike Skinner is still a major and original UK talent and, two albums in, genre freaks still won't be able to decide where to file him. Which can only be a good thing.