The Streets - The Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living
Sex, drugs and rock n roll... Well, maybe breaks and beats instead of the rock n roll, but Mike Skinner aka The Streets seems to have had his fair share. It now seems though that all these trappings of success come with a price. From the concept record that was A Grand Don't Come For Free this is a more straight forward record, the lyrics dealing with his usual topics (girls, drugs, booze, money) but looking at it from a slightly more elevated position - he has the money to buy better drugs and the status to pull celebrity girls, but it's not all fun and games.
Prangin' Out is as close as an anti-anthem to drug use and touring as you can get; Skinner seemingly on the edge of destruction due to continuing touring and excessive drug use, the paranoia kicking in, the realisation that "I don't want anyone seeing me like this" and "right now logic states that I shouldn't be contemplating suicide". This is desperate stuff. Things do calm down a little though with War of the Sexes and Hardest Way To Make An Easy Living which are Streets by numbers, with Skinner's cutting lyrics pulling and dragging the songs out of the dirge. There's certainly a couple of tracks here that could easily be done without; Can't Con An Honest John just doesn't quite fit here, it seems a little out of place and without Skinner's whit at factor 10, there's little of interest here.
However when he gets it right, it's exceptional. The first single When You Wasn't Famous is great - it's a perfect slice of post-modern pop; the self referencing and Heat baiting lyrics detracting from the incredibly basic backing track, but who is it about?? This is followed up with Never Went To Church which is poles apart - a distant relative to Dry Your Eyes - it's got Skinners heart on his sleeve. Feelings of loneliness and desertion surround him, pulling him deep into his spiral of depression - it's the stand out track here. Coming close is the final track Fake Streets Hats. This is another incredibly open track about a festival appearance in Belgium where the strains of touring reach their ignition point. It includes live cuts of Skinner attacking not only the crowd but his own band, it's brave but not foolish and you feel sorry for this apparent exploitism by the record and PR companies.
With this third album Mike Skinner might not be pushing things forward, the music hasn't developed much at all - it's just become a bit more polished - but as long as he continues his witty, funny and intelligent lyrics then we should embrace this unique artist.