Grand Don't Come for Free

Grand Don't Come for Free

4.5 2
by The Streets
     
 

Raw and ambitious, acutely conceived and pointedly delivered, A Grand Don't Come for Free proves the Streets' lauded, rap-meets-U.K. garage debut was no fluke. Streets auteur Mike Skinner displayed his wit and hard-earned wisdom on 2002's Original Pirate Material, amassing comparisons to Eminem along the way, butSee more details below

Overview

Raw and ambitious, acutely conceived and pointedly delivered, A Grand Don't Come for Free proves the Streets' lauded, rap-meets-U.K. garage debut was no fluke. Streets auteur Mike Skinner displayed his wit and hard-earned wisdom on 2002's Original Pirate Material, amassing comparisons to Eminem along the way, but here he channels his late-night energies into a disc that, like Em's "Stan" stretched to long-player length, packs a plot, characters, tone, and plenty of local color: If "rock opera" sounds outdated, call it a hip-hop novella in 11 chapters. Skinner casts himself as Mike, an everyday bloke who guzzles beer and pills, bets on football, scores and loses a girlfriend, and tries to figure out just who in this sodded world he can trust after losing the titular grand (hint: One is the loneliest number). Over skittering beats, the story unfurls -- love, friendship, faulty TVs and mobile phones, an ill-fated trip to Ibiza -- with plenty of musical highs, including the edgy mod sound of the single "Fit but You Know It." Skinner balances his heavily accented rhymes with raps and soulful singing from a handful of performers, and builds tension and intrigue with musical cues. On "Blinded by the Lights," which recounts an E experience at a club, bleating synths parallel his escalating paranoia. But what ties it together is the heart and soul Skinner invests in the whole, especially the love story that's the backbone of Grand. On the heartrending ballad "Dry Your Eyes," atop swooning, synthesized strings and lightly strummed guitar, Mike lays his emotions bare after his girl Simone dumps him: "I can't imagine my life without you and me / There's things I can't imagine doing, things I can't imagine seeing." He may conclude, in the eight-minute, alcohol-fueled closer, "Empty Cans," that "Everyone's a c**t in this life / No one's there for me," but after the many preceding revelations -- musical and philosophical -- it comes off as more bruised than cynical. Despite his music's humble trappings, Skinner's got a big story to tell.

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Editorial Reviews

All Music Guide - John Bush
Mike Skinner has a problem, and from the sound of it, it's life-threatening. He opens his second Streets full-length by moaning "It was supposed to be so easy..." as though he's about to deliver his deathbed confession, the classic tale of a crime gone wrong. Instead, three minutes later, it's clear what the "it" was: walking down to bring back a DVD rental, taking some money out of the machine, and calling his mother, who he'd just left at home, to tell her he wouldn't be back for tea. Believe it or not, but that's just another day in the life of Britain's favorite bedsit producer cum singer/songwriter. Although listeners may not wonder where he finds his material, they'll quickly realize that A Grand Don't Come for Free is just as immediately striking as Skinner's career-making full-length debut, Original Pirate Material. It succeeds, despite a clear lack of comparable singles, because of its paradoxical concept (and yes, it is a concept album) that a record can be tremendously ambitious even though it charts a very unambitious personality. Skinner's urban British youth persona is even more fully drawn than before, and this time he delivers a complete narrative in LP form, with characters, conflicts, themes, and post-modern resolution on the closer. He's sheepish about his utter lack of knowledge about football (and the heavy gambling losses that result from it), unreservedly enthusiastic about his girlfriend early on but later totally disgusted with her (in a blow-up that rivals Dizzee Rascal's "I Luv U"), not so easily dismissive of a gorgeous show-off in front of him at the kebab shop, and willing to confront anyone who criticizes him for drinking at home until he can set up a row of empty Tennent's Super cans. Fortunately, he hasn't reduced the Streets to a comedy act in the process. There is as much tragedy and heartbreak here as there is slapstick comedy. "Blinded by the Lights," driven at half-speed by a shadowy trance line and Skinner's disoriented delivery, transmits perfectly the intense loneliness that can flood you in a club full of people and the utter disenchantment of being stranded in the middle of euphoria. Skinner drives these tracks with a mere skeleton of productions and delivers some cruelly off-key harmonies on the choruses; only the single, a rockabilly buster named "Fit but You Know It," makes any attempt to connect the dots from beats to melody to production. Confronting doubts about his seriousness and squashing whispers about his talent, Skinner has made a sophomore record that expands on what distinguishes the Streets from any other act in music.
New York Times - Kelefa Sanneh
Mr. Skinner is a mesmerizing storyteller with a knack for finding precise ways to evoke the fuzziness of a wasted day.
Rolling Stone - Pat Blashill
Grand is cool because it's thoroughly mundane... yet Skinner's ear for language and detail keeps it vivid, and hilarious.
Blender - Dorian Lynskey
The exact opposite of background music, A Grand Don't Come for Free demands the same attention as a movie.

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Product Details

Release Date:
05/18/2004
Label:
Vice Records
UPC:
0825646153428
catalogNumber:
61534
Rank:
105298

Tracks

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Album Credits

Performance Credits

Streets   Primary Artist
Johnny Jenkins   Vocals,Background Vocals
Lorraine McIntosh   Background Vocals
William Nichols   Vocals
Tony Walters   Background Vocals
Morgan Nicholls   Bass,Piano
Wayne G   Vocals
Mike Skinner   Vocals
Gita Langley   Violin
Sam Blewitt   Background Vocals
C-Mone   Vocals,Background Vocals
Teddy Mitchell   Vocals,Background Vocals
Morgan Nicholls   Piano
Jacqueline Rawe   Background Vocals
Leo Ihenacho   Background Vocals

Technical Credits

Morgan Nicholls   Engineer,Vocal Engineer
Mike Skinner   Composer,Producer,Audio Production

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